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Welcome to the NYSF community! You will join a Constellation Social group which will virtually huddle during the program.

The social groups are a place for you to talk about your experiences during the program, work together on challenges, and form your STEM family with like-minded enthusiasts.

Social groups are named after constellations; a mixture of both Greek/Roman designated constellations and those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lore.

Dive into the rich origin history of your constellation (and handy pronunciation guide)!

Some of these constellations may have many stories attributed to them. We are all life-long learners and listeners, so please share your story.

Every attempt has been made to ensure accurate pronunciation, but please let us know if we've butchered it. 

Apus - The Bird of Paradise (a-pus)
Apus is located in the southern hemisphere. It is a small constellation that represents the bird of paradise. The name of the constellation is derived from the Greek word apous, which means “footless.” (Birds of paradise were at one point in history believed to lack feet.) Apus was created by the Dutch astronomer and cartographer Petrus Plancius from the observations of Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick Houtman, and was first cataloged by Plancius in the late 16th century.

Aquila - The Eagle (a-kwuh-luh)
In Greek mythology, Aquila is identified as the eagle that carried Zeus’ thunderbolts and was once dispatched by the god to carry Ganymede, the young Trojan boy Zeus desired, to Olympus to be the cupbearer of the gods.

Baidam - The Shark (bye-dum) (Torres Strait)
In the astronomical traditions of Torres Strait Islanders, Baidam is a shark. The stars of Baidam were used for navigation and provided knowledge about the seasons and for gardening fruit and vegetables. These seven stars of Baidam are the seven bright stars of the "Big Dipper" (the brightest stars of the Western constellation Ursa Major). From the Torres Strait, these stars appear low on the horizon to the north.

Centaurus - The Centaur (sen-tor-us)
In Greek and Roman times, Centaurus was associated with a centaur, a mythical creature that was half-man, half-horse. However, it is not entirely clear which centaur the constellation represents - it could be Chiron, who mentored the Greek heroes Hercules, Peleus, Achilles, Theseus, and Perseus.

Crux - The Southern Cross (kruks)
The Crux (also referred to as “the Southern Cross”) is the smallest constellation in the sky but it has held an important place in the history of the southern hemisphere. The cross is formed by bright stars making it one of the most familiar sights to southern hemisphere observers. The constellation has been used as insignia on the flags and stamps of many southern hemisphere nations, including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and regions of Chile and Argentina.

The crux was visible to the Ancient Greeks, who regarded it as part of the constellation Centaurus. At the latitude of Athens in 1000 BC, Crux was clearly visible, though low in the sky. However, the precession of the equinoxes gradually lowered Crux below the European horizon, and they were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes. By 400 AD, most of the constellation never rose above the horizon for Athenians. The stars were ‘rediscovered’ by European navigators who explored the southern territories in the early 16th century during the Age of Discovery.

Dorado - The Dolphinfish (door-ado)
Dorado was one of the 12 constellations created by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius, who mostly named the newly created southern constellations after animals. Dorado contains most of the Large Magellanic Cloud, an irregular galaxy near the Milky Way. It is also home to the Tarantula Nebula, the most active star-forming region in the galactic neighbourhood. 

Ginan - Fifth Brightest Star in the Southern Cross (gee-nan) (Wardaman) 
Ginan is the fifth brightest star in the Southern Cross. It represents a red dilly-bag filled with special songs of knowledge. Ginan was found by Mulugurnden (the crayfish), who brought the red flying foxes from the underworld to the sky. The bats flew up the track of the Milky Way and traded the spiritual song to Guyaru, the Night Owl (the star Sirius). The bats fly through the constellation Scorpius on their way to the Southern Cross, trading songs as they go. The song informs the people about initiation, which is managed by the stars in Scorpius and related to Larawag (who ensures the appropriate personnel are present for the final stages of the ceremony).

Grus - The Crane (groos)
Grus was one of the 12 constellations created by Dutch explorers in the late 16th century. In the early 17th century, it briefly went by an alternative name, Phoenicopterus, which means “the flamingo” in Latin. The crane was a sacred bird to the god Hermes.

Gugurmin - The Emu in the Sky (gug-ur-min)
The Celestial Emu, Gugurmin, appears in the lore of many language groups throughout Australia. In the Eastern lands, including Wiradjuri, the orientation in the sky after sunset was used as a food resource calendar, to indicate the right time to collect Emu eggs.

Hydra - The Water Snake (hy-druh) 
Hydra, the water snake, is the largest constellation in the sky. It lies in the southern celestial hemisphere, stretching across 1303 square degrees of the southern sky.

