This is the Maori name for the group of stars which astronomers call The Pleiades. In Ancient Greek mythology, the Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Many languages have different names for this group of stars. Japanese for instance call them Subaru and the Subaru car company uses this group of stars in their logo. The Maori name – Matariki – means eye of God or little eyes.

While we might be able to see 7 stars, Gallileo was the first astronomer to see them through a telescope and he counted 36 stars. We now know they are about 100 million years old and the light from these stars takes 444 years to reach us.

Matariki rises just before dawn on June 6th and can be seen low in the sky in the North East. Maori celebrate Matariki as the start of their new year. It is a time to remember ancestors who died long ago and those who died more recently. It’s a time to celebrate new life also. Traditionally, this was a time when the harvest was finished and food stored for the winter. It was therefore a time for singing, dancing and story telling and a time for flying kites.

If you live in NZ, you might join in Matariki celebrations. Public libraries usually have displays to show us more about Matariki.

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• astronomers – scientists who study the stars
• mythology – stories, legends
• dawn – sunrise
• ancestors – grandparents, great grandparents etc
• traditionally – a time before Europeans came to NZ.

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