Far from the lights of the city, the crystal-clear night skies of The Landing hold some of New Zealand’s most incredible star-scapes.
The cold, still winter skies of June and July are the best time of year for star-gazing at The Landing, and happily, they coincide with the annual astronomical occurrence and traditional cultural celebration of Matariki.
Every year, the Matariki star cluster rises above New Zealand’s evening and morning horizon sometime between late May and late June. Composed of seven stars, the cluster is known by many names around the world – the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters in Europe and America, Subaru in Japan, and Messier 45 to astronomers – but in New Zealand, it’s Matariki, a shortened version of Ngā mata o te ariki o Tāwhirimātea, or “the eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea”.
Early Māori in New Zealand used the rising of Matariki as a marking point in the lunar calendar, and a time of celebration of the solstice and a new lunar year. As the turning point of winter, before the nights become shorter and the days longer, it is a time of gathering and festivities.
Annual Matariki events and festivals are held throughout the townships of the region, including at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and include feasts, cooking, arts, weaving and carving workshops, story-telling and cultural performances.
If you happen to be staying at The Landing at this time, you can enjoy spectacular star-gazing, taking in Matariki, the Libra, Capricornus, Sagittarius, Scorpius and Taurus constellations (Matariki is part of the last one), as well as Arcturus, Crux, Centaurus and Carina, and several of the planets.
Many of these can be seen with the naked eye or binoculars, but we also have our own telescope for even better astronomical exploration.