Photo: Daniel Rood

The Mythical Matariki Star Cluster Is Reappearing Over New Zealand With a Virtual Viewing Party

New Zealand News Astronomy
by Eben Diskin Jul 16, 2020

Stargazing is one of the few pastimes you can engage in without any trepidation these days — especially the virtual kind. In New Zealand, an annual celestial phenomenon is appearing in the night sky this month, and the country is ready to celebrate. To mark the reappearance of the Matariki cluster of stars, New Zealand is hosting a virtual viewing party to allow as many people as possible to participate in the celestial event. On July 20 at 1:30 PM EST, you can tune into the celebration via live Facebook stream, where you’ll see the star cluster from Aoraki International Dark Sky Reserve in Takap — one of New Zealand’s best stargazing locations.

Israel Dagg, former All Blacks rugby player, will host the event alongside celestial experts Victoria Campbell from Ngāi Tahu and Dr. Rangi Matamua from Tūhoe. They will share the story, myths, and legends behind Matariki, the Māori New Year.

The Matariki star cluster appears annually in New Zealand during mid-winter and can be seen worldwide. According to the Māori lunar calendar, the reappearance of the Matariki ends the old lunar year and begins a new one, and the occasion is celebrated almost everywhere across New Zealand. Auckland alone is hosting over 100 events to celebrate the star cluster, and Wellington will mark the occasion with light projections and performances.

Lake Tekapo, where the live stream will be filmed, is inside the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, comprising Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin of New Zealand’s South Island. If you can’t make it to New Zealand yourself — which, let’s face it, hardly anyone can right now — this live stream isn’t the worst consolation prize.

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