My name is Nancy Alima Ali.
The “Astro” part of this blog’s title represents “Astronomy.” The “Alima” part comes from my middle name. Alima is an Arabic name that is derived from a verb meaning “to know.” In the feminine form, my name means “she who has deep knowledge.” So Astro Alima is my way of sharing my knowledge about astronomy and culture with others.
I’ve loved the sky my whole life. As a kid, my family had an atlas that had an illustration of the solar system in the back. I used to spend hours studying that picture, later gazing up at the night sky in amazement and wonder.
I did study astronomy in college but quickly became disillusioned with it because it seemed that astronomers reduced everything to an equation. I struggled to understand how numbers on a page explained the immense beauty of the cosmos.
Years later, while working at Bishop Museum in Hawaii, I had the opportunity to learn how Polynesian people used the stars to navigate over the ocean to Hawaii. I was struck by the realization that the Hawaiian culture has a deep knowledge of the stars, Sun and Moon which is integrated into everyday life in both practical and spiritual ways. Around that same time, I stumbled across E.C. Krupp’s book “Beyond the Blue Horizon”. This book gave me a glimpse into how other cultures have used (and continue to use) unaided eye sky observations. These experiences were the triggers for me to turn back to astronomy and rediscover my own connection to the sky.
Since then, I have earned my Master of Education degree at Lesley University with a specialization on integrating astronomy and culture, developed and taught an archaeoastronomy course at Windward Community College, and am currently working on a NASA-funded Maya astronomy project at the Center for Science Education at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory.
Over the years, I have had the great fortune of working with and learning from a variety of astronomers, indigenous community leaders, navigators, anthropologists, cultural knowledge-holders, astronomy educators and healers. I feel honored that these people have shared their knowledge with me and given their blessing for me to share some of this wisdom with others.
What I’ve learned is that we all share the same Universe. How we understand it varies with cultural beliefs and ways of knowing. I believe that this diversity of knowledge should be respected – from the divination practices of contemporary Maya day-keepers in Guatemala to astronomical alignments built into the Great Pyramid in Egypt, to the urban expression of the connection between sky and Earth in Chicago. I’ve even come to accept that those mathematical equations I used to hate in astronomy class are also expressions of the wonder of the Universe.
Throughout this journey, I’ve explored my own personal connection to the Universe. This blog, “Astro Alima” developed out of my desire to share my knowledge and perspective with others. It is my hope that this will inspire others to remember their own connection to the Universe and to be reminded that the sky is a common heritage that everyone in the world shares.
The contents of this blog are copyrighted through Creative Commons. This means that you are not allowed to make modifications to or use for commercial purposes any part of this work. If you would like permision to redistribute any content of this blog, please contact me.
Astro Alima by Nancy Alima Ali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Although I work for UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab, the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the Space Sciences Lab. Similarly, any errors in content are my own as well.