Wiradjuri Astronomy Project

December 2016: The Wiraduri Astronomy Project has received funding from Regional Arts NSW, through project partner Arts OutWest, to process Scott Towney’s  Wiradjuri constellation art for Stellarium and exhibit it at the Cementa festival of contemporary art, 6-9 April 2017, in Kandos, NSW. See below for instructions on how to access the Wiradjuri constellations on Stellarium.

July 2017:  Scott Towney’s Wiradjuri Constellation Art, as commissioned for the Wiradjuri Astronomy Project, will be exhibited at the Skywriters’ Big Gig in the Conventry Room, Parkes Shire Council, on the weekend of 8-9 July 2017. More >>

Exhibition catalogue and constellation guide [pdf 282KB]: Wiradjuri Murruyang,Scott Towney’s Constellation Art, SkywritersProject2017

Big Skies Collaborator, Trevor Leaman, a cultural astronomer and PhD candidate, is working with Wiradjuri communities in inland New South Wales to understand their traditional skylore and the scientific knowledge it encodes. He lives in Wiradjuri Country at Orange, but is studying at the University of NSW in Sydney, under the supervision of cultural astronomer Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash University) and ethnographer Professor Stephen Muecke (UNSW).

Trevor is especially interested in the seasonal, calendrical, meteorological, navigational and spiritual significance of the night sky for Wiradjuri people. His documentary research includes an analysis of the historic record for information about Wiradjuri astronomy and the ways people have traditionally incorporated this knowledge  into seasonal hunting and food gathering practices, and their ceremonies and rituals. He has found, for example, that Wiradjuri people and their neighbours used astronomy to time important gatherings, some of which were only held every twenty years or so and were most likely timed to coincide with the conjunction of three planets. Traditional sky watchers would have needed a deep astronomical knowledge to predict such events in advance.

Wiradjuri descendant Russell Spencer conducts a traditional smoking ceremony to ritually cleanse cultural astronomers Trevor Leaman and Duane Hamacher and the rest of us near Seven Sisters Ridge, Yarrabandai, where our Big Skies Collaboration was launched. Winter Solstice, June 2015. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

Trevor is also doing his own astronomical observations to investigate the seasonal alignments of certain stars or constellations with particular landscape formations, including Seven Sisters Ridge near Yarrabandai, Bogolong Hill and the Weddin Mountains near Grenfell, Kengal near Wagga Wagga, and Merri Abba near Lake Cargelligo. See more on his recent work on our Facebook page.

Seven Sisters Ridge, for example, is associated with the ‘Seven Sisters’ of the Pleiades star cluster which features in songlines throughout Australia and around the world. This cluster’s heliacal rising in early June marks the beginning of our Southern winter, and coincides with the start of the dingo breeding season in the central desert, and the northerly migration of whales along the east coast, for example. (Read an ABC report on Trevor Leaman and Duane Hamacher’s work at Ooldea a here>>)

Trevor sees his participation in the Big Skies Collaboration as an opportunity to give back to the communities he is working with, and to share his research in new and interesting ways. He is collaborating with Wiradjuri artist Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney, for example, to develop images of Wiradjuri constellations which are now installed in Stellarium, a free program that people can download to their home computers or other devices. Scott’s images will be exhibited at Cementa 2017 and elsewhere, and may also be printed onto t-shirts and other Big Skies Collaboration merchandise for sale at Observatory visitors centres within the 700 Kilometre Array.

Adding a Wiradjuri Skylore Folder to your Stellarium experience
Trevor’s instructions

Please note:Trevor is still working on the Stellarium app. It might be best, therefore, to wait a while until it is more refined and easier to access before you try to install it. More soon.

Stellarium is a free open source digital planetarium program which displays the night sky for any location on Earth at any time of day, month and year (past, present & future). To access the Wiradjuri constellations you’ll first need to download the correct version of Stellarium (32 or 64 bit Windows, or Mac) from www.stellarium.org. Once the program is installed, follow the step-by-step instructions below (this is for a Windows PC).

1. Copy the Wiradjuri Skylore add-in folder from the source location (CD-ROM or USB stick).
2. Go into your ‘C” drive & open your “windows” folder.
3. In this folder find the “programs” folder and open it.
4. In “programs” open the “Stellarium” folder.
5. In “Stellarium” open the “skylore” folder.
6. Paste the copied Wiradjuri Skylore add-in folder into this folder and Exit.
7. Run Stellarium.
8. From the left menu tab (scroll mouse across to left border of screen and it should pop out) select “Location” and select your nearest city as your default location.
9. To see the Wiradjuri constellation art, go to “Sky & Viewing Options” in the left menu, select “Starlore” and choose “Aboriginal Wiradjuri”, then go to the lower menu and turn the artwork on by toggling the “Constellation Art” button (3rd from left, has a ‘man’ symbol).
10. The sky should now display the constellations of the Wiradjuri.
11. The program also has pre-installed constellation artwork and starlore from several other traditions, including Egyptian, Maori, Sami, Chinese, etc. as well as the “western” constellations (default) now in current use by astronomers.

More astronomy packages and artworks are being developed for other Aboriginal language groups by members of the Indigenous Astronomy Team. Stay Tuned!

If this doesn’t work, please let us know via the Contact button on the top menu.

Top photo credits
A stone arrangement near the village of Alectown believed to be a Wiradjuri astronomical site. CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory is also nearby. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 27 February 2016.

Page History
Page created 4 February, 2016. Last updated 25 January 2017 with the addition of Trevor’s Stellarium instructions.

Permalink: https://bigskiescollaboration.wordpress.com/wiradjuri-astronomy/