UH Institute for Astromomy

Educational Outreach


Hawaiian Names
 Aldebaran
 Altair
 Antares
 Aquila
 Arcturus
 Betelgeuse
 Bootes
 Canopus
 Corona Borealis
 Gemini
 Greater Magellanic Cloud
 Haydes
 'Iwa
 Jupiter
 Lesser Magellanic Cloud
 Mars
 Mercury
 Orion
 Pleiades
 Polaris
 Saturn
 Sirius
 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.

Hawaiian "Star" and Constellation Names
List contains only identified objects.

Name -- Hawaiian Name
image Other Names:
  

Literal Translation:
  

Additional Information:
  

Location:
  

Magnitude:
  

Type of Object:
  

Distance:
  

Description:
  
Aldebaran -- Kao-ma'aiku
image Other Names:
  

Literal Translation:
  

Additional Information:
  

Location:
  

Magnitude:
  

Type of Object:
  star

Distance:
  

Description:
   ***
Altair -- Humu
Other Hawaiian Names:
  Humu

Literal Translation:
  "fence star"

Additional Information:
  It was probably in a group of stars in the constellation Leo or the head of Cetus

Location:
  Aquila the Eagle

Magnitude:
  0.77

Type of Object:
  star

Distance:
  5 parsecs

Description:
Altair (Alpha Aquilae), known as Humu or Ho'ohumu was used with the constellations Newe (the Southern Cross) and Hoku-pa as guides for navigators traveling from Hawaii to Tahiti. Altair is the brighest star in the constellation Humu-ma (Aquila the Eagle) and the 12th brightest in the sky. Altair is a sub-giant star (A7 dwarf) of the first magnitude 16 light-years away. It is one corner of the Summer Triangle along with Deneb and Vega.
Antares -- Lehua-kona
Other Hawaiian Names:
  (1) Lehua-kona; (2) Kao

Literal Translation:
  (1) southern lehua flower (lehua may refer to the red color of the lehua blossom)

Additional Information:
  

Location:
  Scorpius the Scorpion

Size:
  supergiant

Magnitude:
  0.9 to 1.8

Type of Object:
  variable star Distance:
  -- parsecs

Description:
Antares (Alpha Scorpii) is classified as a M1.5 supergiant 500 times larger than our Sun and 10,000 times brighter. Antares is a variable star that can range in magnitude from 0.9 to 1.8 in a five year period. It has a dwarf companion star that orbits Antares every 900 years. It is the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius and easily distinguised by its red color. It is known as the heart of the scorpion and can be found just above the curve of the tail. The constellation Scorpius in known in Hawaiian legend as Maui's Fishhook. The legend tells of the demigod, Maui, who pulled the islands up from the bottom of the sea with this fishhook.
Constellation Aquila
Hawaiian Name:
  Humu-ma
Literal Translation:
   --
Additional Information:
  --
Location:
  --
Size:
  --
Magnitude:
  --
Type of Object:
  constellation Distance:
  --
Aquila the Eagle is a constellation seen near the celestial equator in the Milky Way that contains the star Humu (Altair)

Aquila the Eagle -- constellation
Arctures
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
Betelgeuse
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
***
Bootes Hoku-'iwa frigate bird star constellation
Canopus
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-
kona-i-ka-lewa
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
***
Gemini Na Lalani o Pililua -- ?????
The Greater Magellanic Cloud
***
The Greater Magellanic Cloud (1) Pulelehua-kea or Ka-puku (1) white butterfly ?????
Haydes
***
Haydes Ka-nuku-o-kapahi the opening of the fireplace constellation
'Iwa
***
'Iwa 'Iwa frigate bird or number 9 (maka'iwa -- for the nine principal navigation stars) constellation
Jupiter
***
Jupiter Ikaika -- planet
The Lesser Magellanic Cloud
***
The Lesser Magellanic Cloud Pulelehua-uli dark butterfly ?????
Mars
***
Mars Holoholo-pina'au -- planet
Mercury
***
Mercury Ukali-ali'i Following the chief (sun) planet
Orion
***
Orion -- -- constellation
The Pleiades
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
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
***
Saturn (1) Holoholo-pinaau; (2) Makulu -- planet
Sirius
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
Southern Cross
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
Spica
***
Spica 'Hikianalia -- star
Sun
***
Sun Kane-onohi-o-ka-la "Great Eyeball of Kane" star
Uranus
***
Uranus Heleekela Named for Uranus' discoverer Sir William Herschel. planet
Ursa Minor
Constellation that contains Hoku-pa'a (Polaris)
Ursa Minor Hoku-pa -- constellation
Venus
***
Venus (1) Hoku-loa; (2) Holo-i-Kahiki (2) sail-to-Tahiti planet

Dictionary Look-up

archaeoastronomy -- the study of the significance of archaeological sites and artifacts, i.e. the Great Pyramid, Egypt and Stonehenge, England.

celestial equator
companion star
constellation
Equator
galaxies
horizon
hydrogen
light-year
magnitude
north celestial pole
parsecs
reflection nebulae
star
sub-giant star (A7 dwarf)
supergiant
white dwarf
zenith

Bibliography

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.



| IfA Homepage | What's New | Search IfA | Image Gallery |

Return to top of page
Educational Outreach
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.