There’s an emu in the sky?
Australians have rich heritage of stories about the stars, the Sun and the Moon. Aboriginal Australians knew all the stars, had stories to link with their history and beliefs, recognised the phases of the Moon and identified new arrivals, such as comets, in the night sky.
Many people are familiar with Greek and Roman stories about the major constellations (groups of stars seemingly in the shape of a person, animal or object), but very few Australians know about one of the largest shapes in the sky, the Emu.
This dark shadow has been of great importance to Aboriginals for thousands of years. It influenced the stylised forms of the emu on rock art, the design of some ceremonial sites and its orientation at certain times of the year acted as an indicator to when these ceremonies should be held.
The male emu was of great significance to Aboriginal Elders. Just as the male emu plays a vital role in producing young emus by sitting on the eggs, the Elders play a major role in initiating boys into manhood.
This important object in the night sky is the blackness between stars and the bands of the Milky Way — it is a ‘shadow’ caused by the dust and gas clouds of space.
The faint enormous figure can be seen only in areas well removed from the polluting lights of our cities and large towns. The Emu’s head is the dark shadow called the Coal Sack that sits next to the Southern Cross Its neck passes through the Pointers, and its body lies across the constellation Scorpio. The Emu is most easily seen from May to September.