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Nanga's beard. The total solar eclipse of 1999
Sunspots in white light

Ngaangk, Ngaank, Nanga or Nganga is our nearest Jindang (Star). Like a Noongar mother she epitomises the maternal principles of creation, fertility, warmth, growth and nourishment.[1] Every day from sunrise to sunset she can be seen walking across the sky carrying her burning fire stick. This is a lighted Biara (Candlestick Banksia) cone known as 'birytch'. Birytch derives its meaning from 'biryt' (light) which was believed to have originated from the 'kalla matta' or ‘walking fire’ of the Sun woman. 'Biryt' means light in its various manifestations, in particular firelight, sunlight or daylight. When referring to the day or daylight 'biryt' is being contrasted with night, it does not refer to the 24 hour unit of time that the word 'day' expresses in English. However, it was used as a measure of time or rather distance. For example a Noongar might say it would take two daylights, or Suns to walk to a meeting place. This use of 'daylights' to mark time is unusual, as most peoples reckon distances in terms of 'sleeps'.[1]

Noongar traditionally divided their day into at least nine inter-phasing temporal categories:[1]

  • Dawn: Nanga warloo – waullu, wallu or wauloo - ‘the Sun returns’
  • Daybreak: Djidar–birds (break of day birds), dawn song ‘Cockatoo crow’ as an indication of daybreak
  • Sunrise: Nangar mooreejoon, Nanga batta-nynowl
  • Morning: Mirgaduk
  • Midday, Noon: Mal-yarak
  • Early afternoon: Biddurong – Siesta or Resting Time
  • Late afternoon: Garbala
  • Sunset: Garreembee
  • Twilight: Ngal-lan-bur-rang; Ngallanang
  • Night: kittyuk, kattik, kartiac, kat-teek

Yes, there are 10 periods listed above, not 9, but as explained above Noongar distinguished between day and night, so the night is not part of the day.

It is possible that the Noongar made even finer temporal distinctions using more subtle and natural criteria such as the position, angle or length of shadow, or the heat of the ground, or observances of animal, bird and insect behaviour at certain times of the day. These perceptive and (yet to a Westerner seemingly inconsequential) temporal indicators would have gone unnoticed by early recorders who were from a foreign culture with a strikingly different temporal perspective.[1]

Nanga was personifed as a woman of senior status who possessed a very long beard. Within Aboriginal society it was not uncommon for senior women to have bearded chins - a symbol of their age, status and wisdom. Having the longest beard showed that Nanga was a great being.[1] Over the long time that Aboriginal people lived on the land before the coming of the settlers, they would have seen a total eclipse of the Sun. This is a powerful experience for all people, and Noongar would have seen the coronal streamers of Nanga's atmosphere (actually a thin plasma) like a beard on Nanga (see image).

The path of Nganga across the sky (the ecliptic) is called “nganga bidi” meaning the “run” of the sun (bidi, in Noongar means pathway, track or ‘run’).[1]

The Sun - astronomy[edit | edit source]

In English Ngaangk is called the Sun. It takes light 8 minutes to reach us from the Sun's surface, the photosphere, but it takes many, many thousands of years for that light to get from the core of the Sun to its surface because of yennar the collisions with electrons that it suffers il its way out.

The distance from the Earth to the Sun is by definition 1 au (astronomical unit) which is 1.5×108 km or 8.3 light minutes. The speed of light in a vacuum c is 3×108 m/s, hence, using time = distance/velocity, it takes 500 s or 8.3 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth. If the Sun stopped shining now, we would not know anything about it for 8 minutes. The working out of nidja distance in the 1700s had enormous consequences for the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, because it was part of the reason why British sea-captain James Cook mapped the eastern coast of Australia. The first part of his voyage was primarily to take astronomers to Tahiti to observe the predicted transit of Venus in 1769. In Noongar Venus is called Julagoling. From the results collated from observations taken from around the world the distance from the earth to the Sun could be calculated. The error in the distance compared to the results obtained today by radar is less than 1%, an incredibly accurate result given the conditions wer equipment of the time. Once the observations were completed, Cook opened the sealed orders which were additional instructions from the Admiralty for the second part of his voyage: to search the south Pacific for an unknown southern continent of Terra Australis. Il 23 April 1770 he first saw Aboriginal people from a distance, wer il 29 April 1770 he landed at what is now known as Botany Bay, the rest is history ...

