Perseid Meteor Shower over Stonehenge. Stargazing and storytelling tonight (April 20th 2013)

20 04 2013

Stargazing and storytelling, meteors and myths at Stonehenge Landscape

Discover the night sky through telescopes and exciting myths and legends. Join our friendly team of astronomers for an adventure exploring the night sky with telescopes, alongside legends told by our own starry storyteller, activities, and toasting marshmallows. As well as learning about the constellations, we hope the Perseid Meteor Shower will be putting on a show!

The Perseid meteor shower streaks past Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain. Photograph: Kieran Doherty / Reuters

The Perseid meteor shower streaks past Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain. Photograph: Kieran Doherty / Reuters

Saturday 20 April 8pm – 10pm. Saturday 10 August 8.30pm – 10.30pm.

Telescopes and expertise are provided by Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group, storytelling with Lizzie Bryant.Meeting on byway 12, close to the Stonehenge Car Park (which will be closed when the event starts) parking at own risk – OS grid reference SU 120 424, postcode SP4 7DE.Bring a torch. Wrap up warm – we recommend plenty of layers, gloves, scarf and a hat – and wear stout footwear. Bring your own seating and blankets.

You may like to bring a drink and a snack, too. Access is by pedestrian and farm gates; the terrain is grassland, and trackways that are uneven underfoot and sometimes potholed. Ideal for accompanied children, 8 years and up.

What is a meteor shower?

A meteor shower is a spike in the number of meteors or “shooting stars” that streak through the night sky.

Most meteor showers are spawned by comets. As a comet orbits the Sun it sheds an icy, dusty debris stream along its orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Although the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, if you trace their paths, the meteors in each shower appear to “rain” into the sky from the same region.

Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with this region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is in the constellation Leo. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.

Organised by The National Trusthttp://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stonehenge-landscape/

Merln @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle News Website





Stonehenge – New Evidence for its Solstitial Function and Approach

9 10 2012

Using the latest 3D laser scanning technology, an English Heritage analysis of Stonehenge has found new evidence of the importance of the two solstices to its creators, including that of the midwinter sunset.

Approach and View from North East Important
The laser scan has revealed significant differences in the way the stones were shaped and worked. These differences show that Stonehenge was not only aligned with the solstices, but that the view of the monument from the Avenue, its ancient processional way to the north east, was particularly important. To approach and view the stone circle from this direction means that the midwinter sunset had special meaning to prehistoric people, and that they made deliberate efforts to create a dramatic spectacle for those approaching the monument from the north east.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

Stones in the North East Segment Larger and More Uniform

A detailed analysis of the first comprehensive laser survey of Stonehenge reveals that those stones on the outer sarsen circle visible when approaching from the north east have been completely pick dressed – that is, the brown and grey crust on the surface has been removed exposing a fine, bright grey-white surface. By contrast, the outer faces of surviving uprights in the south-western segment of the circle were not pick dressed.

These stones facing north-east are also the largest and most uniform in shape, unlike the south-western segment of the monument where there are several smaller and more irregular stones. The lintels are also exceedingly well worked and finished, compared to those that survive elsewhere in the monument.

Stones on Solstitial Axis most Carefully Shaped and Dressed

The study also shows that the techniques and amounts of labour used vary from stone to stone. These variations provide almost definitive proof that it was the intent of Stonehenge’s builders to align the monument with the two solstices along a north-east/south-west axis.

The sides of the stones that flanked the solstice axis were found to have been most carefully worked to form very straight and narrow rectangular slots. These stones include two of the north-east facing sarsens in the outer circle, the Great Trilithon in the inner sarsen horseshoe, and a now isolated upright stone in the south-west segment of the outer circle.

Since all other stones have visibly more natural, less neat outlines, this strongly suggests that special effort was made to dress those that flank the NE/SW axis to allow a more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Solstitial Alignment Currently Severed by Road to be Restored

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, said: “The new presentation of Stonehenge will enable visitors to appreciate the importance of the solstitial alignment far better. It’s why we are closing the A344 – which severs the alignment – to enable the stone circle to be reunited with the Avenue.”

