Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Wergaia Planisphere: An Educational Tool

The version below has been updated to include a backside for the planisphere and also contains corrections to the original version, including more objects.  You can download the newer version at the bottom of this page.

A planisphere (sometimes called a Star Wheel) is a device used for telling the user what will be in the sky on any given day and time from a particular latitude.  Most are divided between Southern and Northern Hemispheres and work for most populated areas.  While they do not tell the user what planets or solar system objects will be in the sky, as they change over time, the "fixed" stars will not change (unless you're observing for thousands of years!).

Here I provide an Indigenous version of a planisphere, based on the astronomical traditions of the Boorong, a clan of the Wergaia language group in north-western Victoria, as given in the paper "On the astronomy and mythology of the Aborigines of Victoria" by William Edward Stanbridge in 1858 (Click here for a PDF version).  He states that the traditions of the other Wergaia clans are almost identical and claims that his information came from two individuals who prided themselves on knowing more about astronomy than any other Aboriginal group.

This planisphere will tell you more than simply what is in the sky.  By using the descriptions in Stanbridge's paper, you can learn what the rising or setting of particular stars at certain times of the year tell us about the natural world in addition to their role in the stories of the Boorong people.

Examples include:

When Marpeankuurk (Arcturus) is seen in the northern skies in the evening, the larvae of the wood ant are ready to be harvested.

When the mallee fowl, Neilloan (Vega), sets just after the sunset, their eggs are ready to be collected.

When Coonartoorung (the Beehive Cluster) sets it signifies the start of Autumn.

Other examples abound, although Stanbridge did not identify all of the stars and celestial objects by name.  A cross-referenced list of these objects, including identifications of those Stanbridge did not name, can be found in a recent paper by myself and David Frew, entitled "An Aboriginal account of the Great Eruption of Eta Carinae" (click here for a PDF version of the pre-print paper).  I should also note that you will not see any connect-the-dot constellation patterns here, as most Aboriginal groups did not use this approach - a character in a story was denoted by a single star or object.  In some cases, a character was represented by a few stars, but they did not necessarily produce a familiar shape.  There are a few examples of a connect-the-dots approach to constellations, but they are quite rare.

You can download the planisphere here for free.  This is copyrighted, so you can use and distribute it freely but you cannot sell it - it is for educational use only!  Print the file on large A3 card-stock paper (not double sided!).  Cut around the edges as directed.  The match the time of day with the date, and it will tell you what's in the sky!

This planisphere is designed for Southern Hemisphere latitudes and will work in most parts of Australia, South America and South Africa.  I will also make different planispheres for different Aboriginal groups down the road.

Friday, June 24, 2011

NAIDOC Event: Indigenous Astronomy and Rock Art

Saturday, July 9th, 2011 from 10 am to 12 noon.

Sponsored by Sydney Observatory

It has been suggested by researchers that rock art in the Sydney region contains astronomical symbolism (read this paper). While we do not know this for certain, the possibility is tantalising and is the topic of current research.  Duane Hamacher, an Astronomy Lecturer at Sydney Observatory who is finishing a doctoral thesis on Aboriginal Astronomy at Macquarie University, will lead a guided tour of rock art sites in Kuringai Chase National Park on Saturday, July 9th at the start of NAIDOC Week 2011. The tour will begin at Elvina Track car park then move to Platform 1, where you can see the now-famous ‘Emu in the sky’ engraving (see image below). Learn about ceremonial sites, rock art, astronomical symbolism, and how you can help preserve these very important sites.

Event webpage

Afterwards, drive to West Head for lunch for one of the most beautiful sights in Sydney.

Meeting point is the Elvina track car park. A PDF map can be downloded here.

Please bring a hat, sunscreen, appropriate shoes, water, and lunch.

Limit 40 people

$25 per adult $18 child or concession, $75 per family. Non transferable or refundable.

PHM Members $20 per adult $15 per child or concession, $60 per family.

National Park entry is $11 per vehicle.

Book online or by phoning 02 9921 3485.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meet the People of the Indigenous Astronomy Project

This week we would like to introduce you to our research group, which consists of researchers and educators with rather diverse backgrounds. Our project is collaborative, with members across Australia, although we are centred in Sydney. Our work is rigorous and we work closely with Indigenous Elders and communities.

