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Danakat - Seven Sisters star cluster
The star Merope[1] in Danakat

In the country, people with good eyesight can typically see with their naked eye that there are six Jindang - Stars in the cluster of stars called Yoggalurrung, Yogolarang, Danakat,[1][2] or Yokalar,[2] - seven sisters in a Whadjuk Noongar story (see below). In many cultures around the world nidja cluster of stars is either called "the seven sisters" or has a story about seven sisters. Many of these stories have a reason why keny sister is not as bright as the other six.

The English name for these stars are the Pleiades, a name which comes from the Ancient Greek myth of seven sisters who were the daughters of the titan Atlas wer the nymph Pleione - Pleiades means the daughters of Pleione. In some versions of the myth keny of the sisters - the keny called Merope - married the mortal Sisyphus and, becoming mortal, faded away - leaving just six of the sisters shining brightly in the night sky. It is now thought that the rising of the Pleiades in the East, just before dawn (in Spring in the Northern hemisphere), was the sign that the Ancient Greek sailing bonar had begun,[3][4] that the name Pleiades derives from the Greek "to sail" wer came first, wer that the myth came later to explain the name (although see the section #Danakat Waarnk - Stories about the Pleiades below, where the possibility that the myth is much older is explored).

The rising of the Pleiades before dawn (usually at the beginning of June) has long been regarded as the start of the new year in Māori culture, with the star cluster being known as "Matariki". The rising of Matariki is celebrated as a midwinter festival in New Zealand.[5]

In Japan, the star cluster is mentioned under the constellation name Mutsuraboshi ("six stars") in the 8th century. The constellation is now known in Japan as Subaru ("to unite"). It was chosen as the brand name of Subaru automobiles wer is depicted in the firm's six-star logo.[6]

The colour of the stars in nidja cluster is blue, because they are hot, young stars that have only recently (in astronomical terms) formed - within the last 100 million years. They are so young that they are still together in a cluster. Our Sun was in a cluster like nidja after it had just formed, 4.6 billion years ago, but its siblings have since drifted away from us. The Pleiades is an 'open cluster', i.e. a cluster of up to a few thousand stars that were formed from the same giant molecular cloud and have roughly the same age. Open clusters are different from globular clusters which contain considerably more stars and are much older than open clusters.

Danakat Waarnk - Stories about the Pleiades[edit]

A Noongar moral lesson that displays the connectedness between Noongar wer jerda, told by Noongar Whadjuk elders,[1] is the lesson of the seven sisters whose names were Kooba (Red Robin), Djidi Djidi (Willy Wagtail), Djilaboort (Mudlark), Kadjinak (Fantail), Djakal-Ngakal (Galah), Wetj (Emu) wer Waalitj (Wedge Tailed Eagle). In nidja lesson, the seven girls were sent out in search of their father, who had not returned from his walkabout for some time. Due to several factors such as summer’s drought wer venturing far beyond their region of knowledge, the seven sisters lay down to rest keny night never to wake again wer their kaanya (spirits) were said to drift into the Yirrayakarn (heavens). In the moonlight, the seven sisters' spirits can be seen in the night sky as Danakat, wer in the light of day, the daughters return to boodjar wer to their ngarngk in the form of beautiful jerda.[1] The Whadjuk moral is to always take care of boodjar wer its natural inhabitants as the kaanya of Noongar ancestors wer family are still amongst boodjar.

Among the Pitjantjatjara people, the rising of the Pleiades in the dawn sky signified that the breeding bonar of the Dwert (Dingo) had begun. According to the Pitjantjatjara dreamtime story, the ancestral women, the Kungkarungkara, kept a pack of dwert to protect them from a man named Njiru (the European constellation Orion). He succeeded in raping keny of the girls who died, but continued to pursue the others. The women assumed their totem form of birds wer flew into the sky, but Njiru still follows them.[7] nidja story has an element which is common across very many cultures around the world, namely that the stars are called the seven sisters but keny of them has died or is otherwise hidden so that only six are visible. The universality of the story would indicate that the story of the seven sisters goes back to the origins of human kind, wer possibly at that time there actually were seven stars visible - possibly the seventh star faded 4000 years ago.[4] The cluster is associated with a faint reflection nebula as seen in the photo at the head of nidja page. It was thought nidja nebula was the dust left over after star formation but it is now known to be a chance collision with an interstellar dust cloud, for details see the Wikipedia article Pleiades. Possibly the star Merope, the sister who in the Greek myth married a mortal wer faded, has been obscured by a denser part of nidja cloud, indeed, Merope is at the centre of the brightest part of nidja nebula (called the Merope Nebula). Alternatively, the astronomer Robert Burnham Jr. suggests the lost Pleiad may be the currently 7th brightest Pleiades star – Pleione – as it is a shell star that goes through numerous changes that may cause nidja star to vary in brightness.[8]

The myths of the Australian Aboriginal people are, as with myths from other cultures around the world, to do with moral lessons wer passing on practical knowledge, such as when to eat certain types of food, which is itself a cultural connection in the general form of the stories. Therefore, the study of the stars is probably the oldest knowledge il earth, such that it remains an intriguing possibility that aboriginal star knowledge does contain some fragments of a much older original culture. Aboriginal people came to Australia over 50,000 years ago, well before Greek culture formed 3-4,000 years ago, but both peoples originally came out of Africa according to the current prevalent scientififc theory. While there is no hard evidence of a cultural connection, the possibility should not be written off wer the door is open to research to construct models of older human cultures, through the tracing of these narratives wer other means such as linguistics.[9][10]

Ngiyan waarnk[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Theresa Walley, Cheryl Martin and Biara Martin (2013). "Mardang Waakarl-ak". Batchelor Press. ISBN-13 978-1-74131-278-2
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bernard Rooney (2011). "The Nyoongar Legacy". Batchelor Press. ISBN 978 174131 232 4
  3. "Pleiad, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2014. Web. 20 January 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 "The Pleiades in mythology". PleiadeAssociates. Retrieved 6 November 2017
  5. Meredith, P. "Matariki – Māori New Year". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 22 September 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2014
  6. "Fuji Heavy Industries Changes Name to Subaru". Automotive Fleet Magazine, published May 12 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2016
  7. Haynes, Roslynn. "Dreaming the Sky". Sky & Telescope, Vol 94, No 3, pp 72 - 75, September 1977
  8. Bruce McClure (2017). "Pleiades star cluster, aka Seven Sisters". EarthSky. Pub. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 25 December 2017
  9. David R. Griffiths. "Aboriginal Astronomy Mysteries". Retrieved 3 November 2016
  10. Ray and Cilla Norris (2009). "Emu Dreaming". Pub Emu Dreaming, Sydney. pp 17 - 18. ISBN 9780980657005