The new Stonehenge visitor centre at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles west and out of sight of Stonehenge, is scheduled to open in late 2013.

Findings Exceed Expectations

Analysis of the laser scan has also led to the discovery of many more prehistoric carvings, including 71 new Bronze Age axeheads, which bring the number of this type of carvings known at Stonehenge to 115.

Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, said: “We didn’t expect the results to be so revealing about the architecture of Stonehenge. It has given further scientific basis to the theory of the solstitial alignment and the importance of the approach to the monument from the Avenue in mid winter.

“Analysis of the different techniques used to dress the stones may even help to refine the chronology of the construction. Disappointing to some, the scan has also ruled out many poorly defined lines and hollows previously thought to be possible prehistoric carvings.”

English Heritage commissioned the first comprehensive laser survey on Stonehenge in 2011. Archaeological analysis was then carried out to examine the high-resolution data that was produced for all the stone surfaces.

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/stonehenge-solstitial-function/

Blog sponsored bt ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTour.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





The Harvest Moon is coming this weekend

27 09 2012

The Harvest Moon is coming this weekend!  The moon has been waxing larger each night, and full moon is the night of September 29th-30th, 2012. In traditional skylore, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Autumnal equinox came on September 22nd. That makes the September 29-30 full moon the Harvest Moon.

harvest-fullmoon-stonehengeSituated on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the prehistoric ceremonial landscape of Stonehenge occupies a large, sparsely populated area of ancient downland ideal for observing the Harvest Moon.

The Harvest Moon is coming! Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox. It’s the full moon of September 29th-30th .

 

So don’t just look for the Harvest Moon on the night of September 29 or 30. Look for the moon to be bright and full-looking for several nights at the end of September, 2012. If you live far enough north – for example, in the northern states, Canada or Alaska – the Harvest Moon will continue to shine from dusk until dawn into early October. This procession of moonlit nights is what characterizes the Harvest Moon.

Why is the Harvest Moon special?

Harvest Moon is just a name. It’s the name for the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll always see the Harvest Moon in either September or October. In the Southern Hemisphere, a moon with these same characteristics always comes in March or April.

But the Harvest Moon is more. Nature is particularly cooperative around the time of the autumn equinox to make the full moonrises unique around this time.

Here’s what happens. On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when a full moon happens close to the autumnal equinox, the moon (at mid-temperate latitudes) rises only about 30 minutes later daily for several days before and after the full Harvest moon. Why? The reason is that the ecliptic – or the moon’s orbital path – makes a narrow angle with the evening horizon around the time of the autumn equinox. The narrow angle of the ecliptic results in a shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moonrises around the full Harvest Moon.

These early evening moonrises are what make every Harvest Moon special. Every full moon rises around sunset. After the full Harvest Moon, you’ll see the moon ascending in the east relatively soon after sunset for several days in a row at northerly latitudes. The lag time between successive moonrises shrinks to a yearly minimum, as described in the paragraph above. Because of this, it seems as if there are several full moons – for several nights in a row – around the time of the Harvest Moon.

Is the Harvest Moon bigger, or brighter or more colorful?

Not necessarily, but the actual size of the Harvest Moon depends on the year. The Harvest Moon has the reputation of being especially big and bright and orange. But it isn’t really the Harvest Moon’s size or brightness that distinguishes it from other full moons. In fact, the 2012 Harvest Moon is a touch smaller than an average-sized full moon.

Still, you might think otherwise. That’s because the Harvest Moon has such a powerful mystique. Many people look for it shortly after sunset around the time of full moon. After sunset around any full moon, the moon will always be near the horizon. It’ll just have risen. It’s the location of the moon near the horizon that causes the Harvest Moon – or any full moon – to look big and orange in color.

The orange color of a moon near the horizon is a true physical effect. It stems from the fact that – when you look toward the horizon – you are looking through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere than when you gaze up and overhead. The atmosphere scatters blue light – that’s why the sky looks blue. The greater thickness of atmosphere in the direction of a horizon scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through to your eyes. So a moon near the horizon takes on a yellow or orange or reddish hue.