There are a number of approaches to such a large, wide-reaching project and we all add our own contribution using our own particular strengths. There is simply so much to learn about Australian Indigenous Astronomy that it would take a dozen lifetimes to even scratch the surface. Because of this, we always welcome new members to the project. Any Indigenous elders or communities that would like to share their stories and traditions or get involved in education are encouraged to contact us. Any students that would like to get involved in this exciting research are also welcome to contact us, whether it is for an undergraduate project or a master or doctoral thesis, from any academic field.

You simply will not meet a friendlier or more enthusiastic group of people!

Ray Norris

Professor Ray Norris is a British-Australian astrophysicist at CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science. He received an honours degree in theoretical physics from Cambridge University and a PhD in radio astronomy from Manchester University. While in the UK, he tackled the problem of whether Stonehenge and other Bronze-age monuments had been built as astronomical observatories. He moved to Australia in 1983 to work for CSIRO. He currently leads a project to image the faintest radio galaxies and star-forming galaxies in the Universe. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University. Ray enjoys working with Australian Aboriginal groups in the Northwern Territory such as the Yolngu and Wardaman.

Duane Hamacher

Dr Duane Hamacher is a Lecturer at the Nura Gili Indigenous Centre at the University of New South Wales.  Born and raised in the United States, Duane earned a BSc in physics from the University of Missouri followed by an MSc in astrophysics from the University of New South Wales researching extrasolar planets. In 2008, he was awarded a Research Excellence Scholarship to complete a PhD on Aboriginal Astronomy at Macquarie University, which he finished in 2012. He has given talks on Aboriginal Astronomy around the world and has published numerous research papers on the subject. Duane is also an astronomy educator and consultant curator at Sydney Observatory.  He developed this blog as an outreach and education tool.

John Goldsmith

John recently submitted his PhD thesis investigating the way in which Aboriginal sky knowledge is being documented, shared, and communicated at Curtin University in Perth.  John earned a BSc and MSc in environmental science and is an avid astro-photographer. His doctoral research was based on a highly successful Yamaji Art and ICRAR collaboration, which resulted in the development of the “Ilgarijiri, Things Belonging to the Sky” exhibition, which featured astronomically themed Aboriginal artwork. The exhibition was featured at Geraldton, Perth, Canberra, and Cape Town, South Africa. There are current plans for the first U.S. exhibition in Washington. John's research also involves compiling and presenting documentation about Wolfe Creek Crater and Aboriginal knowledge and beliefs relating to the crater. The emphasis of the research is about the documentation, communication and sharing of Aboriginal astronomical knowledge in contemporary society.

Bob Fuller

Robert "Bob" Fuller is the former President of the Northern Sydney Astronomical Society and is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy at Macquarie researching the astronomy of the Kamilaroi people of north-central New South Wales. An American born pilot, Bob earned a BA in anthropology and sociology from Gettysburg Collge in Pennsylvania, USA and moved to Australia in the 1970s. After 30 years with SAAB defense, he retired and completed a major research project on the astronomical ties to Bora sites in southeastern Australia, which was submitted to the journal Australian Archaeology.

Paul Curnow

Paul Curnow is a qualified primary school teacher (BEd) and was a lecturer at the Adelaide Planetarium from 1992-2013 and currently teaches an astronomy course at the University of South Australia. He ran a 10-week course entitled 'The Night Sky' for adults, in addition to a 6-week course entitled 'Ancient Skies'. Furthermore, he ran a number of one night courses; 'Aboriginal Skies', 'Ancient Skies' and 'Starlore & Solar System Astronomy'. Paul has published over 40 papers on General Astronomy and Aboriginal Astronomy and gives talks about the subject across Australia. Two of his papers earned him the Astronomical Society of South Australia Editor's Award.

David Frew

Dr David Frew is an astrophysicist and Research Fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Macquarie University. He earned a BSc(Hons) in geology and a GradDip in education from the University of Technology, Sydney before completing a PhD in astrophysics at Macquarie. He studies the evolution of planetary nebulae and symbiotic stars, but has wider interests in the history of astronomy, including the application of modern techniques to archival data of variable stars. He works with the Indigenous Astronomy project researching transient stellar events, such as novae, supernovae, and variable stars. With Duane Hamacher in 2010, he found that Aboriginal Victorians recorded the Great Eruption of Eta Carina in 1843, a star that undergoes occasional violent outbursts, making it appear extremely bright. This is the only global Indigenous record of this event found to date.

