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Te Waka O Tama Rereti

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Here in New Zealand we can see both Scorpius and Orion in the sky in the same time and this is the time of the year to do it.

In the Eastern Sky, this time of the year, the Pleiades* are visible again on the horizon. Harbingers for Halloween in the northern hemisphere where now skies are grey and  ravens await for the first snows, for Māori, the Pleiades are now harbingers of summer.

*Matariki is the name linked to the observance of the Pleiades in the morning sky around the Winter Solstice, but only in the morning of June-July when it marks the Māori new year. Throughout the year, the Pleiades is the prow of Te Waka o Takitimu, in November, when it is visible again in the evening sky, the Pleiades cluster is not Matariki but the feathers of the waka o Tama Rereti.

Together with the Hyades they make the wake and feathers from the Great Canoe (Waka) of Tama Rereti. November is the month when Milky Way surrounds the horizon like an ocean and the Great Waka was used by Māori to mark the arrival of the warm season when it was safe to travel the ocean. Tama Rereti’s Waka placed the stars in the sky and now lies moored in the wake of the Milky Way.

Scorpius is Tauihu, the prow, floating low on the western horizon. Due south sits Te Punga, the anchor (the Southern Cross), with its rope, Te Taura, which is represented by the Pointers (Beta and Alpha Centauri). The latter is actually a multiple star system that holds our closest solar neighbour, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, at 4.25 light years from Earth.

The sails of Tama Rereti’s canoe are Achernar and the beautiful southern dwarf galaxies the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds (SMC and LMC). Canopus/Atutahi is the paramount chief of the skies at vigil in the waka. A source of X-rays and the most luminous close star at 310 light years from the Sun, Canopus is used for navigation by all spacecraft that employ star tracker devices, which determine the orientation (or attitude) of the spacecraft with respect to that star. Te Taurapa, or the stern of the waka is in the Eastern Sky, formed by Orion.


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