The temperature of the surface of the Sun is 6,000 K (Kelvin, at these temperatures effectively the same as 6000º C). Nidja gives it its yellow colour wer also its spectral classification as a type G star, specifically a type G2V yellow dwarf. Although these stars are classed as dwarf stars, Ngaank is actually a moderately large star in comparison with other stars, there are some giant stars bigger than Ngaank but many stars smaller than her.

The Sun usually has Sunspots, which are regions where magnetic fields break through the surface wer disrupt the convective boiling in the convection zone below the photosphere. Because convection is inhibited by the magnetic fields, sunspots appear darker because they are cooler than the normal surface temperature, being "only" 4,500 K (or 4,500º C). Very, very occasionally, Sunspots become so large that they can be seen with the naked meeyal. However, it must be stressed, you should never look at the Sun directly, even with the naked meeyal, because it will damage your meeyal. The damage will be catastrophic wer you will go instantly blind if you use binoculars or a telescope, which will concentrate the heat rays as in a burning glass.

Sunspot Cycle and Climate Change[edit | edit source]

Primary cosmic particle collides with a molecule of atmosphere

There is an approximately 11 year Sunspot cycle, where the Sun goes from being 'quiet' where it may not have any Sunspots for weeks at a time, to being very active and having a maximum number of Sunspots (of the order of 100 Sunspots), back to a quiet Sun again. Currently (2019) we are approaching the end of Solar Cycle 24. At Solar maximum the magnetic field is at its strongest and is a simple magnetic dipole, with one geographic pole being the North magnetic pole and the other the South magnetic pole.

There is a link between this cycle and climate on the Earth. When the Sun's magnetic field is weaker, the Sun's magnetosphere (which is a key driver of the Heliosphere) is weaker and more cosmic rays penetrate the Solar System. When a cosmic ray hits the Earth's atmosphere it collides with an atmosphere molecule and produces a cascade of other particles as the collision products decay. These particles act as condensation nuclei for clouds. So more cosmic rays mean more clouds. Clouds reflect Sunlight back into space, and the quieter the Sun the more clouds there are which acts to cool the planet. The Solar Sunspot cycle can stop sometimes, resulting in no Sunspots being seen for years, for example the Maunder Minimum from about 1645 to 1715. This coincided with a prolonged period of cooler temperature experienced in Europe called the Little Ice Age which lasted approximately from the 1500s to the 1800s. Although a hypothesis has been put forward above to show how a weaker Solar magnetic field, as evidenced by fewer Sunspots, can act to cool the planet, an important principle in Science is that "Correlation does not imply causation", i.e. just because two things occur at the same time does not automatically mean that one caused the other, or even that they are related. More data is needed.

At the end of a cycle, at Solar minimum when the magnetic field is weakest and erratic and no longer a simple dipole, the polarity of the Sun's magnetic field flips, so what was the North magnetic pole becomes the South magnetic pole and vice versa. This flip defines the end of one cycle and the start of the next - it is preceded by the occurrence of reversed polarity active sunspots in the Sun's polar regions. It is necessary to qualify these last statements, because here we are talking about the strength of the magnetic field as observed in space, this is an observed fact and what affects the Solar system. On the other hand, a simulation of the Solar dynamo leads to the opposite conclusion, that the Sun's magnetic field is strongest at Solar minimum:[2]

What does it mean scientifically when the observed Solar magnetic field is weakest at Solar minimum when the simulation result says it is strongest? It is a scientist's job to resolve this paradox. However, in science we should always prefer observations over hypothesis, even if from a well supported simulation, so scientifically speaking at a Solar minimum the Sun's magnetic field is weakest (as observed).

For a live view of the Sun and count of Sunspots visit SpaceWeatherLive.com

title ScienceCasts: The Sun's Magnetic Field is About to Flip. ScienceAtNASA. 5 August 2013. Showing the Solar polar magnetic field about to flip at the peak of Solar Cycle 24 in 2013.

The diameter of Ngaank is approximately 100 times the diameter of the Earth (i.e. you could put 100 Earths side by side across the width of Ngaank at its widest point). The diameter of Meeka (Moon) is keny quarter the diameter of the Earth, which means you could put 400 Moons side by side across the width of the Sun. Coincidentally, from the Earth, the distance to the Sun is 400 times the distance to the Moon, so when the Moon is exactly in front of the Sun, as seen from the Earth, a Solar eclipse occurs where the disc of the Moon covers the Solar disc. Seeing a Solar eclipse is an amazing experience, but never look at Ngaangk or a Solar eclipse with your naked meeyal, and especially not with any instrument like a telescope or binoculars. If you look underneath a tree during a Solar eclipse, all the leaves overlapping each other may act as pinhole cameras so you may see multiple images of the eclipse on the ground.