Steven Tingay

Steven Tingay is a professor of astrophysics at Curtin University in Perth working on a project to develop baseband recording and processing equipment for radio astronomy and uses this equipment on Australian radio telescope such as Parkes and the Australia Telescope Compact Array to undertake novel astrophysical experiments. He earned a BSc(Hons) in physics from the University of Melbourne and a PhD in astrophysics from ANU. His main areas of research interest include quasars and active galactic nuclei, starburst galaxies, galactic X-ray binaries, and radio galaxies. He is also involved in Aboriginal Astronomy by working with the Traditional Owners of the land housing the new ASKAP radio telescope. Steven is John Goldsmith's thesis advisor.

Tui Britton

Tui is completing a PhD in astrophysics at Macquarie/CSIRO. Born in New Zealand and raised in Singapore, she attended the University College London and Michigan State University, where she received a BSc in astrophysics. She moved to Sydney and earned an MSc in astrophysics from the University of New South Wales before receiving a Research Excellence Scholarship to study star formation at Macquarie. Her main interests in Aboriginal Astronomy involve studying the degrees of night-vision in Indigenous people, helping us to understand how well Aboriginal people could see at night and how this has changed since colonisation. She also assists in archaeological fieldwork projects and studies Maori astronomy.

John Clegg

John is a retired Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney. He was born in the UK and earned an honours degree in archaeology from Cambridge University, followed by a teaching certificate. He moved to Australia and earned an MA in archaeology from the University of Sydney and has been an active researcher for over 35 years.  He has published numerous articles, book chapters, and books on archaeology, particularly focused on how to get archaeological insights from rock art.  John is one of the top experts on Aboriginal rock art in the Sydney region.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lunar Eclipses - Omens of Death?

by Duane Hamacher

On the morning of Thursday, June 16th, Australians will be blessed with a total lunar eclipse in the western sky before dawn. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is at opposition to the sun and passes through the earth's shadow. Because of this, a lunar eclipse will always happen during a full moon. On the morning of the 16th, the moon will begin moving into the earth's shadow at 03:25 AM (Australian EST) in the constellation Ophiuchus. It will reach totality (full eclipse) at 06:13 and will set below the horizon while still in eclipse.

Figure 2: The phases of a lunar eclipse.

Lunar eclipses were seen by some Aboriginal groups as an omen that a relative was in danger or that someone on a journey had become sick or was injured or killed. Such views were held by the Aboriginal people of the Wellington district of Queensland, the Kurnai people of Victoria, and the Aboriginal people of Beagle Bay, Western Australia. To the Ngarrindjeri of South Australia, a lunar eclipse was caused by powerful sorcerers working evil magic. Thus, a lunar eclipse brought feelings of fear and anxiety to those who witnessed it.

An Aboriginal informant from Beagle Bay, Western Australia told a woman that a lunar eclipse was an omen of death to a man. If the Moon is hungry and ''wants to eat someone (a man)'', it becomes dark. But women need not fear... the moon-man ''is uninterested in eating a woman''.

Although some Aboriginal groups viewed lunar eclipses as bad omens, Aboriginal people near Ooldea, South Australia called the lunar eclipse that occurred on on 28 December 1917 pira korari and were unafraid of it. The men present explained that they had witnessed one at Wynbring after colonists had built the Transcontinental Railway and paid little attention to it. In that year (as is typically the case), three total lunar eclipses were visible: 8 January, 5 July, and 28 December.

In hunter-gather societies, the sharing of food was essential for the survival of the community, and stealing or hoarding food was taboo. The Lardil of Mornington Island viewed the Moon as a greedy and selfish man who steals food and gorges, getting fatter and fatter (waxing Moon). As punishment for this action, he is cut into pieces, getting thinner (waning Moon) until he dies (new moon). The new moon, along with the sudden and apparent 'death' of the Moon during a lunar eclipse, served as a warning to younger generations about the Moon's selfish nature, reinforcing the taboo of food theft and gluttony.

Figure 2: The phases of the moon as seen from the Southern Hemisphere.

