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:
More Night walks:

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’

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

Bass-fueled Stonehenge replica at Burning Man Festival 2012

9 04 2012

Just read this in the Sandiego Reader – watch this video below. As part of their series of fundraisers to construct a bass-fueled Bass HengeStonehenge replica at Burning Man 2012, Basshenge is hosting an art auction at the 10th Avenue Theatre and Arts Centre, Downtown.

“2012 is a mystical time for the world, so we wanted to build one of the wonders of the world,” Cosmic Family promoter Christophe Lobe, a project manager behind the Basshenge sound camp, told The Reader in January.

As such, a group of volunteers from across the country is building a life-size (150 feet in diameter) Stonehenge replica for this year’s Burning Man art and music festival in Nevada.

The structure will be powered by 100,000 watts of sound, over 120 LEDs, pyrotechnics, interactive art, and circus performances on the 2000-person capacity dance floor.

“Somebody built a ‘henge in ‘04 and burnt it afterwards, but we’re going to take this on tour around the country,” says Loeb. “Our goal is to supply jobs and to be of service to local and cross continental promoters.”

To fund the project, which will be fabricated in Chula Vista, Lobe and project partner Per-sep-sion have run now-closed Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns in addition to a series of fundraiser parties.

The art auction on Tuesday, April 10, includes live painting, body/face painting, silent auctions, handmade crafts and clothing, fire dancers, music by Jungle Presents, a chillout rooftop lounge.


Sponsored by ‘the stonehenge Tour Company’

Merlin says “I have always wanted to add ‘The Burning Man’ to my list of Festivals – this could be the year to go”

Merlin @ Stonehenge

Leap Year Lark – Stonehenge Landscape Tour 29th February

29 02 2012

Make the most of your extra day with a lovely long walk in the outdoors!

Celebrate the leap year with a walk in the Neolithic and Bronze Age Stonehenge landscape. Your guide will take you on a circuit of around 5 miles over the downs, exploring some of the less visited monuments that together form the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for hares and winter birds too.
We’re meeting in the Stonehenge Car Park SP4 7DE (not NT), at the two ‘touching stones’ at the top of the slope that leads down towards the Stonehenge Cafe. Please dress for the weather and wear stout footwear. Wrap up warm – it gets chilly up on the downs! Access is by pedestrian and farm gates; the terrain is mostly grassland and trackways, uneven underfoot.
Accessible W.C. in car park. Accompanied children welcome, free. Dogs on leads welcome.
Booking Essential 0844 249 1895. A 5% booking fee applies. Phone lines are open Mon to Fri 9am-5.30pm, plus Sat and Sun 9am-4pm.
Stonehenge Landscape
Amesbury, Salisbury
SP4 7DETel: +44 (0) 844 249 1895

Day Opening Times
Wednesday 11:00 – 15:00


Merlin says “Get some fresh air and enjoy the Wilstshire Landscape – next one in 4 years”

Merlin @ Stonehenge

Was Stonehenege built for sound effects?

17 02 2012

The origins of Stonehenge have long baffled historians – was it intended as a monument for the dead, a celestial observatory, a place or healing?

The widely accepted theory is that the arrangement of pillars at Stonehenge is related to the positioning of the Sun at the equinoxes Photo: ALAMY

The widely accepted theory is that the arrangement of pillars at Stonehenge is related to the positioning of the Sun at the equinoxes Photo: ALAMY

But now a US researcher has come up with an intriguing new theory, claiming that the ancient stones were actually arranged to create a special sound effect.

Steven Waller said the ordering of stones at the rock monument in Wiltshire could be an attempt to recreate a sound illusion known as an “interference pattern” during prehistoric pipe-playing rituals.

The effect happens when two sounds clash, and results in some people hearing a louder noise and some a softer noise, depending on where they stand in relation to the source.

People taking part in a ritual dance around a pair of pipers would have heard the music unexpectedly grow quieter as they moved past certain spots due to this natural phenomenon, Mr Waller said.

This would have created the illusion that the sound was intermittently being muffled by invisible obstacles as the dancers circled the pipers, he said.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Vancouver on Thursday, Mr Waller, an independent California-based researcher, said it could be a desire to recreate this natural phenomenon that provided the “blueprint” for the stone circle.

