NZ’s Ancient Astronomers Celebrated At Mata Ora
Ancient Polynesian astronomers and navigators explored and settled the Pacific a millennium ago using indigenous
scientific knowledge and the night sky as their guide.
Their amazing achievements will be celebrated throughout next week during Mata Ora: The Living Knowledge celestial
event, hosted by the Society for Maori, Astronomy, Research and Tourism and supported by the NZ National Commission for
“Our ancestors’ journeys and settlements stretch from South East Asia and Melanesia in the west, to Hawaii in the north,
Rapanui or Easter Island in the east and Aotearoa New Zealand in the south, across 162 square million kilometres,” says
Toa Waaka, vice chairman of the Society of Maori, Astronomy, Research and Tourism or SMART.
“To this day, their legacy remains alive as the indigenous peoples of the Pacific while separated by the largest ocean
on earth, remain linked to one another through language, culture and indigenous scientific knowledge, informed by the
stars and their environment.”
Discussions and presentations from Maori and Western star lore and astronomy experts will take place throughout the week
at Takapuwahia Marae and Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua. The week will culminate in a telescope viewing at Karu Po
Observatory in Titahi Bay on Friday night and then a day of astronomy events for children on Saturday.
“The event is also part of celebrations to mark the International Year of Astronomy 2009, a global effort initiated by
the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO,” says NZ National Commission for UNESCO chairman, Bryan Gould.
“Engaging and inspiring interest in astronomy and science, particularly amongst young people, is a major objective of
the IYA 2009 and Mata Ora is a superb example of this in action.”
“Mata Ora brings together Maori and Western astronomical science and knowledge New Zealanders make an important
contribution to a variety of areas in astronomy and a feature of NZ astronomy is the productive relationship between
amateurs and professionals,” says Dr Grant Christie, President of the Royal Astronomical Society of NewᾠZealand.
“We are uniquely placed to see the sky from the most southerly latitude and are the only sizeable landmass in the
extensive south Pacific Ocean so we are an important global link in whole sky coverage.”
Mata Ora 2009
International Year of Astronomy
Royal Astronomical Society of NZ
NZ National Commission for UNESCO