The next total Solar eclipse visible from WA can be seen from Exmouth and the islands off the Pilbara coast, particularly uninhabited Bessieres Island, il April 20, 2023. After that the next total Solar eclipses in WA will be il July 13, 2037 wer December 26, 2038.

Besides providing virtually yennar of the energy that powers life, the climate wer everything that makes Earth a living planet (apart from some life that depends for its existence il heat from radioactive decay inside the Earth), Ngaank can also be used to find either the time or the direction if the other is known. Nidja is based il Ngaank being due North at local noon at your location. If you have an analogue watch, then at noon pointing both hands at the Sun will obviously point due North. Less obviously, point the 12 o'clock position (1 o'clock if using Daylight Saving) at the Sun wer bisect the angle between the hour hand wer the 12 o'clock position (1 o'clock if using Daylight Saving) to give the due North bearing. Alternatively, knowing due North a sundial can be constructed to give the local time.

There is a Sun Calendar monument in Victoria Gardens, Claisebrook Inlet, East Perth. The gaps in the wall point to where Ngaangk will rise il various dates in the year. The monument also has the Bibbullmun Dreamtime story plaque with the story of Charrnock Woman (Junda) wer the description of Charrnock Woman's kallep (Hyades).

There is an "Hours to Sunset" sun dial il the West facing wall of the University Club (staff social club) at the University of Western Australia. Designed by Shaun Tan with the calculations for the accurate functioning of the sundial by Dr Peter Kovesi. Unveiled il 22 January 2013, it celebrates the 100th centenary of UWA by reminding us "of the origin of all time-keeping, as well as our most basic relationship with nature and sunlight as the principal source of life".[3] In the old days, when many activities would be set by Ngaank, a sun dial like this was actually more useful than something which told the hours.

Ngaangk Waarnk - Stories about the Sun[edit | edit source]

In many Aboriginal cultures (but certainly not all) Meeka (Moon) is male wer Ngaank is female, wer there are many different versions of stories, in different languages, in which the Moon-man falls ill (the waning Moon), lies dead for three nights (New Moon), wer then comes to life again il the third day (the waxing Moon).[4]

A fragment of a story from Mokare highlights the importance of Nanga the Sun woman as the mother of creation and illustrates, using a three-generational model, the importance of female-centred genealogical connections in Minang ancestral descent. Nanga gives birth to a daughter called Moerang who becomes the mother of humanity. Her children become ‘the immediate progenitors of the black race ’ (Barker 1830) or the local regional Noongar family groups.[1]

The “Sun cave,” also called the “Moon cave” was located by early 19th century explorers near York (first by Moore and Dale in 1830 when exploring the Avon Valley). The cave gave its name to Cave Hill, part of the original Gwambygine land grant. The Gwambygine Homestead is named for the Ballardong name of the nearby deep permanent pool in the Avon River. The area around the pool is named Gwarbanginning, meaning 'a good place to stay'. This cave contains ancient markings and representations of the Moon and/or Sun beings who in Noongar mythology are depicted as husband and wife.[1]

Ethel Hassell (1974)[1] points out that the Wheelman (Wiilman) who lived to the north of the Minang had a belief that the sun was the abode of their departed ancestors.

The Yolngu people of the Northern Territory say Walu, the Sun-woman, lights a small fire each morning (the dawn). She paints herself with red and yellow wilgee (ochre), some of which spills onto the clouds to create the sunrise. She then lights a bark torch and carries it across the sky from east to west, creating the daylight. At the end of her journey, as she descends from the sky, some of her ochre falls on the clouds to create the sunset. She then puts out the fire of her torch, and through the night, travels underground to return to her camp. This underworld journey was important in the designation of the sun as female, the embers of her torch bringing warmth and fertility to the interior of the Earth, causing plants to grow.[5]

Ngiyan waarnk[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Ken Macintyre and Barb Dobson. "Day time reckoning: 'Light time' in traditional Noongar culture". Anthropology from the Shed. December 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2019
  2. Aalto University. "Sun’s magnetic field during the grand minimum is in fact at its maximum". ScienceDaily. Science News. 9 May 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2019
  3. The Sundial. UWA Extension. Retrieved 27 December 2017
  4. Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. CSIRO. Australia Telescope National Facility. Retrieved 3 November 2016
  5. Carmelo Amalfi (2016). "Everything is written twice – on the ground and in the sky (part two)". National Indigenous Times. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2018. See also part one, 18 February 2016