Stonehenge and Ancient Astronomy

4 06 2018

Stonehenge is one of the most impressive and best known prehistoric stone monuments in the world.

sun

Ever since antiquarians’ accounts began to bring the site to wider attention in the 17th century, there has been endless speculation about its likely purpose and meaning, and a recurring theme has been its possible connections with astronomy and the skies. was it a Neolithic calendar? A solar temple? A lunar observatory? A calculating device for predicting eclipses? Or perhaps a combination of more than one of these? In recent years Stonehenge has become the very icon of ancient astronomy, featuring in nearly every discussion on the subject. And yet there are those who persist in believing that it actually had little or no connection with astronomy at all. A more informed picture has been obtained in recent years by combining evidence from archaeology and astronomy within the new interdiscipline of archaeoastronomy – the study of beliefs and practices concerning the sky in the past and the uses to which people’s knowledge of the skies were put. This leaflet attempts to summarize the evidence that the Stonehenge monument was constructed by communities with a clear interest in the sky above them.

This leaflet is one of a series produced by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). An electronic version is available for download at http://www.ras.org.uk.
To find out about modern astronomy in Britain see http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk

Download the PDF here

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2018 Moon Phases for Stonehenge. #FullMoon #Calendar

14 01 2018

Ancient peoples had the benefit of dark skies and experienced the full spectacle of the starry heavens. The Moon gave light at night and would have been particularly useful in the two weeks centred on full Moon. The regular monthly cycle of lunar phases provided a convenient measure of time, upon which many ancient calendars were based.

Was it a Neolithic calendar? A solar temple? A lunar observatory? A calculating device for predicting eclipses? Or perhaps a combination of more than one of these? In recent years
Stonehenge has become the very icon of ancient astronomy, featuring in nearly every discussion on the subject.
A more informed picture has been obtained in recent years by combining evidence from archaeology and astronomy within the new interdiscipline of archaeoastronomy – the
study of beliefs and practices concerning the sky in the past and the uses to which people’s knowledge of the skies were put.

Lunation New Moon First Quarter Full Moon Third Quarter Duration
1175 2 Jan 02:24 8 Jan 22:25 29d 19h 47m
1176 17 Jan 02:17 24 Jan 22:20 31 Jan 13:26 7 Feb 15:53 29d 18h 48m
1177 15 Feb 21:05 23 Feb 08:09 2 Mar 00:51 9 Mar 11:19 29d 16h 06m
1178 17 Mar 13:11 24 Mar 15:35 31 Mar 13:36 8 Apr 08:17 29d 12h 46m
1179 16 Apr 02:57 22 Apr 22:45 30 Apr 01:58 8 May 03:08 29d 9h 51m
1180 15 May 12:47 22 May 04:49 29 May 15:19 6 Jun 19:31 29d 7h 55m
1181 13 Jun 20:43 20 Jun 11:50 28 Jun 05:53 6 Jul 08:50 29d 7h 05m
1182 13 Jul 03:47 19 Jul 20:52 27 Jul 21:20 4 Aug 19:17 29d 7h 10m
1183 11 Aug 10:57 18 Aug 08:48 26 Aug 12:56 3 Sep 03:37 29d 8h 04m
1184 9 Sep 19:01 17 Sep 00:14 25 Sep 03:52 2 Oct 10:45 29d 9h 45m
1185 9 Oct 04:46 16 Oct 19:01 24 Oct 17:45 31 Oct 16:40 29d 12h 15m
1186 7 Nov 16:01 15 Nov 14:54 23 Nov 05:39 30 Nov 00:18 29d 15h 18m
1187 7 Dec 07:20 15 Dec 11:49 22 Dec 17:48 29 Dec 09:34 29d 18h 08m
* All times are local time for Stonehenge. Dates are based on the Gregorian calendar.
Source: Time and Date

Stonehenge Links:

Astro Moon Calendar shows phases of the Moon each day, astronomical events and astrological forecast for the year.
Stonehenge and other stone monuments were probably used for special moonlit ceremonies.
Stonehenge and Ancient Astronomy. Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site
Stonehenge Full Moon Guided Walking Tours.  Explore the landscape with a local historian and astronomer.
All eyes on the sky! We’ll see a supermoon, blue Moon, and blood Moon all in one night!
How to see the super blue moon, a cosmic event you won’t want to miss

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Biggest full moon for 60 years! At Stonehenge and in the UK #Supermoon

14 11 2016

STARGAZERS at Stonehenge and around the world are looking forward to catching a glimpse of the biggest supermoon in nearly 70 years.

Tonight’s supermoon will be particularly large because it is the first time that the full img_4552moon has come this close to Earth since 1948.