Although it remains a puzzle why our ancestors built Stonehenge, the theory contradicts the most widely accepted assertion that the arrangement of the pillars is related to the positioning of the Sun at the equinoxes.

When sound waves clash they either reinforce each other, making the noise louder, or cancel each other out, depending on the exact point at which the waves meet.

If two sound sources are positioned near one another, they will sound noticeably louder from some angles but quieter from others.

Mr Waller said: “Ancient people had myths about echos being spirits in rock. If they heard interference patterns, that would have been a mysterious thing they would have been unable to explain.

“I think they were experiencing this illusion, thinking it was magic pillars, and then constructed the actual structure.”

Mr Waller tested his theory by blindfolding three school pupils and moving them in a circle around a pair of pipes each playing the same note.

When asked to draw the field they had been in, most students sketched a series of pillars which they imagined had been responsible for blocking the sound at certain points, and which resembled the layout of Stonehenge.

Three blindfolded University of California students who took part in a similar test also believed that obstacles had been responsible for blocking the sound.

Mr Waller said: “It is unlikely this relationship is merely coincidental, because a number of megaliths are named ‘Pipers Stones’.

“There is a legend that two magic pipers led maidens into a field and enticed them to dance to music in a circle. And the pipers all turned to stone.”

Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology and a leading expert on Stonehenge, said researchers had established that the stone circle was built over several centuries and “Wasn’t thought up overnight”.

He said: “There is no question it’s main axis is aligned along the mid-summer sunrise and mid-winter sunset and there is widespread agreement that it was used for cremation burials.

“However, I don’t think you’ll find many archaeologists who know about Stonehenge giving this particular acoustic theory a lot of time.”


Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company”
Merlin @ Stonehenge



Stonehenge 3D app launched for 2012

10 01 2012

Stonehenge Solstice? There’s an app for that – Stonehenge Experience lets you explore 3D site in peace

Pulling across screen lets you explore site in 3D
Can ‘walk through’ the fenced-off area around stones
Lets you ‘dig up’ relics such as the Amesbury Archer

On the Winter Solstice, the stones at Stonehenge align perfectly with the sun. ‘Pagan’ worshippers gathered this year – as they do every year – at Salisbury Plain to mark the occasion.

The application offers virtual 3D 'tours' of the site - but also lets you 'dig through' layers of artefacts such as the gold breastplate found at the site

The application offers virtual 3D 'tours' of the site - but also lets you 'dig through' layers of artefacts such as the gold breastplate found at the site

But those of us who missed it can explore Stonehenge in considerably more comfort – and detail – using a new iPhone and iPad app, the Stonehenge Experience.

The app not only lets users explore Stonehenge in 3D, but also lets you ‘rub’ the screen to reveal different layers of prehistoric artefacts from the site – and recreates the sounds of when Stonehenge was constructed.

The site uses 3D digital ‘models’ so users can do things that visitors simply can’t – such as excavating down through layers of the site to reveal artefacts such as a ‘flesh hook’ and a solid gold breast plate found at the site.

All the 3D views of the site can be controlled via pinching and zooming on screen to let you ‘walk’ through Stonehenge – without the fences that usually keep visitors far from the stones.

You can stand in the middle of the stones, and an ‘acoustic model’ also captures what it sounds like to stand there.

Rupter Till of Huddersfield University – who ‘modelled’ the sounds of the app, said,

‘Creating the sound of Stonehenge as it was when it was first built was a really interesting challenge. When put together with the Ribui app it makes for an absorbing immersive experience and allows people to see and hear Stonehenge as it was five thousand years ago.’

The app incorporates some of the latest archaeological findings, providing you with up to date explanations of the site’s purpose, based on  respected academic theory.

The Stonehenge Experience works on the iPhone 3GS and later and the iPad

The app incorporates some of the latest archaeological findings, providing you with up to date explanations of the site’s purpose, based on  respected academic theory.

The Stonehenge Experience works on the iPhone 3GS and later and the iPad

This year will see mpre than one Stonehenge app being launcehed – watch this space for details.


Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’

Merlin says: “Novel idea, however you cant beat physically walking the Stonehenge landscape at sunrise or sunset with an expert local guide”

Merlin @ Stonehenge Stone Circle

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