Hydra is usually associated with the second of Heracles’ labours in Greek mythology. Hydra was a giant multi-headed creature fathered by the monster Typhon and Echidna, who was half-woman, half-serpent. Hydra had nine heads and one of them was immortal. The celestial Hydra is depicted with only one head, presumably the immortal one.

Heracles was tasked with defeating Hydra and first aimed flaming arrows into the Hydra’s lair and smoked it out. Then he fought with it, smashing the creature’s heads one by one with his club. Every time he smashed one, two new heads would grow in its place. Heracles was able to defeat the Hydra when his charioteer Iolaus helped him by burning the stumps of each head that Heracles struck off, and eventually, Heracles cut off the immortal head and buried it under a rock.

Kareg - Tagai’s First Mate (car-eg) | (Antares, Eastern Torres Strait)
Tagai was a great fisherman. One day he, his first mate Kareg and his crew of 12 were fishing from their outrigger canoe. They were unable to catch any fish, so Tagai left the canoe and went onto the nearby reef to look for fish.

As the day grew hotter and hotter, the waiting crew of Zugubals (beings who took on human form when they visited Earth) grew impatient and frustrated. Their thirst grew, but the only drinking water in the canoe belonged to Tagai. Their patience ran out and they drank Tagai’s water.

When Tagai returned, he was furious that the Zugubals had consumed all of his water for the voyage. In his rage, he killed all 12 of his crew. He returned them to the sky and placed them in two groups: six men in Usiam (the Pleiades star cluster) and the other six in Utimal (Orion). He told his crew to stay in the northern sky and to keep away from him.

Kareg, is the star Antares at the stern of the canoe. His appearance along with Tagai in the morning and evening throughout the year inform seasonal change, food economics, and social structure.

Larawag - The Signal Watcher (lar-a-wag) | (Epsilon Scorpii, Wardaman)
The stars of the Western constellation Scorpius feature prominently in Wardaman traditions, which inform the procedures of initiation ceremonies. Merrerrebena is the wife of the Sky Boss, Nardi. She mandates ceremonial Law, which is embodied in the red star Antares (Alpha Scorpii). Each star in the body of Scorpius represents a different person involved in the ceremony. Larawag is the signal watcher, noting when only legitimate participants are present and in view of the ceremony. He gives the ‘All Clear’ signal, allowing the secret part of the ceremony to continue.

Orion - The Hunter (oh-rye-un)
Orion is one of the brightest and best-known constellations in the night sky. It lies on the celestial equator.

In Greek mythology, the hunter Orion was the most handsome of men. He was the son of the sea god Poseidon and Euryale, the daughter of King Minos of Crete. In Homer’s Odyssey, Orion is described as exceptionally tall and armed with an unbreakable bronze club.

In one myth, Orion fell in love with the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, daughters of Atlas and Pleione. He started pursuing them and Zeus scooped them up and placed them in the sky. The Pleiades are represented by the famous star cluster of the same name, located in the constellation Taurus. Orion can still be seen chasing the sisters across the sky at night.

Pavo - The Peacock (pay-vo)
Pavo lies in the southern sky. Pavo means “the peacock” in Latin.

The constellation is believed to represent the Java green peacock that the Dutch navigators de Houtman and Keyser probably encountered on their journey to the East Indies. In Greek mythology, the peacock was Hera’s sacred bird. The goddess drove through the air in a chariot drawn by peacocks. 

Scorpius - The Scorpion (skor-pee-uss)
In Greek mythology, Scorpius was identified with the scorpion that stung Orion, the mythical hunter. The two constellations lie opposite each other in the sky, and Orion is said to be fleeing from the scorpion as it sets just as Scorpius rises.

In one version of the myth, Orion tried to ravish the goddess Artemis and she sent the scorpion to do away with him. In another version, it was the Earth that sent the scorpion after Orion had boasted that he could defeat any wild beast.

Tagai - Torres Strait Island Creation Figure (tug-eye)
Tagai was a great fisherman. One day he, his first mate Kareg and his crew of 12 were fishing from their outrigger canoe. They were unable to catch any fish, so Tagai left the canoe and went onto the nearby reef to look for fish.

As the day grew hotter and hotter, the waiting crew of Zugubals (beings who took on human form when they visited Earth) grew impatient and frustrated. Their thirst grew, but the only drinking water in the canoe belonged to Tagai. Their patience ran out and they drank Tagai’s water.