Make sure you look up to the night’s sky this evening because there will not be another supermoon as big and bright as this one until 2034.

The best time to see Monday’s supermoon in the UK will be at around 4.45pm – but a sighting will depend on the weather.

But the moon will actually be at its closest – 356,509km away – at 11.21am this morning.

NASA said that the biggest and brightest moon for American stargazers will be on Monday morning just before dawn.

A Met Office spokesman said: “Monday evening and overnight Monday night is the best chance to spot it in Europe.”

Although the sky may be cloudy in Wiltshire, he said that there are likely to be cloud breaks.

What is a supermoon?

Ever looked up at the night sky to see a full moon so close you could almost touch it? Well done, you’ve spotted a supermoon.

The impressive sight happens when a full moon is closest to Earth. It orbits our planet in an oval shape so sometimes it comes closer to us than at other times. To us Earth-lings, the moon appears 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger.

By the way, supermoon is not an astrological term. It’s scientific name is perigee-syzygy, but supermoon is more catchy, and is used by the media to describe our celestial neighbour when it gets up close.

Astrologer Richard Nolle first came up with the term and he defined it as “… a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit”, according to earthsky.org.

How can I see it? 

The best time to view it in the UK will be when the sun is setting in the late afternoon. The closer to the horizon it is, the bigger it will appear.

Pick a place with the least light pollution. Paul Thomsett, chairman of the South East Kent Astronomical Society said: “As long as the skies are clear and you have a good view to the south you will have no trouble seeing our nearest celestial neighbour blazing in the night sky.”

The Stonehenge Guided Tour Company offer Stonehenge ‘Full Moon’ walking tours with a local astronomer and Stonehenge expert

Full Moon (SuperMoon) Links Links:
What is a supermoon, when can I see the largest moon in 69 years and will it be cloudy where I live? (Telegraph)
Watch the Moon rise at Stonehenge with local astronomer tour guide (The Stonehenge Guided Tour Company)
‘Supermoon’ viewers to get closest glimpse since 1948 (BBC)
Catch a glimpse of the biggest supermoon for 70 years in the UK TONIGHT (Express)Full Moon Rise at Stonehenge:  (Silent Earth Blog)

“Weather permitting it will be visible without the need for a telescope in Wilsthire.”

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Solar Astronomy at Stonehenge

4 11 2016

Most people are aware that Stonehenge is somehow aligned to the annual movements of the Sun.

Each year thousands of pilgrims, druids and party-goers gather in celebration, hoping to Stonehenge Avenue.jpgwitness the most famous of these – the Summer Solstice Sunrise on June 21st.

At this time of year, as seen from the centre of the monument, the Sun rises in the same direction as the centre-line of the Avenue – the ancient processional approach to Stonehenge – towards the northeast.

The Stonehenge Avenue alignment was first pointed out by William Stukeley in 1740.

Even though almost everyone believes the Heel Stone was put up by the builders to exactly mark the summer solstice sunrise position, this can’t be true because it stands off to the right hand side of the alignment.

Today the Sun seems to rise out of the top of the Heel Stone due to the modern trees that are on the horizon.

heel-stone-sunrise

Walking up the Avenue they would have seen the Sun setting exactly into the middle of the stones between the uprights of the tallest trilithon in the southwest. We can still experience this today, even though only one upright of that trilithon – Stone 56, the tallest stone on the site – remains in place.

There’s a secondary alignment too – from Winter Solstice Sunrise to Summer Solstice Sunset.

This was first described by Prof. Gordon Freeman in 1997 and it makes use of a “notch” in the edge of Stone 58 of the western trilithon to give a clear sightline across the stone circle.

Viewed through this notch, Winter Solstice Sunrise is seen over Coneybury Hill to the southeast…

winter-solstice-sunrise

If they weren’t there, sunrise would be almost a Sun’s width to the left – and 4,500 years ago the Sun would have risen a whole degree further over to the left.

Even though the Heel Stone wasn’t intended as the solstice sunrise marker, the sight is still magnificent – when the weather cooperates.

Along the same alignment, but exactly in the opposite direction, lies the Winter Solstice Sunset point.

… and Summer Solstice Sunset is seen over Fargo Wood to the northwest.

What’s remarkable about these alignments through the circle is that they intersect over the centre of the Altar Stone (shown as Stone 80 in the plan below). The Altar Stone is not perpendicular to the main alignment but is offset so that it lies exactly along the secondary one.

image description

The intersection angle of 80° between summer and winter solstice sunrises at this latitude is echoed in the large gold lozenge discovered in 1808 when the Bronze Age “shamanic” burial from Bush Barrow, just south of Stonehenge, was excavated.

