From the dawn of civilization, humans have been entranced, influenced and fascinated by the night sky. The sky served as a navigation tool, it had religious significance, and it was used as a source of instruction and warnings. Different cultures around the world each witnessed different phenomena over the centuries and this depended on where they lived. We want to investigate why different cultures, particularly the Inuit of the Northern Hemisphere and the Maori in the Southern Hemisphere, saw different phenomena in their night skies.
We decided on this topic because of the cultural significance the night sky had on these societies. The Inuit are a unique group in the northernmost regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The Maori inhabit a much different environment, mainly in New Zealand and are in the opposite hemisphere. We also wanted to explain to the general public why the night sky looks so different in different parts of the world.
To determine what you see in the night sky will depend on the celestial co-ordinates of the stars, and your geographical location. Celestial co-ordinates are merely the positions of the stars mapped out in the sky by astronomers. If Earth is a sphere, imagine the celestial sphere encompassing it. Celestial coordinates correspond to the Earth’s geographic coordinates.2Celestial coordinates are measured by two parameters – right ascension and declination. Right ascension is analogous to longitude (measured in hours, eastward along the celestial equator from the vernal equinox) and declination is analogous to latitude measured in degrees, north and south of the celestial equator. The celestial equator is analogous to the equator and divides the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The vernal equinox is the place where the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun in the sky) intersects the celestial equator.2 Equatorial coordinates (right ascension and declination) can be converted to altitude-azimuth coordinates if you know the observer’s latitude.2 These all determine the position of stars for astronomers.2 The stars have the same equatorial coordinates, regardless of the global position of the observer. Depending on the geographic location of the observer, determines which stars are seen and how often. Stars are considered circumpolar if, to the observer, they never set and are always seen in the sky, while others are seasonal, and come and go due to Earth’s revolution around the Sun.
Inuit Constellations and Significance
Maori and the Sky’s Significance
- Ask An Astronomer. http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/legal-information/120-observational-astronomy/stargazing/how-the-motion-of-the-earth-affects-our-view/732-do-we-see-the-same-stars-from-above-and-below-the-equator-beginner
- Dr. Daryl Janzen. Here and Now – Human Curiosity and the Night Sky. https://bblearn.usask.ca/webapps/blackboard/execute/displayLearningUnit?course_id=_135202_1&content_id=_2324976_1 (Accessed Oct. 9. 2018)
- Orientation of astronomical coordinates projected on the Celestial Sphere. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Orientation_of_astronomical_coordinates_projected_on_the_Celestial_Sphere.jpg (Accessed Nov. 7 2018)
- Latitude of Iqaluit. https://www.google.ca/search?q=latitude+of+iqaluit&oq=latitude+of+iq&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.4439j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 (Accessed Oct. 8. 2018)
- J. MacDonald, The Arctic Sky: Inuit Astronomy, star lore, and legend. (Nunavut Research Institute, Canada: Friesen Printers, 2000), p.78.
- Latitude of Carterton, NZ. https://www.google.ca/search?q=latitude+of+caterton%2C+nz&oq=latitude+of+&aqs=chrome.2.69i59j69i57j69i59j35i39j0l2.5175j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 (Accessed Oct. 8. 2018)
- Stellarium. cellphone app http://stellarium.org (Accessed Oct. 8. 2018)
- Revitalising Māori astronomy. https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/1274-revitalising maori-astronomy (Accessed Oct. 9.2018)
- John Field and Maggy Wassilieff. Night sky – Southern skies. http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/night-sky/page-1 (Accessed 6 November 2018)
10. John Field and Maggy Wassilieff. Night sky – The Pleiades. https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/7921/the-pleiades (Accessed Nov. 29 2018)
11. Inuvik Sunrise Festival. https://www.inuvik.ca/en/getting-active/Inuvik-Sunrise-Festival.asp