National

Want to see the Matariki star cluster? Here's how

New Zealanders are bursting with knowledge about the constellation behind our newest public holiday Matariki, many of us without even knowing it.

If you look up at the night sky, you probably recognise some of the nine-star cluster, but you may know them under different names.

Most people recognise Orion and Taurus, but Stardome Astronomy Educator Olive Karena-Lockyer joined Tova on Thursday morning, to talk about Matariki in more detail.

Karena-Lockyer said when looking at Matariki with the naked eye, there should be around nine stars.

"How many stars you see really depends on how good your eyesight is, what the weather conditions are like, and how much light pollution there is. 

"The more light pollution, the harder it's going to be to see them," she said.

Karena-Lockyer said Aotearoa also has dark sky sanctuaries people can visit if they want to see the stars more clearly.

"We have the most [dark sky sanctuaries] out of any country in the world I believe, so, I mean, that alone is pretty magic as well."

When Tova asked if there was a cheat for finding the Matariki cluster, Karena-Lockyer said there is, and it starts with finding Tautoru. 

"If you look towards the east you will find Tautoru, which is the three stars in a row that we all probably know as Orion's belt," she said.

"If you go in the direction that they are pointing - to the left, they will point you directly to Matariki."

Stardome’s resident Matariki expert then explained what Matariki looks like, and how people can see it from anywhere in the world. 

"Matariki is a small star cluster," she said.

"There are lots of different names for it all over the world. So you may know it as 'the Pleiades' or 'The Seven Sisters', which is a Greek story. In Japan they call it a 'Subaru', and here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we call it 'Matariki'. 

"But all over the Pacific, you'll hear different versions of the name of Matariki as well."

Listen to the full interview between Olive Karena-Lockyer and Tova above.

You can also download the full interview on the Tova podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.