AAS 195th Meeting, January 2000
Session 92. Missions: From Stonehenge to HST
Oral, Friday, January 14, 2000, 10:00-11:30am, Centennial IV

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[92.01] Stonehenge: A Simple and Accurate Predictor of Lunar Eclipses

S. Challener (Clarion Univ.)

Over the last century, much has been written about the astronomical significance of Stonehenge. The rage peaked in the mid to late 1960s when new computer technology enabled astronomers to make the first complete search for celestial alignments. Because there are hundreds of rocks or holes at Stonehenge and dozens of bright objects in the sky, the quest was fraught with obvious statistical problems. A storm of controversy followed and the subject nearly vanished from print. Only a handful of these alignments remain compelling.

Today, few astronomers and still fewer archaeologists would argue that Stonehenge served primarily as an observatory. Instead, Stonehenge probably served as a sacred meeting place, which was consecrated by certain celestial events. These would include the sunís risings and settings at the solstices and possibly some lunar risings as well.

I suggest that Stonehenge was also used to predict lunar eclipses. While Hawkins and Hoyle also suggested that Stonehenge was used in this way, their methods are complex and they make use of only early, minor, or outlying areas of Stonehenge. In contrast, I suggest a way that makes use of the imposing, central region of Stonehenge; the area built during the final phase of activity. To predict every lunar eclipse without predicting eclipses that do not occur, I use the less familiar lunar cycle of 47 lunar months. By moving markers about the Sarsen Circle, the Bluestone Circle, and the Bluestone Horseshoe, all umbral lunar eclipses can be predicted accurately.


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