In Euahlayi traditions, the Moon-man is constantly pursued by the Sun-woman and manages to avoid her advances most of the time. However, he is occasionally overtaken by the Sun-woman, signified by a lunar eclipse. The Arrernte believed a lunar eclipse was the result of the Moon man hiding his face behind the possum fur that he is constantly spinning, which is identical to the Luritja view of a solar eclipse. Aboriginal groups in the southwest region of Western Australia believe a lunar eclipse is caused by spirits, called mulgarguttuk, placing their cloaks or a mountain over the Moon. The Kayardild of Bentinck Island in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria believed the Moon-man used a net (halo of the Moon) to collect the souls of the recently deceased during a lunar eclipse, which they called jawaaja. As the net filled, the Moon-man would disappear, as if he himself had died, which prompted the people to hide under fig trees, fearful that the Moon would kill them. If the people did not seek shelter, they would be struck with jiljawatha, a sickness that caused the person to be covered in sores.

During a total lunar eclipse, the moon will become almost black before during a reddish colour. Because the light is being refracted by the earth's thick atmosphere, the longer wavelengths of light dominate, giving the moon a reddish hue. This phenomenon is noted by some Aboriginal groups, including the Aboriginal people of the Clarence River, New South Wales, who thought a lunar eclipse revealed the Moon-man's blood and the Kurnai people of Victoria who believed a red Moon signified that someone had been killed. The Lardil of Mornington Island believe the Moon man's blood is visible during a total lunar eclipse. As the moon turned red, people though he was being killed, prompting people to shout out ''…don’t kill him!" In Luritja traditions, the Moon sometimes goes into the graves of the recently dead and eats the entrails of the bodies. He then emerges into the sky, blood red in colour, so everyone can see what he has done. While this may also describe a reddish-coloured moon that is simply low on the horizon (where longer wavelengths of light dominate), it also would refer to a lunar eclipse at totality.

Figure 3: The blood-red colour of the moon during totality. Image by Doug Murray.

In Ungarinyin culture of Western Australia an unfriendly medicine man causes the face of the Moon to be covered with blood, which greatly frightens the people (the author is unclear how this is done, but is presumably by some magical means). A friendly medicine man then ascends into the sky during a dream. Upon his return, he informs the people that he made the Moon better.

So as you look up at the moon in the early morning sky, imagine how you would feel if this were the first time you had witnessed this event... and did not know about it in advance! I imagine it would be an amazing and somewhat frightening experience. But if you miss it, don't fret... we'll get another one on December 10th!

P.S. - While you are watching the lunar eclipse, pay attention to the sky around the moon. A number of artificial satellites will pass close to the moon during eclipse. A short list of them, along with the time they pass near the moon, include (in Australian Eastern Standard Time) PROGRESS-M 58 (05:22:50), Iridium 36 (05:36:00), Iridium 61 (05:42:22), SL3 R/B (05:45:55), Hinode Solar-B (05:49:40), Iridium 18 (06:01:25), Iridium 42 (06:11:00), Iridium 97 (06:19:26), Iridium 40 (06:21:05), COBE (06:24:47), Iridium 6 (06:33:57)

To learn more, read Eclipses in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy by Duane Hamacher and Ray Norris, published in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Volume 14, Number 2 (July 2011).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Impact Craters in Aboriginal Dreamings, Part 3: Wolfe Creek (Kandimalal)

by John Goldsmith

Notice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: This article contains the name of an Indigenous person who has passed away.

This article is adapted, revised and updated from “Cosmic Impacts in the Kimberley”, by John Goldsmith, Landscope, 2000, and is based on information from Bevan and De Laeter, "Meteorites, A Journey through Space and Time", and Bevan and McNamara (2009) "Australia's Meteorite Craters".

Wolfe Creek Crater (Figure 1) is one of the best-preserved and most spectacular meteorite craters in the world. It is not only a highly significant site for scientific research and important tourist attraction, but also one of the few locations in the world where local Indigenous knowledge and culture relates directly to the crater itself.

The crater is situated in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, approximately 130 km south of Halls Creek, on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The crater is accessed by the Tanami Desert Road, a gravel road that links Halls Creek to Alice Springs. The crater is protected by a National Park and is managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Figure 1: An aerial view of Wolfe Creek Crater. Image copyright John Goldsmith.

Scientists found that the impactor was an iron meteorite weighing thousands of tons. The tremendous energy of the impact caused a blast 30 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, resulting in a near-circular crater almost 900 meters in diameter and 150 meters deep.

