Cen-Lup-Cru-Panorama: Centaurus Carrying the Beast and Riding Along the Milky Way

Image title: Cen-Lup-Cru-Panorama: Centaurus Carrying the Beast and Riding Along the Milky Way
Author: Uwe Reichert
Country: Germany

This image was taken in February 2020 in the Coquimbo Region along the northern coast of Chile. It is one of the best places on Earth for astronomical observations, thanks to its clear skies, lack of light pollution and lack of precipitation, as it is close to the Atacama desert, one of the driest places on our planet. It is no coincidence that many of the most modern professional observatories are located here. The picture shows prominent patterns visible in the southern latitudes, containing rich cultural significance for various Indigenous groups of the southern world. In the bottom of the image towards the right, the Southern Cross is prominent. The orange star at the top of the Southern Cross is called Gacrux (gamma crux). The people in Chile celebrate the beginning of winter at the beginning of May when the constellation Crux is high up in the sky; for them it is a symbol of the start of the cold season. For the festival of the Cruz de Mayo (the Great Cross), they put candles next to crosses in their villages when the constellation Crux is high. As in Christianity, the four endpoints (stars) of the cross symbolise the cardinal virtues. For some indigenous Chileans, they represent the fundamental cultural principles: force, reciprocity, wisdom, and spirituality.

Unlike modern constellations that are arrangements of several stars, Indigenous peoples sometimes associate stories with individual stars. In the case of the Southern Cross for example, the Boorong, Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali peoples of Australia refer to the star Gacrux as Bunya (the ring-tailed possum). From the Southern Cross to the left of the image are two bright stars, these are called the pointer stars (as they point to the Southern Cross). The Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali people refer to the pointer stars as the Bram-bram-bult brothers, who hunted and killed the giant Emu Tchingal. Alpha Centauri, which is the brighter and whiter of the two pointer stars, is the closest star to the Sun that we can see with our eyes, located just over four light-years away. To the bottom left of the Southern Cross is a dark nebula, which the Indigenous Australians see as the head of the Emu Tchnigal (the Coalsack Nebula). The pointers are located on the neck of the Emu. The image also shows two other IAU constellations, Centaurus (The Centaur) and Lupus (The Wolf), and HII regions of the Eta Carina Nebula (seen in pink).

Also see image in Zenodo: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7425316


Uwe Reichert/IAU OAE

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15 December 2022, 12:00
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