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How to find Matariki star cluster in the early morning sky

The rising of Matariki signals the New Year in the Māori lunar calendar.

Related video: Māori astronomer says first Matariki public holiday marks a new era for Aotearoa. Credits: Video - Newshub; Image - NASA

Early risers will be able to see the Matariki star cluster this week as Aotearoa plans to celebrate it as a public holiday for the first time.

The rising of Matariki, the name of the Pleiades star cluster which is also known as the seven sisters, signals the New Year in the Māori lunar calendar. It's also considered a time to reflect on the past, look to the future, and celebrate the present.

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Aotearoa officially celebrates the public holiday on Friday, June 24. While the exact dates change each year, Matariki rises in June or July.

There are about 500 stars in the Matariki star cluster, but only six or seven are visible without a telescope.

You can see Matariki for yourself right now. Before sunrise, look to the northeast horizon and find the constellation Tautoru, or Orion's Belt.

Above this is a bright star called Puanga. It's another star used to observe and acknowledge the Māori New Year, but this varies from iwi to iwi.

When you go right from Tautoru, you'll see the brightest star in the sky, Hinetakurua, the Winter Maiden.

And if you go left from Tautoru, you'll see a triangle shape - Te Kokotā. Then when you go left a bit more, you will see Matariki.

NIWA said people living in the lower North Island and eastern South Island are likely to get the best views of the Matariki star cluster during the upcoming weekend.

Forecaster Nava Fedaeff said conditions vary around Aotearoa.

"The best viewing looks to be in the lower North Island and eastern South Island, especially on Friday and Saturday mornings," she said.

"On Sunday morning, more widespread cloud cover will make Matariki viewing difficult across most of New Zealand."

Regional forecasts are available from NIWA here and they will be updated daily.

NIWA's Bream Bay live weather camera will also be pointing in the direction of Matariki for the next nine days, hoping to capture its early morning rising.

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