Geologists have estimated that the impact occurred more than 300 000 years ago. Since then, the process of erosion has slowly worn down the crater walls, while wind-blown sand and dust have partially filled the crater floor. However, the crater walls remain quite steep, and in places drop to sheer cliffs, particularly on the inner side of the northeastern crater wall. The crater walls presently stand about 40 meters above the surrounding flat plain, and the almost flat crater floor is 60 meters deep; about 20 meters below the surrounding plain. The outer portion of the crater floor is sandy, while the central portion consists of sand, silt and salt deposits. Sinkholes are located near the middle of the crater, and some water is present virtually all the year (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Star-trails above Wolfe Creek Crater. Image copyright James Athanasou.

Although some small iron meteorite fragments have been discovered in the vicinity of the crater, very few particles of the original meteorite have survived. During the millennia that have passed since the impact, the meteorite has largely rusted away.

The non-indigenous identification of the crater came in 1947 when F. Reeves, N.B. Suave and D. Hart observed it during an aerial survey of the Canning basin in 1947. A field visit followed two months later. A wide range of scientific studies have been conducted regarding Wolfe Creek Crater. These studies include a range of geophysical, ecological, space sciences, and cultural/ethnographic studies. In addition, the crater has featured in several film productions, cultural studies and exhibitions. A brief synopsis showing examples of research and documentation relating to Wolfe Creek Crater is provided below:

  • 1947: First non-indigenous recognition of the crater during an aerial survey;
  • 1948: Reeves, Frank, and R. O. Chalmers write a report entitled “The Wolfe Creek Crater”;
  • 1953: The expedition notes of Norman Tindale contain the earliest known ethnographic records relating to the crater;
  • 1982: West Australian film producer Guy Baskin features Wolfe Creek Crater in the first edition of the documentary series “The Wonder of Western Australia”;
  • 1989: J.E. Stanton produces “Painting the Country” which features Indigenous art, including an Aboriginal art representation of Wolfe Creek Crater and vicinity;
  • 1996: Alex Bevan from the WA Museum writes a Landscope Magazine article featuring Wolfe Creek Crater, entitled “Blast from the past”;
  • 1997: The documentary “The Human Race” features a 400km cross-country walking race, from Wolfe Creek Crater, of Jack Jugarie (a Djaru Elder) and a German and American;
  • 2000: I wrote an article for Landscope Magazine entitled “Cosmic Impacts in the Kimberley”;
  • 2003: D. Carson, B. McClave and G. Millward produce “Skylab Out of Orbit” featuring an exhibition about Wolfe Creek crater;
  • 2007: Peggy Reeves Sanday directs an Exhibition of Aboriginal paintings featuring the crater;
  • 2009: Duane Hamacher and Ray Norris write a paper in the journal Archaeoastronomy (2009) entitled “Australian Aboriginal Geomythology: Eyewitness Accounts of Cosmic Impacts?”, featuring the crater.

In 1997, the famous U.S. geologist Eugene Shoemaker was tragically killed in a vehicle collision on the Tanami Desert Road while on an expedition to Wolfe Creek crater. Shoemaker led groundbreaking research into crater studies, and was the co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (with his wife, Carolyn, and David Levy), which fragmented and collided into Jupiter. In 1999, part of his cremated remains were taken to the moon via the Lunar Prospector, and he is currently the only person to have been buried on the moon.

My interest in Wolfe Creek Crater began mainly through astronomical photography. In May 1998, I carried out my first visit to the crater, where I accomplished night landscape images of the crater, and astronomical photography during the Eta Aquariid meteor shower (originating from Halley’s Comet). My subsequent visits have extended this work further, with visits to Halls Creek or the Crater in August 1999, September 2000, July 2003 and August 2010 (collaborating with Gingin Observatory). During this time, a substantial photographic record of the crater has been developed, including astronomical photography time-lapse, and 360 degree photography.

Figure 4: John Goldsmith at Wolfe Creek crater, August 2010.

During my visits to Halls Creek and Wolfe Creek Crater, I met Indigenous elders and local Indigenous people, who shared their stories and knowledge about the crater. I documented these discussions on video, recorded extensive notes, photographs, purchased examples of Indigenous artwork depicting the crater, and obtained drawings and sketches relating to Indigenous astronomical knowledge.