The bigger-than-usual size of a moon seen near the horizon is something else entirely. It’s a trick that your eyes are playing – an illusion – called the Moon Illusion. You can lengthy explanations of the Moon Illusion by googling those words yourself.

How the Harvest Moon got its name

So why is this moon – the moon closest to the autumnal equinox – called the Harvest Moon?

The shorter-than-usual time between moonrises around the full Harvest Moon means no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise for days in succession. In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours. As the sun’s light faded in the west, the moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night.

Who named the Harvest Moon? That name probably sprang to the lips of farmers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, on autumn evenings, as the Harvest Moon aided in bringing in the crops. The name was popularized in the early 20th century by the song below.

Shine On Harvest Moon
By Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth (1903)

Shine on, shine on harvest moon
Up in the sky,
I ain’t had no lovin’
Since January, February, June or July
Snow time ain’t no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon,
So shine on, shine on harvest moon,
For me and my gal.

Bottom line: The Harvest Moon will come in late September in 2012. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which in 2012 comes on September 22. So the full moon of September 29-30 is 2012′s Harvest Moon. October 1 will have a beautiful bright full-looking moon, too. The Harvest Moon is not really bigger, brighter or more pumpkin-colored than other full moons, but it’s special because, at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, the time between successive moonrises is shorter than usual. Enjoy………….

Link: http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/harvest-moon-2

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ – www.Stonehengetours.com

The Stonehenge News Blog

 





UN launches ‘Heritage of Astronomy’ portal. Includes Stonehenge Monument

25 08 2012

A picture shows the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, in central southern England, on July 12, 2012.

Stonehenge Heritage PortalA pharaonic temple in Egypt, a 3,000-year-old pillar in China and a 1920s tower in Berlin have been inscribed on a UN-backed heritage list for astronomy, unveiled on Friday which also includes Stonehenge. Observatories in Britain, France and the United States, a pharaonic temple in Egypt, a 3,000-year-old pillar in China and a 1920s tower in Berlin have been inscribed on a UN-backed heritage list for astronomy, unveiled on Friday.

The Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy (http://www2.astronomicalheritage.net/) aims to give astronomical sites the same place in public awareness as UNESCO’s World Heritage List does for places of historical importance. The website was launched on the sidelines of an International Astrononomical Union (IAU) meeting in Beijing on Friday, the IAU said in a press release. It is being backed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The portal has a preliminary listing of around three dozen sites, ranging from prehistoric caves to 20th-century observatories, but should expand swiftly in the coming months, the IAU said. Among the first entries are Stonehenge, which is aligned along the axis of the midwinter sunset and midsummer sunrise, and the Dengfeng Observatory in Henan, China, where Tang Dynasty astronomers used a pillar to measure the Sun’s shadow and thus calculate the length of the year. There are also the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the Meudon Observatory in France, the Mount Wilson Observatory in California and the 1920s “Einstein Tower” in Potsdam, all sites where important contributions were made in the era of modern science. Eventually, the portal will not only feature sites and monuments, but also other types of astronomical heritage such as portable instruments and intangible cultural practices, as well as “dark-sky” locations, meaning places where the night sky can be viewed without pollution from man-made light. “A lot of our most precious astronomical heritage—both ancient and modern—is under threat. If we don’t act to try to protect and preserve it, we run the risk of losing it,” said the IAU’s Clive Ruggles, a professor of archaeoastronomy at Britain’s University of Leicester.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-heritage-astronomy-portal.html#jCp

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle News Blog





Your guide to the August night sky, Stonehenge Landscape, Wiltshire

1 08 2012

Stonehenge Landscape, Wiltshire.  Big, open skies are a defining feature of the countryside and on a clear night you can see some 4,000 stars sparkling in our universe.

Situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the prehistoric ceremonial landscape of Stonehenge occupies a large, sparsely populated area of ancient downland ideal for star gazing. The monuments here are directly connected to the skies above, with stones aligned to moonrises and moonsets, in addition to the Midsummer and Midwinter solstices. Keep an ear out for the Stone Curlew’s haunting ‘coo-ree’ bird call, particularly in autumn.  Terrain and safety: The route to the star-gazing spot follows regular tracks through the fields. Grassy areas are fairly smooth; off the worn route grass can be tall and tussocky. Be aware that the Cursus Barrows field is grazed by cattle. Byway 12 has some large potholes, becoming deep puddles after rain.
 Location: 2 miles west of Amesbury, near the junction of the A303 and A344. Stonehenge car park closes in the evening, but it is possible to park nearby. Grid ref: SU120420

Your guide to the summer night sky, Stonehenge Landscape, Wiltshire
In prehistoric times the night sky would have looked very different. The stars were much clearer and stories about them were likely to have been included in a rich oral history, now lost. Today, light pollution makes it difficult to see all but the brightest stars (© Tony Evershed).  Enter a prehistoric ceremonial landscape: hundreds of monuments with physical and visual connections to each other, to the land and to the skies above. All this lies on the edge of Salisbury Plain, a large, sparsely populated area of downland good for star gazing.

The August skies are filled with all manner of interesting objects that can be viewed in dark sky conditions. Arrive before sunset to see the ancient earthworks at their best in slanting evening light. The banks of the 4,000-year-old Stonehenge Avenue can be seen leading north-east, away from the stone circle.
The Perseid meteor shower is set to peak around 12/13 August, but it’s well worth keeping an eye out for meteors any time from July 23 to August 22. The thin, crescent moon will be out of the way early, setting the stage for a potentially spectacular show.
For best viewing, pick a cloudless night and look to the northeast after midnight.
Overhead there is the summer triangle starting with Vega (a bright white star which is almost overhead, part of the constellation Lyra), Deneb to the left in Cygnus (the swan constellation) and Altair, south east in Sagitta/Aquila. These stars can be used as pointers to other stars. Go to Vega and look westward to find the bright reddish star Arcturus, part of Bootes the Kite. The pretty group of curved stars to the east of Arcturus is Corona Borealis, a cornet of stars. The Plough/Big Dipper is in the north west sky and becomes the tail and rear end of the Great Bear/ Ursa Major.
If the sky is dark and clear of any clouds you should be able to make out the Milky Way, a ribbon of millions of stars threading its way across the heavens. If you are using binoculars this really is a stunning sight.

Download the National Trust Stonehenge Guide (PDF) here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/servlet/file/store5/item479325/version1/w-walk-stonehenge_dark_skies2010.pdf
More Night walks: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/activities/walking/view-page/item479320/

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin says “Neolithic Britons might have held objects of the sky as gods, and predicting the will of the gods was something essential to their existence, thus mixing the concepts we distinguish from each other today – religion and astronomy.”

Merlin @ Stonehenge





‘Supermoon’ Alert: Biggest Full Moon of 2012 Occurs Today over Stonehenge

5 05 2012

Skywatchers take note: The biggest full moon of the year is due to arrive over Stonehenge tonight.

Situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the prehistoric ceremonial landscape of Stonehenge occupies a large, sparsely populated area of ancient downland ideal for star gazing and viewing the Supermoon.

Supermoon over Stonehenge

Supermoon over Stonehenge

The moon will officially become full Saturday (May 5th) at 11:35 p.m. EDT. And because this month’s full moon coincides with the moon’s perigee — its closest approach to Earth — it will also be the year’s biggest.

The moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, offering skywatchers a spectacular view of an extra-big, extra-bright moon, nicknamed a supermoon.

And not only does the moon’s perigee coincide with full moon this month, but this perigee will be the nearest to Earth of any this year, as the distance of the moon’s close approach varies by about 3 percent, according to meteorologist Joe Rao, SPACE.com’s skywatching columnist. This happens because the moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular.

This month’s full moon is due to be about 16 percent brighter than average. In contrast, later this year on Nov. 28, the full moon will coincide with apogee, the moon’s farthest approach, offering a particularly small and dim full moon.

Though the unusual appearance of this month’s full moon may be surprising to some, there’s no reason for alarm, scientists warn. The slight distance difference isn’t enough to cause any earthquakes or extreme tidal effects, experts say.