The intersection angle of 80° between summer and winter solstice sunrises at this latitude is echoed in the large gold lozenge discovered in 1808 when the Bronze Age “shamanic” burial from Bush Barrow, just south of Stonehenge, was excavated.bush-barrow-lozenge
Some see this as coincidence. Others believe the lozenge shows that the knowledge of this important astronomical angle was passed down the generations for at least 600 years.

The lozenge and the other astonishing Bush Barrow finds are on display at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.

There are Stonehenge lunar alignments too, but that will be the subject of a different article.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Orionid meteor shower 2016 to light up Wiltshire skies this October

9 10 2016

The Orionid meteor shower will be at its peak — 20 showers per hour — in the morning of  21st October 2016.

Sky gazers in the United Kingdom can brace themselves for a visual feast, thanks to the meteor shower that will light up the sky this October.

meteor-shower

A general view of Stonehenge during the annual Perseid meteor shower in the night sky in Salisbury Plain, southern England August 13, 2013. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by comet Swift-Tuttle. Picture taken using a long exposure. [Representational image] Reuters

The meteor shower is called Orionid and originates from the remains of the Halley’s Comet. The shower is likely to take place from October 2 to November 7, a Science Alert report said.

The Earth passes through the Halley’s Comet trail twice annually. The last time the planet passed through the trail of Halley’s Comet was in May and Eta Aquarids meteor shower was observed.

The meteor shower will be at its peak — 20 showers per hour — in the morning of October 21 2016. However, scientists have said that the shower will be seen at pre-dawn from today up to October 15, as the moon is likely to hinder the visibility later on.

Various planets, stars and constellations can be observed this month along with the meteor shower. Uranus will be visible opposite the Sun in the east post sunset on October 15 and the full moon will aid the visibility.

Jupiter will be spotted along with its moon with naked eyes during dawn in the east on October 28. Saturn and Venus too will be seen too in the low south-west skies on October 30 and Venus will be more luminous than Saturn.

Aldebaran, the orange star which is known as the bull’s red eye of the constellation Taurus, might be seen in the dark skies on October 18. Also, radiant stars Alpha Leonis and Eta Leonis from constellation Leo can be seen before sunrise on October 25, National Geographic reported.

Article Source and more stories: International Business Times

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Moon Phases for Stonehenge, Wiltshire 2016

23 01 2016

moon-phase

Lunation New Moon First Quarter Full Moon Third Quarter Duration
1150 2 Jan 05:30 29d 15h 01m
1151 10 Jan 01:30 16 Jan 23:26 24 Jan 01:45 1 Feb 03:27 29d 13h 08m
1152 8 Feb 14:38 15 Feb 07:46 22 Feb 18:19 1 Mar 23:10 29d 11h 16m
1153 9 Mar 01:54 15 Mar 17:02 23 Mar 12:00 31 Mar 16:16 29d 9h 29m
1154 7 Apr 12:23 14 Apr 04:59 22 Apr 06:23 30 Apr 04:28 29d 8h 06m
1155 6 May 20:29 13 May 18:02 21 May 22:14 29 May 13:11 29d 7h 30m
1156 5 Jun 03:59 12 Jun 09:09 20 Jun 12:02 27 Jun 19:18 29d 8h 01m
1157 4 Jul 12:00 12 Jul 01:51 19 Jul 23:56 26 Jul 23:59 29d 9h 44m
1158 2 Aug 21:44 10 Aug 19:20 18 Aug 10:26 25 Aug 04:40 29d 12h 19m
1159 1 Sep 10:03 9 Sep 12:48 16 Sep 20:05 23 Sep 10:56 29d 15h 08m
1160 1 Oct 01:11 9 Oct 05:32 16 Oct 05:23 22 Oct 20:13 29d 17h 27m
1161 30 Oct 17:38 7 Nov 19:51 14 Nov 13:52 21 Nov 08:33 29d 18h 40m
1162 29 Nov 12:18 7 Dec 09:02 14 Dec 00:05 21 Dec 01:55 29d 18h 35m
1163 29 Dec 06:53 29d 17h 14m
* All times are local time Stonehenge. Time is adjusted for DST when applicable. Dates are based on the Gregorian calendar.

Links:
http://www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/uk/london
http://www.calendar-uk.co.uk/lunar-calendar/
http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/why-was-stonehenge-built

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Friday will see a rare cosmic coincidence. Was Stonehenge used to predict eclipses?

19 03 2015

As the eclipse plunges Wiltshire and other places into darkness this Friday (March 20th), two other rare if less spectacular celestial events will be taking place, too: the Spring equinox and a Supermoon. Friday will see three rare celestial events and this will be the first time in living memory that the Spring equinox, a solar eclipse, and a supermoon are all taking place on the same day in the UK.