My visit to Wolfe Creek Crater in 1999 enabled video interviews to be carried out with Jack Jugarie at Wolfe Creek Crater, and helped to document a unique record of Jugarie’s knowledge of the night sky and knowledge about the crater. It appears that Jugarie had never been asked before about his astronomical knowledge. This knowledge was very close to being lost forever, because Jugarie suddenly passed away, shortly after the 1999 visit to the crater. The records of past site visits have therefore become an important record of such knowledge. An overview of Wolfe Creek Crater and some of the Indigenous cultural connections to the crater is provided in my Landscope article “Cosmic Impacts in the Kimberley”. The high degree of respect towards Elder Jack Jugarie is indicated by the erection of a statue to commemorate Jack Jugarie by the Halls Creek community (Figure 5).

Figure 5: The memorial statue of Jack Jugarie, Halls Creek. Image copyright John Goldsmith.

The Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater is known as “Kandimalal” in the Djaru language. The crater is recognised in stories, personal experience, knowledge, art and song by Djaru and other Indigenous people. Djaru Elders refer to several stories relating to the crater. One well-known story (which is presented in the National Park signage on site) refers to the passage of two rainbow snakes, which formed the nearby Wolfe Creek and Sturt Creek as they crossed the desert. In the Dreamtime, one snake emerged from the ground, forming the circular crater.

In 1999, I recorded a story about a “star” that fell from the sky and became buried in the ground, forming the crater. According to Djaru Elder Jack Jugarie, one day, the crescent moon and the evening star passed very close to each other. The evening star became so hot that it fell to the ground, causing an enormous explosion, flash, dust cloud and noise. This frightened the people and a long time passed before they ventured near the crater to see what had happened. When they ventured to crater, it was realised that this was the site of where the evening star had fallen to the Earth. The Djaru people then named the place “Kandimalal” and is prominent in arts from the region (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Examples of Aboriginal paintings representing Wolfe Creek Crater (Goldsmith collection).

Interestingly, this story closely parallels the scientific explanation of the crater forming from the impact of a large meteorite. Jack Jugarie indicated that this account was passed down from his grandfather's grandfather, which suggests that the story originates from before the first contact with Europeans.

Another story relates to the sinkholes in the centre of the crater. One day, a Djaru man entered the crater and saw water in the sinkholes. He entered a sinkhole to discover a passage that went several kilometres underground to emerge at a nearby creek. After a considerable trek, he emerged into daylight. It is said that because of the link from the crater sinkholes and the creek, the crater floor never floods. This story is recounted with particular delight, noting the risk of snakes in the sinkholes and the darkness of the underground passages, highlighting the man’s bravery. There are various versions of this story, generally the underground passage is said to emerge at Sturt Creek, but Wolfe Creek has also been indicated.

The clear, dark skies of the Kimberley have enabled a remarkably intimate knowledge of cosmic events by some Djaru people. Jack Jugarie described a rare meteoric phenomenon that produces sound and vibration. Such events are known to occur when meteors cause sonic booms. Remarkably, this rare phenomenon is not only known, but was even given the name "Coolungmurru".

Wolfe Creek crater (Figure 7) is open to the public and we encourage you to visit the site, but please respect the land and the Traditional Owners: leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos, and kill nothing but time.

Figure 7. Eastern stars rising above the crater. Extract from time-lapse sequence, August 2010 copyright James Athanasou.

About John Goldsmith

John is a PhD candidate at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia and a member of the Aboriginal Astronomy Project who is investigating the way in which Aboriginal sky knowledge is being documented, shared, and communicated.

As part of his fieldwork to Wolfe Creek Crater in August 2010, he visited the Billiluna Community and the Kururrungku Catholic Education Centre, as part of the CSIRO ‘Scientists in Schools’ initiative. Billiluna is the nearest community to Wolfe Creek crater. The school visit enabled a discussion about astronomy and the importance of the crater. The interest shown by school children is clearly evident in their interaction with a photo of Wolfe Creek Crater (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Students relating to Wolfe Creek Crater, Billuluna.

His doctoral research is based on a highly successful Yamaji Art and ICRAR collaboration, which resulted in the development of the “Ilgarijiri, Things Belonging to the Sky” exhibition, which featured astronomically themed Aboriginal artwork. The exhibition was featured at Geraldton, Perth (Curtin University), Canberra (AIATSIS), and Cape Town, South Africa. There are current plans for the first U.S. exhibition in Washington. John's research also involves compiling and presenting documentation about Wolfe Creek Crater and Aboriginal knowledge and beliefs relating to the crater. The emphasis of the research is about the documentation, communication and sharing of Aboriginal astronomical knowledge in contemporary society.

We respectfully acknowledge the Djaru People and Elders, both past and present.