Ethiopian Astronomical Society
LAST EVENING:Taken from a note book of a sidewalk astronomer
I consider last evening the most peaceful and productive evening of the
entire semester. It was a chilly evening. 15 students from my astronomy
class and myself headed to one of the largest optical telescopes in south
eastern united states located in Burlington North Carolina. We arrived
around 8:30 pm, and a little later we were joined by a group students
from Wake Forest and UNCG. Dr. S. Danford of UNCG called for silence and
started describing the objects we see that evening, in his schedule were
Mars, the moon, the Orion nebula, a binary star system in Orion, the
three hot new stars at the hear of Orion, the blue-ish sirus, and later
he said it may not be possible to see M51, there was a lot of no, no and
sneezes and coughs from the students. The most common student protest. It
would have been the treat of the night, travelling 40 Million years.
Steve continued his introduction of the evening and promised to take us
outside and show us the various constellations, those racing towards the
horizon not to be seen for the next few months, those which are rising
gloriously to dominate the spring and summer skies. My favorite Cassiopeia and her
are starting their beauty sleep early.
Her glorious husband is long gone to tax his subjects beyond the sea.
over my house for a few months and she kept me
company when I was coming late from work. ORION, the most dominant winter
constellation, he is tired now. He must migrate westward to hibernate for
a few months before it migrates back in the winter. The BIG DIPPER is
racing for dominance, spring and summer are his. Sirius, the bright eye of
CANIS MAJOR, the big dog and PROCYON, the bright eye of CANIS MINOR, the
Small dog, are wide open, they seem to be angry at the aggression of the
BIG DIPPER. BETELGEUSE from Orion and the two eyes of the dogs form a
triangular fence, possibly to defend their territory from occupation by
the bear. While the night dominates the city lights, Steve and his student
started to stir the telescope to travel to the moon, we traveled about
400,000 miles and saw the craters of the moon and it was fantastic. The
poor moon was bombarded several times by an army of terrorist meteorites.
We saw the detailed image of the scars of our moon. Then we strolled on
the surface of a few thousand miles and arrived at the site of the lunar
lander where the flags of many nations are flowing by the magical winds of
the moon. I looked for our flag !. Now it is time to leave the moon and
travel to the brightest planet this spring, our good neighbor, Ato Mars.
Mars is about 180 million miles from the sun, and about 90 million miles
from earth at conjunction (nearest) and about 270 million miles at
opposition (furthest). Mars carried a mystery in its rotation about the
sun for a long time until the advent of Copernican heliocentric cosmology.
One would expect a forward progressing motion for all planets, but that is
not true. Mars's orbital motion is retrograde which means it moves
forward for some time and back ward for some other time. Please refer to
your astronomy book to understand retrograde motion.
The wonders of Mars is not its motion, Mars has "nech timtim" like a
priest. It has ice on its poles, exactly the same way as the earth has ice
polar caps. The view was fantastic. It looked yellow in most of its
surface and snow white in its southern pole. We could see most of the
southern hemisphere. Where do we go next ? We aimed the telescope to the
heart of Orion. The most interesting features: Orion Nebula, the four hot
stars (the trapezium cluster), and witnessing the birth of stars. We are
now several million light years from the solar system, we were never
tired, we are in a time capsule capturing events that happened several
millions years ago by looking at the flicker of light that was emitted
then. Of course we didn't expect to see mother nature laboring to give
birth to stars. The phenomena of star birth requires a different detection
system, the temperature of a proto-star is very low and the radiation
emitted from such objects in the infrared. The operation of infrared
telescope is different from optical telescope. We left the observatory
around 11:00 pm. As I was walking towards my apartment, I looked up to the
heavens and I asked, How did my ancestors look at the heavens ? are there
books, cave drawings and ancient relics of describing our knowledge of the
heavens. I flashed with smile. That flash was brighter than the stars I am
looking at, yes there are books and literary works about Ethiopian
Astronomer. Before I started sighting the books, I start singing
Abeba ayeh woi
Abeba ayeh woi
Tisha le Tisha
Libelagni neber Ya tikur wusha
Abeba Ye-bir mudaye
inchet sebre bet iskiser
inquan betina yelegim atir
edeje adralehu kokeb sikotir
kokeb kotire sigba bete
Well, this is girls' song, no problem, I am half a woman !! but the first
evidence of looking at the stars is right infront of you here. How about
Gereden alayeh woi
Gerede mariam sima
Ase bet gebachi awka
Ase bet Yalut lijoch
There we go!! another evidence of our connection to the heavens in these
famous children songs. My people say
"Mengiste semaiat sebat ber alew" Which means the heavens have seven
In my studies, I came to the conclusion that the seven doors to heaven
are the seven planets. There we go !
- Where are these seven doors ?
- what are they referring to ?
- Are they referring to Mistre Silassie ?
- Are there really seven doors to the heavens ?
- Could they be talking about the seven planets?
- Could the design of fidel be related to these seven doors ?
Don't you wish that you took your parents seriously when they told you
that the heavens have seven doors ?
Don't you wish you asked them why ?.
No, no, this is backward for you. You are too busy reading Mark Twain,
Das Kapital, Fredric Engles, or studying american revolution. For your
information we have a well organized and advanced literature which will
surprise every one , let's see
Plus all the books that our churches and mosques, and synagogue, and in
particular the living dictionary, our own people. I think the Ethiopian
astronomy literature must be revisited and studied
by our own children. The next generation must study the science of
Astronomy and rediscover Ethiopia. We have the culture and the knowledge
of Astronomy, we must redefine the constellations write the stories of
our own legends. How can that be done ?,
- The most ancient one is the Book of Henok
- Ye kam metasebia (Asres Yenewsew)
- Abushaker Yeken Mekuteria
- Tibe-Axum (Asres Yenew Sew)
- Awde negest
Abebe Kebede, THE SIDE WALK ASTRONOMER
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