The Winter Solstice – Astronomy Now December Issue 2018

This month I have written a piece for the Astronomy Now magazine about some of the best places to go and see the winter solstice.  I included a range of ancient sites throughout the UK and Ireland, which could offer a different type of experience depending on what you were looking for; from the mass gatherings at Stonehenge to the more personal at Calliagh Berra’s House in Northern Island. I could have written about many more wonderful sites and choosing the six sites for the article was perhaps one of the hardest things I had to do. So its worth exploring what winter solstice connections there are in your area before getting ready to head out on the day 🙂

Tregeseal Winter Solstice 2017

From this stone circle, the winter solstice falls into the only visible location on the horizon where you can see the sea. Framed within the sea gap is the Isles of Scilly.

IMG_6807 (2)

Image by Carolyn Kennett 2017

Secrets of the Stones: the Science of Archaeoastronomy

I had a wonderful chat with Julie Vural, who posted this piece about archaeoastronomy and culture on her blog The Dazzling Universe. It covers alignments in Cornwall and further afield as well as connections through the sky through objects such as the wonderful Alaca Höyük dagger. Which is one of the few examples of worked iron objects from prehistory with a meteorite origin. Anyway its well worth a read – the link is above.

Picture

The Alaca Höyük dagger, on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara

Summer Walking Tours – some photos

Thank you to everyone for joining these, it was lovely to meet you all and I appreciated all your enthusiasm and interest.

Images from the walk on Thursday 16th August

Credit Brendan Byrne.

Image from the walk on Tuesday 14th August

 

Image credit John Riley and Carolyn Kennett

Link to a video taken by Gerry Gee of Carolyn speaking at Tregeseal – sorry for the sound – it was rather windy on the first walk.

Video of talk given at Tregeseal

Summer Solsitce

I was lucky enough to enjoy another clear summer solstice sunrise here in west Cornwall. This year I chose to go to Boskednan on the moors above Madron. This circle is a very special circle with a known setting alignment with Carn Galver at the lunar major standstill position. The summer solstice sun rises over the Zennor ridge, a location with a large number of barrows and a quoit. Here are some images from the morning.

Carrowkeel, Sligo, Ireland.

As we head up for the summer solstice, it is worth pointing out that one of the 15 Neolithic barrows at Carrowkeel, Sligo in Ireland has a lightbox which is aligned to illuminate the tomb at summer solstice sunset. This is found at barrow G, I have added some photos of the entrance to the tomb, (which is a tight fit), the blocking stone is covered in cup marks to the rear. A lightbox lets light into the chamber at certain times of the year. The most well-known example of this is found at Newgrange, Ireland, which illuminates a long corridor to the end chamber on the winter solstice sunrise. This lightbox would work in a similar way, it has also been suggested that the alignment could also work for the full moon nearest the mid-winter solstice.

There is so much to discover at Carrowkeel, it is well worth the climb to the top of the hill.  At tomb G at Carrowkeel, there is also a large basin stone to the right of the entrance which is covered in cup marks. It’s well worth the climb inside as there is a wonderful keystone in the roof, the interior shows what an amazing engineering job was made on building the tomb. A virtual tour of the tomb is available here and lets you look inside this tomb and at a number of other in the complex.

Virtual tour of Carrowkeel

A few pictures of the Carrowkeel tombs and the lightbox with cup marks.

Wolf Moon – Supermoon over Cornwall

 

IMG_6897
Men-an-Tol – Supermoon

 

Yesterday the evening had a break in the clouds from the run of stormy weather we have been having in West Cornwall. This gave me the opportunity to get out and try and image the supermoon over an ancient monument. The intention was to image the supermoon at a stone circle so the picture can be used for my forthcoming book on archaeoastronomy and the stone circles in West Cornwall. I knew that Boskednan would give a great horizon for the supermoon to rise above so that became my destination of choice. I knew the moor would be muddy, so I decided to park closer to Men-an-Tol rather than walk in from Ding Dong mine. Although this was a longer walk it would mean that I could also image Men-an-Tol if needed. Wow, I hadn’t expected the whole Moor to be a quagmire – it was virtually impassable in places and perhaps the wettest I had ever seen it.

