Astronomer John Stocke To Explore Navajo Skies At Fiske Planetarium

Published: March 3, 1998

Navajo star and constellation myths, including the Navajo story of how the stars were created, will be the subject of the next live astronomy presentation or “star talk” at Fiske Planetarium on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“Navajo Skies” will be presented by CU astronomer John Stocke at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 6, and repeated at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 11.

The program is based on a research project Stocke conducted several years ago with two Navajo medicine men under the auspices of the Navajo Community College, located at Tsaile, Ariz., on the Navajo Reservation.

A professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences, Stocke brought the Navajo men to Gates Planetarium in Denver and tape recorded three days of conversation on Navajo traditions, the eight recognized constellations and the traditional story of how the stars came into being.

Stocke said star lore is a neglected area of study, crossing over between astronomy and anthropology. "There's not a tremendous significance placed on star lore, although for a culture it is a representation of some basic beliefs," he said.

A side interest for Stocke, whose research focuses on the observation of distant objects, the presentation on Navajo star lore offers the public an opportunity to better understand some native traditions of the West.

"There's a cultural richness that people are suprisingly unaware of along the Front Range," Stocke said.

Fiske Planetarium is located at Regent Drive and Kittredge Loop Drive on the CU-Boulder campus. Free visitor parking is available after 5 p.m. at the meters along Regent Drive, and in metered lots 306 and 330 off of Regent Drive.

Admission is $3.50 for adults and $2 for seniors and children. For more information about programs at Fiske Planetarium, call 492-5001 for a recorded announcement, or 492-5002 to speak to planetarium staff.