- Posted by Nelson Tumwesigye
- On September 9, 2014
- 0 Comments
Astronomy refers to the study of the heavenly bodies that include galaxies, the moon and the stars as well as other planets.
Wikipedia defines it as a natural science that studies celestial objects (such as stars, galaxies, planets, moons, and nebulae), the physics, chemistry, and evolution of such objects, and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth, including supernovae explosions, gamma ray bursts, and cosmic microwave background radiation.
It is one of the oldest sciences with pre-historic cultures leaving behind astronomical artifacts such as the Egyptian and Nubian monuments, and early civilizations such as the Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Iranians and Maya performed methodical observations of the night sky. Despite lack of the telescope used in modern astronomy, ancient astronomy led to the invention of calendars.
Uganda has been a key view point for some of the most interesting and rarest eclipses in the history of the world with the most recent incidence of Pakwach.
Last year in 2013, Owinyi primary school in Pakwach district in northern Uganda was marked the best viewing point for the Hybrid eclipse that is one of the rarest happenings in the history of eclipse. Over 30,000 foreign tourists including great astronomers, international diplomats and holiday makers thronged Owinyi primary school on the 3rd November 2013 to witness this hybrid eclipse which was the 7th of its kind since the creation of the universe according to the astronomers.
A hybrid eclipse is an eclipse that is right on the boundary between total and annular in a way that the eclipse starts as annular, changes to a total eclipse, then changes back to an annular eclipse again before the end. The path of totality will be very narrow in a hybrid eclipse. People in the path near the middle of the eclipse will see a total eclipse, but normally this will be a very short-lived eclipse; people near the ends of the path of totality will see an annular eclipse.
The most recent of such kind (hybrid eclipse) prior to 2013 November, is said to have happened in 1466 AD and the next after 2013 is expected to take place in 2114 June 3rd according to the Gregorian calendar. A monument in commemoration of this important event was set up at Owinyi primary school to act as a point of reference and an attraction to astronomers.
Another eclipse (Total solar eclipse) had happened earlier in 1520 AD with Biharwe hill as the best viewing spot. However, this eclipse went unnoticed by the international society since astronomy was still remote and not popular to detect such.
It is however unfortunate that the dates for this particular event are not certain as some sources say it was 17th October while others indicate 20th October. The variation on the dates could have been caused by the difference in calendars since the calendar used by then was the Julian calendar that used Universal time that largely depended on the movements of the earth where time may vary depending on tidal movements unlike the current calendar of Gregorian where time is based on atomic clocks that have fixed length of a second.
The eclipse became a yard stick in determining the dates of the major events in the interlacustrine kingdoms. A legend is told in the history of Nkore, when the 5th king of Bunyoro kingdom; had attacked Buganda and slain Kabaka Nakibinge in battle during his wars of expanding Bunyoro’s influence to the neighbors.
It is said however, that due to his intentions of raiding herds of cattle to his kingdom which Buganda did not have in plenty, the king decided to raid Nkore (Ankole) and take their cows.
By coincidence, the eclipse happened at a time when the king had succeeded in defeating Nkore and was in preparation of taking the cows when the place turned dark abruptly. This prompted the king of Bunyoro to think otherwise and interpreted the event as a sign of anger from the Nkore gods. At this the King advised his men to abandon the cows as they retreated to Bunyoro saying that the cows were from heaven (enduga Mwiguru).
The monument to commemorate this historical event was recently inaugurated at the Biharwe hill where President Museveni was the guest of honor.
With the two monumental evidences of astronomical events, Uganda has a better opportunity of diversifying her tourism products by marketing its astronomical sites. These sites are also rich in history and culture of its people which can be an added advantage in marketing them.
For example a visitor to Biharwe 1520 AD eclipse monument has a chance to visit the neighboring Igongo cultural center whose Erijukiro museum shelters cultural objects from Ankole and Kigezi sub regions with great historical art facts including the sculptures of the famous cow Mayenje G’Ishinjo and Buhweju’s feared warrior Muguta Ya Butaho. Many scintillating stories about the history of the area will be agreat spectacle to your visit. Visiting the Pakwach eclipse monument rewards one with an opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of the Luo.
You may not miss the story of Gipir and Labongo the ancestors of the Luo people, visit the very spot where it is said the Luo chief, Uvungu, struck the ground with an axe on the day his two sons, Gipir and Labongo, decided to go their separate ways after a disagreement.
The place is found near the former railway quarters where you will also find the revered medicine man called Omulegezi who will tell you the rich, yet sad story about this historical separation told across nations by Luo speakers.
If the ancestors approve of your visit, he could go the extra mile and perform rituals that he claims will lead to the miraculous appearance of the very axe used on that day, which will spring up from underneath the water and swing itself in all directions before being slowly swallowed back by the river.
“Please note that this particular miracle will only come to pass after you have parted with a fat bull, a sheep, goat and two hens, all of which will be offered as sacrifices to appease the Luo gods, which live in another world found underneath this river,” Omulegezi says. The Pakwach bridge area is also a good place for bird watching.
With these two eclipse monuments; Uganda will be next to none in terms of astronomical evidences hence a key destination for those interested in deep research about such happenings like the eclipse. With this as an additional product to the already existing products like wildlife that includes mountain gorillas and other species, as well as culture and geography, Uganda will be a perfect spot for holiday makers as well as researchers.