 

IMG_6882b
Boskednan

 

The picture of Boskednan shows how wet the ground is. The Sun is setting in among the cloud – low in the Southwest. This is near to the position that the sun would set at the winter solstice, over the clearly placed Boswens Menhir.  At Boskednan it was obvious that the cloud to the east of the site was pretty thick but above this bank of cloud, there were clear skies forming. As Men-an-Tol is down the hill from Boskednan I decided that this lower altitude may give the sky clearance from the cloud bank. Setting off back down the hill my walking boots decided to give up with the sole coming away from the boot at the toe -(RIP boots you have served me well – travelling mile upon mile over this landscape!!). So, making a decidedly flapping noise in the wet I gingerly set about getting down the hill to Men-an-Tol. By the time I reached this lower circle the Sun had set and the Moon had begun to rise. The Moon closest to the winter solstice sunset rises and sets in its most northerly position it also rises to its highest altitude. As a supermoon (the Moon is at one of its closest position to Earth) it makes it one of the most impressive celestial sites you can see.  Unfortunately, the cloud didn’t play ball and I only managed to get glimpses of the Moon rising there is a second image below.

 

IMG_6926b
Men-an-Tol – Supermoon

 

Local Astronomy History Leaflets

Bright Stars Dark Skies - Leaflet
Self guided tours for John Couch Adams and The Hurlers in Cornwall

Newly released and in Cornwall you will find two self guided tours. The first looks at local astronomy hero John Couch Adams and takes you on a self guided trip around his home area based in Laneast and Launceston. There is lots of information about the man and his achievements and sites to be seen along the way.

The second leaflet is a tour of the Hurlers. Once again self guided, it takes you around the immediate sites. It looks at the recent archaeoastronomy developments for the sites.

These leaflets have been produced as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project by Bright Stars Dark Skies. Grab one while they last!!

Singing the Stones at The Hurlers

IMG_6508

Equinox brought experiments, fun and antics. Sunday was spent at The Hurlers on Bodmin Moor. We were there to celebrate the equinox weekend and the project Dark Skies Bright Stars – organised by Mayes creative. On arrival the site was shrouded with mist which added to the whole atmospherics of the event. At 2pm the event started with dancing and singing in the stones, it was wonderful to see the site used in such a creative way. The dancers were very expressive using the whole of the central circle. A choir accompanied the moves with melody, lyrics and tuneful notes. Once the mood had been set the crowd were invited to participate in an experiment. This experiment was to test the resonance of the stones. The stones themselves have flat sides and could have been used to reflect sound back to groups of people singing or making noise within them. Sound testing equipment was set up and a number of tests were undertaken. First of all the crowd was asked to line up with the stones and the sound test equipment was placed in the center of the circle. A number of notes were sung straight and in  staccato. Then the crowd were asked to clap together and then one at a time. Amazingly an echo could be heard with the claps and the sound testing equipment picked up a resonance. With this early success we repeated the experiment but this time had the crowd stood in the center of the circle and the test equipment on the edge. This did not give us the same results, it in fact increased the resonance.

Bring on the drums!!

A number of drummers had been invited along to attend. It was time to check the resonance with a larger sound. The drums first of all stood with the stones and it was amazing to hear the noise echo and reverberate around the circle. But when a snare drum was brought into the circle the effect was very noticeable. The resonance of the snare drum was particularly effected when the drummer reached the center of the circle. This experiment was a huge success and shows what can be achieved by just trying out ideas and having a go!

IMG_6521 (2)IMG_6504 (2)IMG_6530 (2)

Boskednan circle and Carn Galver

 

Boskednan circle is located on a ridge near New Mill north of Penzance. Here is an image looking towards Carn Galver a local easily recognisable outcrop. The summer solstice sunset imaged falls to the south of this outcrop onto an area known as watch croft. But what is interesting is that a Lunar Major Northern setting point would be directly on the Carn itself, as it measures 318 degrees. Could this have been built as a lunar observatory? rather than a solar one?IMG_5733

Other circles in the area have links to the lunar cycle, The Merry Maidens also has a local outcrop in the lunar major setting position and Boscawen-un has lunar links with its quartz stone and positioning of a menhir (standing stone) in the lunar northern rising position. All these discoveries and much more are being compiled and will be released in a book dedicated to wonderful circles found here in West Penwith, within the new year.  I will keep you all posted.

Summer Solstice approach at the Merry Maidens

As the summer solstice draws close. I thought it would be nice to image the position of the setting sun at the Merry Maidens stone circle in West Cornwall. Currently, the sun is setting to the north (right) of the locally important hill, Chapel Carn Brea. The sun will move only one solar width between now and the solstice (or about 0.5 a degree), as the daily displacement of the sun at this time is at its smallest.  If we to wind back time to the late Neolithic or early Bronze age the sunset would be another degree to the north or to the left in the images.  So the setting sun in the bronze age would be 3 solar widths to the north (right) in the images. So the solstice sun would be setting on the lower ridge between Chapel Carn Brea and the next hill in the photo which is called Bartinney.

Anyhow here are the images – enjoy.sundown Merry Maidens