AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

Variable Stars and Cultural Astronomy (Abstract)

Volume 47 number 1 (2019)

Kristine Larsen
Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley Street, New Britain, CT 06050; larsen@ccsu.edu

Abstract

(Abstract only) Cultural astronomy encompasses the interdisciplinary, international, and multicultural fields of ethnoastronomy (the study of the astronomical knowledge and practices of current cultures) and archaeoastronomy (the study of the astronomical knowledge and practices of ancient cultures). Numerous universities across the United States (and beyond) have developed cultural astronomy courses in recent decades in recognition of the sophisticated astronomical knowledge developed across the globe without the use of modern technology (i.e. the telescope or imaging technology). Cultural astronomy provides a lens through which to study how individuals and cultures interacted with the heavens in personal and meaningful ways. While calendars, creation myths, celestially aligned structures, and navigation are usually the most common examples touted, what we now know to be variable stars have also played a role in the astronomical observations and mythology of numerous cultures. These include observations of supernovae, sunspots visible to the unaided eye, and possibly even Algol and other naked eye variables. Stellar variability has also been suggested as the reason why the Pleiades are widely known as a group of seven individuals (persons or animals) in mythologies from across the world despite the fact that only six are easily visible. This poster surveys these examples through a multicultural lens and suggests strategies for incorporating them in cultural astronomy courses and outreach programs.