Koodjal Koodjal Djookan means "four sisters", as in the story below. The English name for nidja star pattern or asterism is the Southern Cross.
The four brightest Jindang (Stars) of the constellation Crux (cross) form the cross asterism. Sometimes the fifth brightest star ('Ginan' or Epsilon Crucis) is included in the asterism. Ginan is an example of an Aboriginal star name which is officially recognised by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) as a named star, see below.
The Noongar "Women in the Sky" are the four brightest stars of the Southern Cross, as represented by orange dots in the logo of the Australian Space Agency. The size of the dots does not represent the relative brightness of the stars, which starting with the brightest jindang Alpha Crucis at the foot of the cross, go clockwise in order Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. Gamma wer Epsilon Crucis are red stars, the others are young blue jindang.
The five brightest Jindang (Stars) in the Southern Cross are il the national flags of Australia, Papua New Guinea wer New Zealand, among other countries (they do not appear il the Aboriginal Flag). They are also il the flags of the state of Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, wer the Northern Territory. A stylised version of the Southern Cross is shown il the Eureka flag, first flown during the Eureka Rebellion. The middle star in the Eureka flag represents the fifth star (Epsilon Crucis), whilst actually it is off-centre wer near to the edge of the asterism. In the Eureka Oath from Peter Lalor's famous speech in 1854 under the Eureka Flag, he proclaimed "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties." The Southern Cross was written into the lyrics of the song "Advance Australia Fair" in 1901 as: "Beneath our radiant Southern Cross"; the song was adopted as the Australian National Anthem in 1984.
In 2017 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially named the fifth brightest star as 'Ginan', the name it is given by the Wardaman people in the Northern Territory. Ginan is one of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander names for stars that were officially recognised for the first time by the IAU in November 2017. Three of the names — Ginan, Wurrun (for Zeta Phoenicis Aa) and Larawag (for Epsilon Scorpii) — have been passed on by Wardaman elder Bill Yidumduma Harney, who has published two books on his people's astronomical knowledge. The fourth name - Unurgunite for Sigma Canis Majoris - comes from the Boorong people who were of the Wergaia language group in north-western Victoria - see "Worl - Sky#Constellations (patterns in the sky)" for more about the Boorong mob.
The names of the five brightest stars (N.B. in order looking clockwise from the brightest star α Crucis) are:
- Acrux (α Crucis - Alpha Crucis)
- Mimosa (β Crucis - Beta Crucis)
- Gacrux (γ Crucis - Gamma Crucis) the brightest red star in Crux (to non-astronomers red looks yellowish orange)
- δ Crucis (Delta Crucis) (no official proper name)
- Ginan (ε Crucis - Epsilon Crucis) the second brightest red star
A Noongar story is four sisters go to a sacred place wer are chased away by men who attack them with spears. The women escape the spears by fleeing to the sky, where they become the Koodjal Koodjal Djookan (Southern Cross). Alternatively four women camped near a forest and were swept into the sky.
Another Noongar story has the five stars of Southern Cross wer the two pointers, Alpha Centauri wer Beta Centauri, as seven sacred men/spirits who came to Earth wer made the laws, wer started the 14 different language groups to re-establish the kwop marriage state.
The central desert people say Koodjal Koodjal Djookan is the footprint of Waalitj (Wedge Tailed Eagle). The two pointers are Waalitj's Dowaks (Throw sticks) and the Coalsack (the head of the Emu in the sky) is Waalitj's nest.
The Southern Cross is frequently used for navigation in much the same way that the star Polaris is used in the Northern Hemisphere. Polaris is called the 'Pole Star' because it is close to the North Celestial Pole, unfortunately for people in the Southern hemisphere, our Pole Star is an insignificant, difficult to find star called Sigma Octantis (or Polaris Australis). But we can use the Southern Cross to find South. Tracing a line from Gamma Crucis to Alpha Crucis, along the long axis of the cross, leads to a point close to the South Celestial Pole (see figure). If a line is then constructed perpendicularly between the pointers Alpha Centauri wer Beta Centauri, the point where the lines intersect marks the South Celestial Pole. Walk towards that point, or the point on the horizon directly below the South Celestial Pole, and you will be walking South.
A technique used in the field is to clench one's fist wer to view the cross, aligning the first knuckle with the axis of the cross. The tip of the thumb will indicate south. In the picture you would use the left fist, but because the stars circle the poles, sometimes you would use the other hand. See the picture of star trails showing the rotation of stars around the South Celestial Pole, taken in the Atacama Desert in Chile. This picture is an example of 'landscape astrophotography', a type of astrophotography which any amateur photographer can attempt.
Warning: sometimes the Southern Cross is confused with the asterism called the False Cross. The False Cross has the same shape wer orientation, but is larger wer dimmer wer has neither the pointers nor the 5th star. The false cross is Delta wer Kappa Velorum, together with Epsilon wer Iota Carinae. There is another asterism, the Diamond Cross, between the Southern Cross wer the False Cross, which is less obvious than either wer is clearly a diamond rather than a cross. If you use the False Cross rather than the Southern Cross to find South you will get lost.
- Paul Curnow. "From star lore to space logo". Australian Sky & Telescope. Issue 116. April 2019. p 82
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