UH Institute for Astromomy
Greater Magellanic Cloud
Lesser Magellanic Cloud
Southern Cross (Curx)
Hawaiian Navigator's Signposts
Traveling across the vast Pacific, Polynesian navigators steered the sun, wind, weather, and by using the signposts in the night sky. Listed here are just a few of the identified stars, constellations, planets, and other objects used in Polynesian navigation. These bright objects are easily found in the Hawaiian skies and south -- below the equator, to Tahiti and the Marqueses.
|Aquila the Eagle||--||constellation|
Arcturus is called Hoku-le'a. Navigators from Tahiti and the Marquesas used this star as the zenith mark on their trip to Hawaii. Hoku-le'a (Alpha Bootis) is a red giant in the constellation Bootes. It is the brightest star in the night sky (north of the celestial equator), the fourth brightest in the sky (magnitude -0.04). It is a K1.5 giant 28 times the radius of our Sun and 10 pc (34 light-years) awayss.
|Arctures||Hoku-le'a||the clear star||star|
Located in the constellation Orion, Betelgeuse, pronounced "beetle juice", is a red supergiant with a diameter 500 times larger that the Sun. Betelgeuse is also a variable star. Over about a six year period, it can grow as bright as Rigel (Orion's left foot) or as dim as Kao-ma'aiku (Aldebaran) usually in the 0.3 to 0.9 magnitude range. Betelgeuse, known to Polynesian navigators as 'Aua, is _______ light-years away. It has a 5th magnitude companion star orbiting it. Also located in Orion, just below the belt, is a faint line of his sword. The hazy patch in the middle is the Great Orion Nebula (M42). It is a glowing hydrogen cloud where stars are being born.
|Orion the Hunter||--||--||constellation|
|Bootes||Hoku-'iwa||frigate bird star||constellation|
Ke-ali'i-o-kona-i-ka-lewa is a white supergiant making it the third brightest star in the sky. It is located in the constellation Carina near the Southern Cross
|Carina the Keel||Ke-ali'i-o-
|Chief of the Southern Heavens||constellation|
|The Corona Borealis
Na-hoku-'ai-'aina is translated in Hawaiian to "enclosure stars" and described as five stars forming a small circle near the Na-hiku (Ursa Major--the Big Dipper).
|(The Northern Crown)||Hoku-'iwa||frigate bird star||constellation|
|Gemini||Na Lalani o Pililua||--||?????|
|The Greater Magellanic Cloud
|The Greater Magellanic Cloud||(1) Pulelehua-kea or Ka-puku||(1) white butterfly||?????|
|Haydes||Ka-nuku-o-kapahi||the opening of the fireplace||constellation|
|'Iwa||'Iwa||frigate bird or number 9 (maka'iwa -- for the nine principal navigation stars)||constellation|
|The Lesser Magellanic Cloud
|The Lesser Magellanic Cloud||Pulelehua-uli||dark butterfly||?????|
|Mercury||Ukali-ali'i||Following the chief (sun)||planet|
Makali'i means "little eyes." Also called Huhui or Huihui which means "group or cluster". The Pleiades is an area where stars are forming 120 parsecs away. Six stars are visible to the naked eye, however this open cluster contains about 3000 stars. The brighter stars are surrounded by gas and dust that reflects the starlight forming a reflection nebulae. It is also called the Seven Sisters; M45; NGC 1432. The six visible stars are Alcyone, Atlas, Electra, Maia, Merope, and Taygeta
|Taurus||(1) Huihui; (2) Makali'i; (3) Huhui; (4) Na-huihui-o-Makali'i||group, cluster||open cluster|
Polaris (the North or Pole Star) is called Hoku-pa'a. It is located close the north celestial pole and it disappeared over the horizon when the navigators crossed below the Equator. When sailing from Hawaii, they kept this fixed star directly astern, and when it disappeared, they used Newe, the Southern Cross to navigate the rest of the way to Tahiti. Polaris is a creamy-yellow (____ magnitude) supergiant _______ light-years away. It also has a 9th magnitude companion star.
|Ursa Minor||(1) Hoku-pa'a; (2) Kio-pa'a||(1) fixed star; (2) fixed projection||star|
|Saturn||(1) Holoholo-pinaau; (2) Makulu||--||planet|
The brightest star in the Hawaiian night sky is Sirius (the Dog Star), in Hawaii it has many names but is commonly called A'a. Sirius passes directly over Tahiti and Polynesian navigators used it to find their way back from Hawaii. Located in constellation, Canis Major (the Large Dog), Sirius is its heart. It is a 1st magnitude star and it is also one of the nearest, only 2.65 parsecs (8.6 light-years) away. It's companion star is Sirius B is the first white dwarf to be discovered. Nearby the Little Dog Star, Procyon, is 11.4 light-years away.
|Canis Major||(1) Hoku-ho'okele-wa'a; (2) 'A'a||star-navigating-canoe / burning bright||star|
Lying in the Milky Way and visible from the Southern Hemisphere, the four bright stars that make up this constellation are Alpha (zero magnitude) and the red giant Gamma (1st magnitude) that points to the South Pole, and Beta (1st magnitude) and Delta (2nd magnitude) that form the cross arm. Three other objects within the constellation are Epsilon (3rd magnitude), the Jewel Box cluster, and the dark Coalsack nebula.
|Southern Cross (Crux Australis, Crux)||(1) Newa; (2) Newe; (3) Newenewe; (4) Hanai-a-ka-malama||(1) southern star||constellation|
|Sun||Kane-onohi-o-ka-la||"Great Eyeball of Kane"||star|
|Uranus||Heleekela||Named for Uranus' discoverer Sir William Herschel.||planet|
Constellation that contains Hoku-pa'a (Polaris)
|Venus||(1) Hoku-loa; (2) Holo-i-Kahiki||(2) sail-to-Tahiti||planet|
archaeoastronomy -- the study of the significance of archaeological sites and artifacts, i.e. the Great Pyramid, Egypt and Stonehenge, England.
north celestial pole
sub-giant star (A7 dwarf)
DeBruin, Jerry and Don Murad. 1988. Look to the sky. Carthage, IL: Good Apple, Inc.
Eicher, David J., ed. 1988. The Universe from your backyard: a guide to deep-space objects from Astronomy magazine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hopkins, Jeanne. 1980. Glossary of astronomy and astrophysics. Second edition; revised and enlarged. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Illingworth, Valerie, ed. 1994. The facts on file: dictionary of astronomy. Third edition. New York: Market House Books, Ltd.
Johnson, Rubellite Kawena and John Kaipo Mahelona. 1975. Na inoa hoku: a catalogue of Hawaiian and Pacific star names. Honolulu: Topgallent Publishing Company.
Kyselka, Will. 1989. The Hawaiian sky. New, revised edition. Honolulu: The Bess Press, Inc.
Ridpath, Ian. 1997. A dictionary of astronomy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Room, Adrian. 1988. Dictionary of astronomical names. New York: Routledge.
Sky and Telescope. April 1999.
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|The University of Hawaii at Manoa is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution. Copyright © 1996 Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii. All Rights Reserved. Revised by Wendy Nakano, February 1999.|