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ASTR 101- Solar System Astronomy- Module 2: Discussion #2 - Ancient Astronomy

ASTR 101- Solar System Astronomy- Module 2: Discussion #2 - Ancient Astronomy

Share one example of ancient astronomy (NOT ancient aliens!)

For this activity, let's define "ancient" as before the year 1400 (roughly).

Examples could include buildings, monuments, timekeeping systems, or other discoveries about the sun, stars, moon, or earth. Provide details such as:

the name and geographic area of the ancient culture

estimated time period

how did they use this monument / discovery / etc?

Include a picture if possible

Provide the textbook page number, slide number, or a link to a website as your source.

The ancient astronomical example I have chosen is the monument Stonehenge. This was one of the most prominent ancient structures I always learned about growing up, even though older Neolithic monuments exist around the world that helped ancient humans understand the phenomena happening in the sky.

Stonehenge is located in England and what we see today was actually constructed over a thousand-year period undergoing several stages lasting from about 3000 B.C. – 2000 B.C. It is believed that several indigenous tribes helped to construct the monument over time each adding to it’s construction. It is widely accepted that the Celts populated the area and used the structure during the later phases of the monument’s creation.

The Stonehenge structure was not only used for ceremonial purposes but also as a way to track the change in seasons. What’s known as the Heel Stone aligns with the sunrise of the Summer Solstice and the sunset of the Winter Solstice in the opposite direction.

It's important to note that during the time of construction and use, the planet had a slightly more tilted axis at 24° instead of the 23.5° it is today. This means that the moment of sunrise as we see it today occurs to the left of where it would have when it was constructed. It now takes a few minutes after sunrise for the the sun to reach it's originally intended spot.

Stonehenge as it looks today: A reconstruction of how Stonehenge might have looked during it's use. The Summer Solstice sunrise aligning with the Heel Stone.

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