Mar 052015
 

Earth-Moon declinationsIn any given month, the rising moon swings between two extremes on the eastern horizon, similar to the oscillation of the rising sun during the year.  When the moon reaches its maximum northern or southern declination, it has a “standstill” similar to the sun at summer and winter solstices.  The standstills could be said to be the moon’s equivalence to the Solar Solstices.  [for details on lunar standstills, refer to Native American Skies: Lunar Standstills]

Mar 202014
 

Crestone EquinoxTwice a year, a day comes along where the length of daylight equals the length of darkness.  Today we call that day the “equinox”.  We recognize the vernal equinox as the first day of spring and the autumnal equinox as the first day of fall.  These two days have always been important indicators for man since even ancient times.

Sangre de Cristo Calendar

Before Europeans came to America, Native Americans did not have bankers, insurance agents, or real estate agents so where did they get their calendars?  How did they know when spring or fall arrived?  They had someone more important to them than our bankers or agents are to us, they had astronomers.

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.

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