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Young Kiwi Astro-photographer Shoots For The Stars

Matariki by Josh Kirkley.

The stars are aligning for up-and-coming Auckland-based astro-photographer Josh Kirkley (Kāi Tahu).

During lockdown, one of his images was picked up by NASA and shared on the space agency’s Instagram to its 59.2 million followers.

And now, two months on, Josh is taking on a new role as co-producer and host of Ngā Whetū o Matariki - a series of interactive Matariki shows at the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium.

“It’s absolutely a dream come true to be sharing my passion for space at such a significant time of the year,” he said.

The 26-year old took up astro-photograhy six years ago. Since then he has captured hundreds of images of Aotearoa’s night sky including many of the Matariki cluster. He’s seen a huge increase over the past year in those following his astro-photography online.

“So many more rangatahi, as well as tangata Pākehā, are now interested in the maramataka and how our tūpuna read and understood the night sky.”

Stardome is expecting this year’s Matariki shows to be extremely popular, which CEO Victoria Travers says reflects a growing maturity in the general public’s understanding and appreciation of Matariki. She supports calls for Matariki to be celebrated with a public holiday.

“To acknowledge the lunar-stellar calendar that is so integral to indigenous knowledge in te ao Māori would be a really exciting and hugely appropriate shift for the country,” she said.

To prepare for the Stardome show, Josh Kirkley has drawn on the mātauranga of Māori astronomers and maramataka practitioners and scholars.

Josh will be sharing hosting duties with Olive Karena-Lockyer (Te Aupouri, Ngāti Raukawa). Olive is a planetarium presenter at Stardome and is passionate about sharing her mātauranga and aroha (knowledge and love of the universe) to Stardome’s visitors, particularly the younger generation.

Victoria Travers says having Josh and Olive present the shows signals a new direction for the Stardome’s Matariki season.

“This is about supporting a new generation of Māori astronomers and astronomy educators, so that knowledge can be shared as widely as possible,” she says.

Stardome Observatory’s Matariki season kicks off on Thursday 25 June. The show - Ngā Whetū o Matariki – takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7pm and 8:30pm. Tickets cost $12 for an adult, $10 for a child.

The Friday 8.30pm shows are a special event where drinks and kai will be served with the show. Tickets cost $38.50 per person (18+ audience, T’s & C’s apply). Bookings are essential.

Tickets for all show can be purchased online at stardome.org.nz

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