From January through March, the featured starline returns to Kekaomakalii, The Bailer of Makalii.
Makalii, or Pleiades, in Greek mythology means the Seven Divine Sisters of Pleione. This starline depicts an image of a bailer to scoop out water filling the bottom of a canoe.
The celestial arc’s outline of the bailer begins with the star Capella, Hokulei (Wreath of Stars), in the constellation Auriga, the Goat Herder. Hokulei is an excellent marker on the star compass as it rises northeast and sets northwest.
The arc traces from Capella to Gemini and the twin stars Castor and Pollux, Nanamua and Nanahope (Looking Forward and Looking Back). The arc continues in a southward direction towards Procyon, Puana, in Canis Minor.
The scoop of the bailer culminates with two of the brightest stars that form the bailer’s handle. Sirius, Aa (Burning Brightly), in Canis Major, is the brightest star and the zenith star for Tahiti. Following the line southward, the bailer terminates with Canopus, Kealiiokonaikalewa (Chief of the Southern Sky), the second brightest star. These stars form the bailer: the cup of the scoop in the north and its handle in the south. As the bailer rises in the east, it is filled with the three constellations that are poured out as it approaches the western horizon.
Filling the bailer is Orion and the three distinct stars that form its belt: Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak. Orion, Kaheiheionakeiki (Cat’s Cradle), forms the Hawaiian image of children playing a string game with both hands outstretched and a string looped around their fingers.
The three stars in the belt of Orion point towards the northeast and Taurus, The Bull, and the star Aldebaran, the eye of the bull. Aldebaran is Arabic for “Follower” because it follows after the Pleiades farther towards the northeast.
Makalii was associated with the Makahiki in Hawaii, a four-month season when the worship of the deity Lono was observed. During this season, the Hawaiian community participated in local harvest, the collection of taxes, and athletic competitions.
Throughout the South Pacific, many cultures also recognized the season, celebra ting it six months later and calling it Matariki.
During the main stargazing hours, the bright planet Venus will be visible in the southwest as the “evening star.”
In the northwestern sky is the “W” shape of Iwakealii (the royal frigate bird). About 20 degrees south of the bird’s western wing, careful observers will find a small, faint, fuzzy object in the sky. This is the Andromeda Galaxy, approximately 2.5 million-light years away, the closest full-sized galaxy to the Milky Way and the only object visible to the naked eye that is outside of Earth’s own galaxy.
It is worthy to note that a number of globular clusters, the Large and Small Magellanic clouds and dwarf galaxies, which are outside of the plane of the Milky Way, are visible; however, these objects are gravitationally bound to the Milky Way.
Beneath the famous three stars that cut across Kaheiheionakeiki (Orion), observers will be able to make out a small faint smudge in the sky. Looking at this faint light through a good pair of binoculars or a telescope, observers will see the dynamic Orion Nebula (M42), one of the most famous stellar nurseries in the sky.
Within this gas and dust cloud, young stars are in the process of being formed. Overtime, astronomers on Mauna Kea have also been able to discover protoplanetary disks within the nebula and have borne witness to the birth of new solar systems.
Throughout January, the sun will be rising about 7:10 a.m. and dawn will not begin to color the sky until about 6 a.m. At the beginning of the month, the planet Mars will be rising at about 4 a.m. and will stand out with its distinctive red color in the early morning.
At about 6 a.m., observers facing south, with a nice flat southern horizon, will be able to catch the notable shape of Hanaiakamalama, the Southern Cross, standing upright. Next to this famous shape will be the two pointer stars, Kamailemua (Beta Centauri) and Kamailehope (Alpha Centauri).
Kamailehope, the more easterly of the two pointers, is the closest star system to our solar system at only 4 light-years away. While Kamailemua (Beta Centauri) appears to have a similar level of brightness to its other pointer, it is farther away at almost 400 light-years. Their brightness appear so similar because Kamailehope (Alpha Centauri) is a fainter star that is closer and Kamailemua (Beta Centauri) is a very bright star that is farther away.
IANUALI (JANUARY) SKIES AT … by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd
Chad Kalepa Baybayan (Kalepa.Baybayan@hawaii.edu) serves as navigator-in-residence and Emily Peavy (Emily.Peavy@hawaii.edu) as planetarium technician support facilitator at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, a center for informal science education at the University of Hawaii at Hilo showcasing astronomy and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration.