Milky Way over Avenue of Baobabs

Image title: Milky Way over Avenue of Baobabs
Author: Amirreza Kamkar
Country: Germany

This image, taken from the Avenue of Baobabs, Morondava, Madagascar, in July 2017, shows the majestic band of the Milky Way, our home galaxy, together with a rich collection of constellations and asterisms: Crux, Centaurus, Scorpius, Sagittarius and the Teapot asterism. Towards the bottom left of the image we can see the Southern Cross and the pointer stars Alpha (the brighter of the two) and Beta Centauri, which help to distinguish it from similar-looking configurations. Some cultures in Africa associate the Southern Cross with a giraffe, while others associate the constellations with a pride of lions or even with the Tree of Life.

Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, is the orange-red star straight up from the middle baobab tree.

To the Pokomo people from southwestern Kenya, Africa, the Milky Way is associated with the smoke emanating from a campfire lit by ancient people. The various people in South Africa, in contrast, have different star tales; the Khoikhoi from the region around Cape Town explained the colours of the red and white stars as red and white roots that were roasted on a fire and thrown towards the sky together with the ashes of the fire. The Xhosa from further east consider the Milky Way the raised bristle of a huge angry dog, while the Zulu from near Johannesburg interpret it as a stream of spears of their strongest warriors.

Polynesian people, who were adept seafarers and navigators, see the constellation Scorpius as a fish hook, and refer to it as the demigod Maui’s Fish Hook. For the Djab Wurrung and the Jardwadjali people, the Southern Cross is part of a Dreamtime Story involving Tchingal, the Bram-bram-bult brothers (the pointer stars), their mother Druk (Delta Crux), and Bunya, the hunter who gets changed into a possum (Gacrux, red star at the top of the Southern Cross).

In this image, the planets Saturn (the bright point above Antares) and Jupiter (the bright point at the bottom-right of the image close to the trunk of the baobab tree) are visible. Indigenous cultures have various stories associated with the planets, for example Kamilaroi and Wailan people associate Saturn with wunygal, a small bird. The Boorong people of Western Victoria associate Jupiter with Ginabongbearp, the chief of the old spirits (Nurrumbunguttias), who takes the totemic form of the sulphur-crested white cockatoo.

Also see image in Zenodo:


Amirreza Kamkar/IAU OAE

About the Image

Release date:
15 December 2022, 12:00
Related announcements:
ann23012, ann22042
1673 x 2200 px
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