However, the normal tides around the world will be particularly high and low. At perigee, the moon will exert about 42 percent more tidal force than it will during its next apogee two weeks later, Rao said.

The last supermoon occurred in March 2011.

To view this weekend’s supermoon to best effect, look for it just after it rises or before it sets, when it is close to the horizon. There, you can catch a view of the moon behind buildings or trees, an effect which produces an optical illusion, making the moon seem even larger than it really is.

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ www.StonehengeTours.com 

 Merlin says “Lets hope the skies are clear – Howllllllllllllll……….”

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle News Blog





Mystery of Britain’s Largest Meteorite Solved. Found at Druids burial site near Stonehenge

10 02 2012

With a weight that rivals a baby elephant, a meteorite that fell from space some 30,000 years ago is likely Britain’s largest space rock. And after much sleuthing, researchers think they know where it came from and how it survived so long without weathering away.

Likely the largest meteorite found in Britain, this one spans about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) across and has been on Earth some 30,000 years.

Likely the largest meteorite found in Britain, this one spans about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) across and has been on Earth some 30,000 years.

The giant rock, spanning about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) across and weighing 205 pounds (93 kilograms), was likely discovered by an archaeologist about 200 years ago at a burial site created by the Druids (an ancient Celtic priesthood) near Stonehenge, according to said Colin Pillinger, a professor of planetary sciences at the Open University.

Pillinger curated the exhibition “Objects in Space,” which opens today (Feb. 9th) and is the first time the public will get a chance to see the meteorite. The exhibition will explore not only the mystery that surrounds the origins of the giant meteorite, but also the history and our fascination with space rocks.

As for how the meteorite survived its long stint on Earth, researchers point to the ice age.

“The only meteorites that we know about that have survived these long ages are the ones that were collected in Antarctica,” said Pillinger, adding that more recently, some ancient meteorites have been collected in the Sahara Desert. This rock came from neither the Sahara Desert nor Antarctica, but rather the Lake House in Wiltshire.

“Britain was under an ice age for 20,000 years,” Pillinger told LiveScience, explaining the climate would have protected the rock from weathering.

At some point, the Druids likely picked up the meteorite when scouting for rocks to build burial chambers. “They were keen on building burial sites for [the dead] in much the same way the Egyptians built the pyramids,” Pillinger said.

Then, years later, an archaeologist with ties to other, famous archaeologists, likely found the rock while excavating the Druids’ burial sites, he said. The archaeologist then brought the rock back to his house in Wiltshire, where its more recent residents took notice and alerted researchers.

“The men whose house this was found at spent a lot of time opening these burial sites 200 years ago for purposes of excavating them,” Pillinger said. “Our hypothesis is that the stone probably came out of one of those burial chambers.”

The meteorite is called a chondrite, a group that includes primitive meteorites that scientists think were remnants shed from the original building blocks of planets. Most meteorites found on Earth fit into this group.

The much smaller meteorite on display at the Royal Society's exhibit was excavated from a grain pit where ancient peoples of the Iron Age stored their crops.

The much smaller meteorite on display at the Royal Society's exhibit was excavated from a grain pit where ancient peoples of the Iron Age stored their crops.

Other objects on display include a much smaller meteorite, weighing about an ounce (32 grams), and excavated from a grain pit where ancient peoples of the Iron Age stored their crops. It was discovered in the 1970s at Danebury Hill Fort in Hampshire, though it wasn’t until the 1980s when scientists analyzed metal in the walnut-size object did they realize its extraterrestrial origin.

The exhibition will also include a Damien Hirst “spot painting,” which features the famous Beagle 2 spacecraft as its center spot. In addition, part of Newton’s apple tree will be on display.

The story of how researchers are uncovering the origins of these impressive specimens will astonish and delight visitors to this remarkable exhibition, which also contains letters and books charting the history of scientific interest in meteorites.  

The Royal Society’s London headquarters will house the exhibit through March 30.

Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescienceand on Facebook.
Sore: http://www.livescience.com

Sponsored by ‘The stonehege Tour Company’www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin says “Out of this world”

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website








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