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Matariki Stargazing at Planetarium North

A group of over 20 WINGS’ members, families and friends enjoyed a superb visit to Whangarei’s Planetarium on Tuesday evening. We were treated to a spectacular sight of a full moon and myriad stars twinkling in the dark, winter’s sky. The planets of Jupiter, Venus and Mars were visible to the naked eye. Looking though the outdoor telescope, we could see clearly the four moons of Jupiter.

Inside the Planetarium the light dimmed to virtual blackness, the stars in our galaxy and beyond were displayed on the dome above. Our guide, Peter, gave us an informative and amusing talk on the stars and planets in our solar system; all unimaginably distant light years away from earth. We are fortunate to be living at 35 degrees south so that the center of the Milky Way passes overhead in the winter-time. It resembles a trail of steam; sacred in Maori teaching as male and female creation. Matariki, when Pleiades, the twinkling eyes of God appear, heralds the New Year. It sees Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all sitting around the Scorpion whose tail is the ‘sting’ or the ‘fish-hook’ according to you cultural story.

He told us about Greek and Roman myths surrounding the signs of the zodiac and how these ancient mariners were able to navigate across vast oceans using the stars. For Maori and Pacific Islanders setting out across the Pacific, their point of reference would be the Southern Cross showing them due south. For those in the northern hemisphere, the North Star was their guiding light.

A chilly but clear night provided us with an opportunity to learn and appreciate the wonders of the sky. With a fantastic view of the Saturn’s rings through a break in the cloud.

Many thanks to KC, Peter and Jeremy who made such a brilliant visit possible.

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