Mask of the Black God
The Pleiades in Navajo Cosmology
Lansing Community College
One Navajo legend attributes the creation of the primary stars and constellations to "Black God." Today, a famous star cluster, the Pleiades, often appears on the traditional mask worn by chanters impersonating Black God during special ceremonies. In this case study, designed for an observational astronomy class or introductory astronomy class with a strong observational component, students learn about the Pleiades in Navajo cosmology while developing their observation and star map skills.
- Determine celestial coordinates (right ascension and declination) of a given celestial object.
- Locate the sun on the celestial sphere for any day of the year.
- Calculate the altitude of Polaris above the northern horizon and the altitude of the celestial equator above the southern horizon for any latitude in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Predict the approximate rise, transit, and set times for a given celestial object from a specific location on a specific date.
- Describe the location of the Pleiades relative to other prominent nearby constellations.
KeywordsPleiades; Navajo cosmology; Black God; celestial coordinates; constellation; star map; winter sky
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDiscussion
Subject HeadingsAstronomy |
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