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Matariki and Navigation

The Matariki star cluster rises in the midwinter night sky marking the beginning of the Māori new year. This is a time of reflection. Investigate the importance of stars in early navigation. Take a journey to discover how navigation has changed since Māori first arrived in Aotearoa.

The Matariki star cluster.

Watch the video below, fimed at at Space Place in Wellington, and see Matariki in the planetarium. Find out if Polynesians used this star cluster for navigation as they sailed to Aotearoa.

Ponder this 

Consider the following questions. You could talk about your ideas with your favourite people at home or online.

  1. What does Matariki mean and why is it important to Māori?
  2. How did Polynesians use stars to navigate?
  3. What other star clusters can you name and how do you find these in the night sky?


Share your creations. Ask a parent to post a picture on Instagram. Use the hashtags #learnztrips, #mymatarikicreations, or email a photo to LEARNZtrips to tell us about your discoveries. 

We’ll share some of your images on our Instagram space @learnztrips.

Want to know more?

See how navigation has changed from Kupe, to Cook, to today. Practice traditional Māori navigation methods and paddle a waka in Pōneke. Then travel to Meretoto, Ship Cove to see how Cook navigated. Use the latest navigation technology and pilot a ship simulator.