An Aboriginal Australian record of the Great Eruption of Eta Carinae

Duane W. Hamacher, David J. Frew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present evidence that the Boorong Aboriginal people of northwestern Victoria observed the Great Eruption of Eta Carinae in the nineteenth century and incorporated this event into their oral traditions. We identify this star, as well as others not specifically identified by name, using descriptive material presented in the 1858 paper by William Edward Stanbridge in conjunction with early southern star catalogues. This identification of a transient astronomical event supports the assertion that Aboriginal oral traditions are dynamic and evolving, and not static. This is the only definitive indigenous record of Eta Carinae's outburst identified in the literature to date.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-234
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • historical astronomy
  • ethnoastronomy
  • Aboriginal Australians
  • stars
  • individual (η Carinae)


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