One of the most intriguing mysteries in the world is the Stonehenge. Nobody knows who built the mysterious Stone Circle in Wiltshire, or what its purpose was exactly. There are many theories associated with Stonehenge and archaeologists have been debating for ages to determine why it was built. Most experts believe that Stonehenge is actually an ancient astronomical calculator.

Eclipses have long been feared as bad omens, but the equinox is celebrated as a time of renewal

Eclipses have long been feared as bad omens, but the equinox is celebrated as a time of renewal

Eclipse Cycles

Now, it’s widely accepted that Stonehenge was used to predict eclipses. The inner “horseshoe” of 19 stones at the very heart of Stonehenge actually acted as a long-term calculator that could predict lunar eclipses. By moving one of Stonehenge’s markers along the 30 markers of the outer circle, it’s discovered that the cycle of the moon can be predicted. Moving this marker one lunar month at a time – as opposed to one lunar day the others were moved – made it possible for them to mark when a lunar eclipse was going to occur in the typical 47-month lunar eclipse cycle. The marker would go around the circle 38 times and halfway through its next circle, on the 47th full moon, a lunar eclipse would occur.

Aubrey Holes
Stonehenge has a ring of 56 pits that are now known as Aubrey holes, after antiquarian John Aubrey. They date back to the late fourth and early fifth millennium. These holes were not really noticed until the 1920s. It’s believed that the only standing feature at Stonehenge at the time these holes were dug was the Heel Stone – the marker of the midsummer sunrise – but this is now proven false. Some experts believe they were meant to hold timbers or more stones, but the astronomical interpretations of these holes are very interesting. It’s also believed that the holes helped to predict astronomical events. Complicated math theories back this up to some degree, as some lunar eclipses can be predicted by using numbers associated with Stonehenge. It’s even believed that Stonehenge was used to keep track of lunar cycles by moving marker stones two holes per day, ending with 56 holes.

Hawkins
Meanwhile, Gerald Hawkins studied Stonehenge much later, in 1965, using computer programs. He found multiple solar and lunar alignments that correlated with the location

of Stonehenge. He set his data so that the positions of the stars and planets would match where they were in 1500 B.C., when he believed it was built, and found that 13 solar correlations and 11 lunar correlations matched up with the megalithic stages. In other words, he believed Stonehenge was used to predict astronomical events. He also believed that it was built to align with the position of the summer and winter solstices.

What is a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, hiding the sun from view and blocking out the sunlight that usually reaches us.

The eclipse, which will be partial, not total, will begin here at around 8.45am on Friday and peak at around 9.30am before ending at 10.30am. It will be the biggest eclipse since August 1999.

Spring equinox

The equinox will also happen on March 20th. While it won’t have any discernable, direct impact on how the solar eclipse looks, it will contribute to a rare collision of three unusual celestial events.

On March 20th, the Earth’s axis will be perpindecular to the sun’s rays — which only happens twice a year, at the two equinoxes. After that, it will start tipping over, making the days longer in the northern hemisphere.

As such, the equinox has long been celebrated as a time of beginning and renewal, by a number of historic cultures, and is linked to Easter and Passover.

The equinox will happen at the same time as a solar eclipse in 2053 and 2072, though it doesn’t always appear as close together as that.

English Heritage will welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate the Spring (Vernal) Equinox on Saturday 21st March. Expect a short period of access, from first light (approximately 05:45am) until 08:30am. Click here for more info

Supermoon

A very rare supermoon eclipse of the sun is happening this week that won’t take place again until 2034.  A supermoon is when a full, or new moon coincides with the night when the earth and moon’s orbits move them slightly closer together, making the moon look about 14% bigger, and 30% brighter than normal. This generally happens roughly once every 14 months, but can happen more often; in January 2014, there were actually two supermoons in a single month.

In the past, groups have argued that the supermoon could cause natural disasters, madness, or even throw the earth off its axis. Experts agree that the worst thing that might happen is the tide comes in another inch that night.  As well as a supermoon, there is also an event when a full moon is as far away from earth as possible; this is called a micromoon, for obvious reasons.

Some useful Links:

Solar eclipse, Supermoon, Spring equinox:

Solar Eclipse, Supermoon, Spring Equinox: 3 Rare Celestial Events Align March 20th

Solar Eclipse 2015: How to watch a solar eclipse safely

Stonehenge: An Astronomical Calculator

Astro-Archaeology at Stonehenge

Remember that no one should look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse without proper equipment, as it can damage the eyes.

Merlin at Stonehenge
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