By Gregory McCartney, NASA Ambassador to the Stars
Aloha and welcome to another year under the stars above Hawaii. Each new year starts with the Hawaii star line Ke Kā O Makaliʻi – The Canoe Bailer of Little Stars high overhead in the evening sky. Consisting of five bright na hōkū (stars); namely, Hōkūlei (Capella), Nānāmua (Castor), Nānāhope (Pollux), Puana (Procyon), and ʻAʻā (Sirius). This canoe bailer rises upright in the east and slowly turns over as it rises and then sets in the west, giving the appearance of scooping up and emptying out the stars.
Open star cluster Makaliʻi (Pleiades) leads the way in this Hawaii star line. Makaliʻi is the navigator on the canoe with Captain Hawaiʻiloa when the Islands of Hawaii were discovered around 300 A.D. Following Makaliʻi, while facing east, is Kapu-ahi (Aldebaran) in the constellation Taurus. It is believed that Kapu-ahi is the hōkū that was being followed by Hawaiʻiloa when these islands were discovered, as he sailed northeast from the Marques Islands.
As for the five bright stars outlining Ke Ka o Makaliʻi, Hōkūlei is part of the constellation Auriga, also named Hōkūlei, meaning wreath of stars. The stars Nānāmua and Nānāhope, meaning the first and last, are part of the constellation Nā Mahoe (Gemini). The star Puana, meaning blossom, is part of the constellation Canis Minor. The star ʻAʻā, meaning fire, is part of the constellation Canis Major, the “Big Dog.” Refer to a star map to help you will see how these all appear above.
When looking further south, one will see Ke Aliʻi o Kona i ka lewa (Canopus), which is part of the constellation Carina. Together, Puana, ʻAʻā and Ke Aliʻi o Kona i ka lewa make up Manu, a bird in flight, representing navigation, with ʻAʻā as its belly, and Puana and Ke Aliʻi o Kona i ka lewa as the tip of its wings.
Keep looking up and always reach for the stars for without the stars, we would not have the Hawaii we have today!