Milky Way Arch over Amboseli National Park

Image title: Milky Way Arch over Amboseli National Park
Author: Amirreza Kamkar
Country: Germany

This image was taken in July 2016 from the Amboseli National Park in Kenya, located close to the equator.

In Egyptian mythology from northern Africa, the Milky Way was associated with a river sailed by gods and souls. The Zulu in South Africa interpret this pattern of dark and bright clouds of stars as an animal with black and white skin, whereas the South African Khoikhoi and San considered it “The Star’s Road”. In several South African cultures, the arch of the Milky Way is a pathway to the heavens formed by a mother goddess, according to a South African creation myth that was adopted in the 19th century from early ethnological research, but has vanished today.

In the middle-right of the image we find the bright red star Antares in the modern constellation of the Scorpion and at the upper-left edge is the white star Vega that is considered a Male Steenbok by the peoples around Cape Town.

Indigenous Australians have many names for the Milky Way. The Yolnu people of Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory refer to the Milky Way as Milnguya, the sky river. One of the prominent patterns in this image is associated with the contrast between the light and dark regions of the Milky Way.

These dark regions are cool dense clouds of interstellar dust and gas, which block the light from stars behind them. One of the prominent patterns is that of the Celestial Emu referred to as Tchingal by several Indigenous peoples of south Australia. The head and beak of the emu (the Coalsack Nebula) lie to the bottom-left of the Southern Cross (seen in the far bottom-right of the image), and the body and legs stretch leftward from it. Other indigenous groups associate the dark regions with caves or waterways. The orientation of the emu over the year provides important clues as to when it is time to pick emu eggs, and when the eggs are hatching. In some months, when these clouds of the Milky Way are close to the horizon, they are not considered as emu at all but as two creeping crocodiles.

The modern figure of the dark Pipe Nebula is clearly visible above the centre of the Galaxy; the smoke of this pipe reaches the colourful rho Ophiuchi region next to Antares in Scorpius, the orange-red star just above the Milky Way. Antares is referred to by the Boorong people as Djuit, the red-rumped parrot, while the Kokatha people of the Western Desert refer to Antares as Kogolongo, the red-tailed black cockatoo.

In addition, some notable constellations can be seen: Cygnus, Aquila, Lyra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Crux, and Centaurus. The pointer stars, Alpha and Beta Centauri, are occasionally interpreted as The Eyes of the Beast in some South African traditions.

Also see image in Zenodo:


Amirreza Kamkar/IAU OAE

About the Image

Release date:
15 December 2022, 12:00
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