An astronomer from Sydney took inspiration from an aboriginal story about a star crashing to earth with a noise like thunder, to discover an ancient meteorite crater in central Australia, taking the help of Google Earth, a finding that leads to the suggestion that the Aborigines may have been the world's first astronomers.
According to a report in The Age, the astronomer in question is Duane Hamacher, who found the bowl-shaped crater in Palm Valley, about 130 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs, by searching on Google Earth.
He was inspired to look there after learning of traditional stories told by the local Arrernte people about a star that had fallen into a waterhole called Puka in the valley.
Hamacher, a PhD candidate at Macquarie University, said that reality matching the Dreaming story could be a case of pure chance. '
"But if so, it's an incredible coincidence," he said.
He is part of a team led by CSIRO astronomer Ray Norris that is exploring the possibility that Aborigines were the world's first astronomers.
"Traditional Aboriginal wisdom about the heavens was impressive," Hamacher said.
"It is impossible to survive on a continent like this for 50,000 years and not have an intimate knowledge of the natural world around you, including the night sky," he said.
He searched historical records for Aboriginal stories with references to comets, meteors and cosmic impacts, and looked for matching astronomical events.
The Palm Valley crater was probably formed millions of years ago, so people could not have witnessed the impact.
"But perhaps the Arrernte knew rocks fell out of the sky and maybe they deduced that a large rock caused the big bowl-shaped crater," Hamacher said.