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MOTAT Society September Excursion to Stardome Planetarium and Observatory - 19/09/2023

Coming off the busy Auckland roads the contrast between city lights and the pitch black in the Maungakiekie Domain was intense. No light - no stars. Heavy cloud cover obviously does not bode for a good night of star watching, however, the MOTAT Society was at Stardome to visit the planetarium where clouds are no barrier to a brilliant show of the stars.

With a short time before the show, we were able to view the interactive exhibits outside of the theatre, then filed in to sample the new seating within the planetarium, one of the items included in the recent $2 million refurbishment of the venue.

As part of the improvements to the observatory a new, permanent kōkōrangi Māori astronomy show - Ngā Wāhanga o te Tau (Seasons of the Year) -was introduced to the planetarium beginning with Takurua: Winter, an introduction to Māori astronomy and the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar). Being September the MOTAT Society came into the next stage of the show, Kōanga (Spring).

Reclining back in luxurious comfort we turned our focus to the 360-degree screen in the Planetarium’s domed theatre and experienced not only an informative show about the whetū (stars) of kōanga (spring) and how they inform the way we interact with the taiao (natural environment), but an almost three-dimensional trip, launching off from earth, and out to the edge of the known universe.

Our presenter, Olive, guided us through the experience with an almost hypnotic voice and at least one of our party perhaps relaxed a bit too much! Olive talked us through the whetū of seasonal focus in our night sky and explained their significance to Aotearoa New Zealand combining mātauranga Māori alongside Western scientific tradition.

It was an absolute experience and we’d like to thank Olive Karena-Lockyer and the Stardome Planetarium and Observatory.

Words by Jodie Cawthorne

Pictures from Stardome Observatory and Planetarium website.

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