Story: Matariki – Te Tau Hou Māori

Matariki in the night sky

Matariki in the night sky

Amongst other stars and star clusters in the winter sky can be seen Matariki and Puanga (Rigel in Orion), called Puaka by Ngai Tahu in the South Island. Also visible in the winter sky is Takurua (Sirius), Tautoru (the three stars of Orion’s belt), and Taumata-kuku (the bright red giant star Aldebaran).

How to find Matariki

Matariki is found low on the horizon in the north east of the sky. Try looking here between 5.30 a.m. and 6.30 a.m.

1. First find Tautoru (well known as the bottom three stars of ‘the pot’, or Orion’s Belt).

2. To find Puanga (Rigel) look above the pot until you see the bright star – that is Puanga

3. To find Matariki, look to the left of Tautoru (the pot), find the bright orange star, Taumata-kuku (Alderbaran). Follow an imaginary line from Tautoru, across to Taumata-kuku and keep going until you hit a cluster of stars. That cluster is Matariki. If you have good eyes you should be able to pick out individual stars. If it looks fuzzy, look just above or just below and the stars will be clearer.

In this video from Te Papa, a different technique for finding Matariki is shown, beginning by locating the Southern Cross.

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Diagram by Richard Hall

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How to cite this page:

Paul Meredith, 'Matariki – Te Tau Hou Māori - Cycles of life and death', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/diagram/5159/matariki-in-the-night-sky (accessed 22 October 2021)

Story by Paul Meredith, published 12 Jun 2006, reviewed & revised 19 Jun 2021