Observations of red-giant variable stars by Aboriginal Australians

Duane Willis Hamacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Aboriginal Australians carefully observe the properties and positions of stars, including both overt and subtle changes in their brightness, for subsistence and social application. These observations are encoded in oral tradition. I examine two Aboriginal oral traditions from South Australia that describe the periodic changing brightness in three pulsating, red-giant variable stars: Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis), Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri), and Antares (Alpha Scorpii). The Australian Aboriginal accounts stand as the only known descriptions of pulsating variable stars in any Indigenous oral tradition in the world. Researchers examining these oral traditions over the last century, including anthropologists and astronomers, missed the descriptions of these stars as being variable in nature as the ethnographic record contained several misidentifications of stars and celestial objects. Arguably, ethnographers working on Indigenous Knowledge Systems should have academic training in both the natural and social sciences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-107
Number of pages19
JournalThe Australian Journal of Anthropology
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Aboriginal Australians
  • cultural astronomy
  • ethnoastronomy
  • history of astronomy
  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems

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