The Astronomy and Navigation of Aboriginal Australians

The Astronomy and Navigation of Aboriginal Australians

Date & time: 6.30pm 20 July 2019, AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Location: Manning Clark Hall, Cultural Centre, Kambri Precinct
Event series: Canberra Moon Week

Aboriginal people in Australia have a rich astronomical tradition such as the "Emu in the Sky" constellation of dark clouds, and stories about the Sun, Moon, and stars, revealing a great depth and complexity of ancient Aboriginal cultures. Not only did they know the sky intimately, but they were familiar with planetary motions, tides, and eclipses. Their songs and stories show that Aboriginal Australians sought to understand their Universe in a similar way to modern science. They used this knowledge of the sky to construct calendars, songlines, and other navigational tools, enabling them to navigate across the country, trading artefacts and sacred stories.

Professor Ray Norris is an astrophysicist at CSIRO and Western Sydney University, and is also known as a popular science speaker. His professional life revolves around the question of figuring out how the Universe evolved from the Big Bang to the galaxies, planets, and people that we see around us today. To achieve this, he leads the international "Evolutionary Map of the Universe" team who use state-of-art radio telescopes and innovative "big data" techniques to sequence galaxies from the Big Bang to the present day, and answer questions like "why do most galaxies have a black hole in their centre, and how does it affect the galaxy's life-cycle?". As well as his mainstream astrophysical research, he is also well-known for his ground-breaking research on the astronomy of Australian Aboriginal people. In this research, he particularly focuses on the question of how traditional Aboriginal Australians used their knowledge of the sky for practical and ceremonial purposes, and their development of an "ethno-scientific" view of how the Universe works. 

Stargazing with the audience will follow the lecture outside the Cultural Centre in Kambri.

Moon Week is in partnership with ACT Government.