April Skywatchers Guest Speaker and Meeting

The monthly meeting of Sydney City Skywatchers is held in the Discovery Room at Sydney Observatory on the first Monday of each month. Meetings include a special presentation from a guest speaker, information about upcoming events, member’s reports and astronomy news. Meetings commence at 6:30pm and non-members are welcome to attend for a donation of $5. Learn more about Skywatchers.

Next Meeting is Monday April 3, 2017


Talk Title: Did Aboriginal Australians record a simultaneous eclipse and aurora in their oral traditions?

The total solar eclipse of 1922
The total solar eclipse of 1922. Photograph taken with Lick Observatory 40 foot coronagraph by Dr. Adams, Wallal, Western Australia, 1922. MAAS collection, P3549-36.

Abstract: Bob Fuller is investigating an Australian Aboriginal cultural story that seems to describe an extraordinary series of astronomical events occurring at the same time. In consultation and in party with Aboriginal elders and traditional owners he is exploring the hypothesis that this was a witnessed natural event and is exploring natural phenomena that could account for the description. They select a thunderstorm, a total solar eclipse, and a strong Aurora Australis as the most likely candidates, then conclude a plausible date of 764 CE. With Aboriginal Peoples he is evaluating the different factors that would determine whether all these events could have been visible, including meteorological data, alternative total solar eclipse dates, solar activity cycles, aurorae appearances and sky brightness during total solar eclipses. They conduct this study as a test-case for rigorously and systematically examining descriptions of rare natural phenomena in oral traditions, highlighting the difficulties and challenges with interpreting this type of hypothesis.
Speaker bio:

Bob Fuller Robert S. Fuller (Bob) is a doctoral candidate in Aboriginal Astronomy with the University of New South Wales. He is a late returnee to academia after a 45‐year break for a career in first, the military,and then, industry. He was tertiary educated as an anthropologist/archaeologist, and much later, after retiring, did a research MPhil at Macquarie University, Sydney, on Indigenous astronomy, publishing on the cultural astronomy of the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi peoples of New South Wales. He is now at the School of Humanities and Languages, University of NSW, and is in the second year of a PhD researching the cultural astronomy of the saltwater Aboriginal peoples of the Australian East Coast. He has been active in outreach to the non‐Indigenous community through lectures and non‐academic articles, and was the instigator of the successful documentary on Euahlayi astronomy, “Star Stories of the Dreaming”. You can contact him at r.fuller@student.unsw.edu.au.


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