COVID Rāhui Extends to 2020 Puaka Matariki Festival

In Ōtepoti Dunedin we usually celebrate the Māori New Year through a diverse citywide programme of community events. In a normal year, communities will gather to celebrate the season at shared feasts, fun and educational programmes, and through a wide range of Mātauraka Māori and Toi Māori events.

But this is not a normal year…

Keeping our hāpori safe from COVID-19 is our number one priority.

For this reason, the rāhui will extend to the Festival.

This year, the Dunedin Puaka Matariki Festival will not be delivered kanohi ki te kanohi.

Instead, as some other communities are also choosing to do, knowledge will be shared and our community will come together virtually, through this website and other online and broadcast media.

This year, the Dunedin Puaka Matariki Festival will be celebrated online from Monday 13 July to Monday 20 July.

This differs from recently published dates, and follows tohunga kōkōrangi Rangi Matamua’s maramataka of the tika lunar phase to celebrate the rising of the Matariki star cluster. *

* Matamua, R. (2017). Matariki: the star of the year. Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand: Huia.

Meanwhile, we continue to practice tikaka hauora, and keep abreast of news of the latest developments in the fight to eliminate COVID-19 via the Ministry of Health’s website, in particular its media releases page.

Pēnā, join us in celebrating the midwinter season of wānaka (learning) and whanaukataka (community spirit).

Nau mai, tautimai – everyone is welcome!

Stay tuned here for updates 🌟

Visibility of Puaka and Matariki

Alan Gilmore, the former superintendent of the University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory at Tekapo, explains the difference between the reappearance of Puaka and the rising of Matariki each winter.

The Earth circles the Sun through the year. This causes the Sun to appear to move a little east against the background stars each day. We take our time from the Sun, not from the stars, so we see the stars shifting a little west each day. This causes the stars to rise and set four minutes earlier each day. That is why we see different stars at different times of the year.

Most people know the pattern of ‘The Pot’ or ‘The Saucepan’, Orion’s belt and sword in European and Middle Eastern astronomy. The Pot is first seen in the evening sky in spring when it is rising in the east. By summer it is midway up our northern sky at dusk. (Puaka/Rigel, a bright bluish star, is then straight above The Pot.) In the autumn The Pot falls lower in the western sky. Around the beginning of June it can be seen both setting in the dusk and rising in the dawn. So it never completely disappears from our sky. The three bright stars of The Pot are on the equator of the sky.

Stars in the south stay in our sky all the time. The Southern Cross is nearly overhead on May and June evenings. In August and September it is nearly on its side on the southwest. In November it is upside down low on the south skyline. In February–March it is on its other side in the southeast sky.

The Earth’s axis is tilted to its orbit. That is why we have seasons. In our summer the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun. In our winter, when the Earth is around the other side of the Sun, the southern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun. Between the summer and winter the Earth’s equator is pointed at the Sun. That’s when we have the equinoxes: equal day and night.

The Earth’s tilt causes the Sun’s annual track through the stars to be tilted to the equator of the sky. In our summer the Sun hides star patterns of the southern sky around the Scorpion and Sagittarius. As the Sun moves on these constellations appear in the dawn sky. They are overhead in mid-winter.

The Matariki/Pleiades star cluster is in the north sky close to the Sun’s track. So Matariki is hidden by the Sun from late April to mid-June as the Sun moves past that part of the sky.

The Sun’s track is well north of, or below, Orion. So Puaka is never hidden by the Sun from our southern hemisphere viewpoint. At the end of May and for most of June Puaka can be seen both setting in the western sky at dusk and rising in the eastern sky at dawn.

Matariki, being a cluster of stars much fainter than Puaka, is not seen in bright twilight nor when it is near the horizon. It has to be higher in a darker sky to be seen. There are no reliable naked-eye sightings of Matariki before June 14.

Approximate rise times for Puaka/Rigel, the Sun and Matariki at Dunedin (a.m. NZST)
Date           Puaka/Rigel       Sun        Matariki
May 20          7:20                 7:50
May 25          7:00                 7:55
May 30          6:40                 8:00
June 4            6:21                 8:05            7:14
June 9            6:01                 8:08            6:55
June 14          5:41                 8:11            6:35
June 19          5:22                 8:13            6:15