The bright star Vega has a name that is well-known around the world, but whose meaning continues to be misunderstood. Typically presented as the "Diving Eagle", the original Arabic name for Vega — an-nasr al-wāqiʿ — is best interpreted as the "Alighting Vulture". Together with its partner, Altair—the Flying Vulture—these two stars were well-known to Arabian astronomy as the Two Vultures, a star name that was in use by the early 6th century CE.Drawing from 6th century CE pre-Islamic Arabic poetry and 9th and 10th century CE Arabic texts by Quṭrub (d. 821 CE), Ibn Qutayba (d. 889 CE), and aṣ-Ṣūfī (d. 986 CE), this talk traces the origins and significance of the Two Vultures in indigenous Arabian astronomy and reveals the time of night and season of the year during which they were intended to be observed. This original research demonstrates the benefit of fully understanding the cultural contexts out of which even the most prominent of our modern star names have come.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- January 2023