Tuesday 24 September 2019

Story telling - wise old bird style

The sun comes up every day and sets.
At night we see the moon - sometimes - and are aware that it moves from night to night.
We become aware of the stars around the moon.
And in March April we become aware of the Moon among the Pleiades. That was how I began my astronomy many decades ago and I suspect that humanity has behaved similarly over 100s of  millenia.

I grew into astronomy in North York in the 1950s. I have tried to date this - the partial solar eclipse on June 30th 1954 I remember - I tried to photograph it - $8 for a roll of Ektachrome 620(?) format. Took me months to save up for it and ditto to pay for the developing! Poor childhood, money did not grow on trees, had to collect a lot of pop bottles for 2 cents refund. Did help a friend, Richard, deliver newspapers. I recall see Uranus with my naked eye when there was a conjunction with Jupiter - I think May 1955 and that would have been a familiar part of the sky. That means to me that a) I had good eyes, and b) that North York was not heavily light polluted. I would have known the Pleiades and by the IGY in 1956-57 (18 months long year!) some of the meteor showers that were then known.

1972 - 1981
Fast forward to May 1972 when I arrived in Chile, the Atacama Desert, for the first of what would become over 400 days in the next 10 years (July 1981). After 1 month I encountered El Niño ,
 El Niño–Southern Oscillation
For the month of June there was 8/8 cloud cover just about every night. At sunset the horizon was approx 200km away, La Silla at 2200m elevation  - frustrating to see a green flash and yet not be able to observe.

It was while I was in Chile that I became aware of the following story:
Poor visibility of the Pleiades in June caused by an increase in subvisual high cirrus clouds is indicative of  an El Niño year,which is usually linked to reduced rainfall during the growing season several months later:
"Forecasting Andean rainfall and crop yield from the influence of El Niño on Pleiades visibility"
Benjamin S. Orlove*², John C. H. Chiang² & Mark A. Cane²
letters to Nature Vol 403 Jan 6m 2000 pp 68 - 71.
Sorry I do not have a link for you but if you write and enclose your email address I can send you the pdf.

I do not know the stories that would allow these observations to be passed along generation after generation. There are anthropological accounts of indigenous Aymaraand Quechua-speaking farmers of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes .The observations are made in mid June to forecast the weather during the growing season from Oct to May and to estimate the harvest between March and May in the following year.

In the 1990s, following the reunification of Germany it was possible to visit East Germany and in particular Thüringen and Saxony-Anhalt.  In 1999 the Nebra Sky Disc was discovered by treasure hunters.  In 2009 Vicki and I saw the disc personally, quite impressive. There is even less known about this tradition but surely we are looking at a crescent moon among the Pleiades - a Springtime observation - time to leave Winter quarters to find migrating wildlife, birds, animals
and fish.

This brings me to the present. One could have used the Moon among the Pleiades to remind the Anishnaaabe or Anishinaabe that the time to leave the  Algonquin Highlands was approaching, time to return to the Mnjikaning Fish Weirs  This is wonderful.

And now let Spider Woman lower humans to Earth from the Pleiades and hope that humans do not forget their origins.

Remembrance Day is every day; Thanksgiving is continuous -

Wise Old Bird

There was one other outside influence - a movie I have yet to see - that is similar to the idea of Spider Woman looking in, and that is "The Truman Show"
We are more similar than we are different. We are all immigrants if only history were better  taught.


“This sense of purpose, the sense of hope, this lifeline, that each person is connected. To the bigger whole, the universe, the stars. Those stars are more than just balls of gas. When we do indigenous science, those stars are our oldest relatives.”