Feb 072013
 
My house sits on a round hill in the foothills of the Wet Mountains.   This hill is the last vestige of the Wet Mountains and looks out over the Wet Mountain valley.  Across the long, narrow valley, the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains rise up with many peaks topping 14,000 feet.  The Sangre de Cristo is the longest, continuous mountain range in the Rocky Mountains and stretches from the Arkansas River to the north down to Santa Fe, New Mexico in the south.
Summer Solstice
Equinox sets between 2nd and 3rd peak from left
Nov 292012
 
 

 

 
Pawnee Lodge
Nov 152012
 
First of all, what is archaeoastronomy?  It is the study of how the ancients studied or used astronomy.   The position of the stars in the night sky; the movement of the sun across the horizon throughout the year; the movement of the Moon across the horizon on its eighteen-nineteen year cycle; were all studied and recorded and used by the ancients as their celestial calendar.   Knowledge of these cycles helped the ancients to know when to plant their crops, or migrate, celebrate their religious holidays, and many other important events during the year.
In the heart of New Mexico there is an arid canyon called Chaco Canyon that was once the center of the Anasazi culture.  In this canyon stands an ominous butte called Fajada (fa-ha-da) Butte.  Atop this huge 450 ft-high formation are three large sandstone slabs that lean up against the southern wall.  On the wall behind these huge stones, the Anasazi astronomers chiseled two large spirals.   At noon every day the sun shines between the stones and casts shaft(s) of light across the spirals.  Popularly called “daggers of light”, the dagger materialize before noon in the upper left of the spiral and then spread across the spiral to project a “dagger” covering the spiral and then clears off the spiral top to bottom.   It is an amazing, almost magical occurrence.
Sep 062012
 

When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.
— David Hume

The Power of the Astronomer



Mayan Observatory

Today, astronomy is just one of the sciences and most people are, at best, fascinated by the night sky and the advancing sun and moon.  But throughout ancient times, the astronomer was critical to agricultural societies.  Someone had to watch the sunrises and sunsets, or the changing star patterns, or the moon cycles to determine the seasons for planting and harvesting.

Jun 292012
 

On July 4, 1054, in ancient China, a Chinese astronomer noticed an amazing thing!  A Star bright enough to be seen in broad daylight!  He recorded the event calling the mysterious star a “Guest Star”.  He noted that it was four times brighter than Venus.  After about 23 days, the star moved to the night sky and was noted by astronomers in Arabia, Japan, and even here in America.

The native American astronomer, an Anasazi living in Chaco Canyon, noted his discovery by painting the star and its position related to the crescent moon on the underside of a cliff shelf.  He even signed his drawing with his hand print.  The petroglyph can still be seen below West Mesa in Chaco Canyon, just outside the great house called Peñasco Blanco.

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