When Tagai returned, he was furious that the Zugubals had consumed all of his water for the voyage. In his rage, he killed all 12 of his crew. He returned them to the sky and placed them in two groups: six men in Usiam (the Pleiades star cluster) and the other six in Utimal (Orion). He told his crew to stay in the northern sky and to keep away from him.

Tagai can be seen in the southern skies, standing in a canoe in the Milky Way. His left hand is the Southern Cross holding a spear. His right hand is a group of stars in the constellation Corvus holding a fruit called Eugina. He is standing on his canoe, formed by the stars of Scorpius.

The Seven Sisters - Western Deserts Song Line (seh-vn si-stuhz) (Pleiades)
The Star Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters is one of the most widely distributed ancient stories. The Seven Sisters are located in the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus. The Yamaji people of the Murchison region in Western Australia know that when the constellation sits low on the horizon at sunset emu eggs are ready for harvesting. The brightness of the star indicates the rainfall outlook.

Tucana - The Toucan (too-kay-na)
Tucana lies in the southern hemisphere. It represents the toucan, a bird found in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

The constellation’s name is Latin for “the toucan,” a South American bird with a huge bill. The Dutch astronomer and cartographer Petrus Plancius first depicted the constellation on a celestial globe in 1598 and gave it the name Tucana.

Unurgunite - Boorong ancestral figure (un-ur-gun-ite) | (Sigma Canis Majoris, Boorong)
In Boorong astronomy, Unurgunite is an ancestral figure with two wives. The Moon is called Mityan, the quoll. Mityan fell in love with one of the wives of Unurgunite and tried to lure her away. Unurgunite discovered Mityan’s trickery and attacked him, leading to a great fight in which Mityan was defeated. The Moon has been wandering the heavens ever since, the scars of the battle still visible on his face. Unurgunite can be seen as the star Sigma Canis Majoris (the Great Dog), with the two brighter stars on either side representing his wives.

Ursa Major - The Big Bear (urr-sah may-jer)
Ursa Major lies in the northern sky. Its name means “the great bear,” or “the larger bear,” in Latin.

According to legend, Ursa Major was once the beautiful maiden Callisto, whom the god Zeus had an affair with. In order to protect her and their son, Arcas, from his jealous wife Hera, Zeus turned Callisto and Arcas into bears. He then picked up the bears by their short, stubby tails and threw them into the sky. While doing this the tails of the bears stretched out. Arcas can be seen in the night sky as the constellation of Ursa Minor.

Usiam (uhs-iam) | (Pleiades, Eastern Torres Strait)
Tagai was a great fisherman. One day he, his first mate Kareg and his crew of 12 were fishing from their outrigger canoe. They were unable to catch any fish, so Tagai left the canoe and went onto the nearby reef to look for fish.

As the day grew hotter and hotter, the waiting crew of Zugubals (beings who took on human form when they visited Earth) grew impatient and frustrated. Their thirst grew, but the only drinking water in the canoe belonged to Tagai. Their patience ran out and they drank Tagai’s water.

When Tagai returned, he was furious that the Zugubals had consumed all of his water for the voyage. In his rage, he killed all 12 of his crew. He returned them to the sky and placed them in two groups: six men in Usiam (the Pleiades star cluster) and the other six in Utimal (Orion). He told his crew to stay in the northern sky and to keep away from him.

Volans - The Flying Fish (vo-lans)
Volans constellation lies in the southern sky. It is one of the smallest constellations and represents a type of tropical fish that can jump out of the water and glide through the air on wings. In the sky, the flying fish is often depicted as being chased by the predatory fish represented by the Dorado constellation.

Wurren - The Little Fish (wuh-ruhn) | (Zeta Phoenicis, Wardaman)
In the Wardaman language, Wurren means “child”. It refers to the “Little Fish” - a child of Dungdung, the life-creating Frog Lady. Wurren gives water to Gawalyan, the echidna (the star Achernar), which they direct Earthly initiates to carry in small bowls. The water came from a great waterfall used to cool people during ceremony. Just as the water at the base of the waterfall keeps people cool and rises to the sky as mist, the water in the initiates’ bowls keeps them cool and symbolically transforms into clouds that bring the wet rains of the monsoon season. These ceremonies occur in late December when these stars are high in the evening sky, signaling the start of the monsoon.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Peter Swanton, astrophysicist and Tjabal Student Recruitment Officer at ANU for his consultation.

We would like to acknowledge all Indigenous Elders, both past and present, for their knowledge and wisdom through the ages, and for passing this knowledge on to future generations.