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!!

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Singing the Stones at The Hurlers

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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!

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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

Pairs of Menhirs

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting two pairs of Menhirs in two days

The first is located just outside Drift in West Cornwall and is a great example of two Bronze Age Menhirs. Also known as The Sisters one of them is supposed to look like a lady in a cloak. IMG_4060

There are a number of pairs of Menhirs in the Penwith region but my second pair was located on Bodmin Moor at the Hurlers. This pair is called “The Pipers” (not to be confused with The Pipers near the Merry Maiden Circle in Penwith). These are aligned East-West through the two stones were positioned to mark the equinox.

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Rare pair of Astronomy themed tokens

Tokens were issued in England from 1648. They were used to pay for goods and services – a replacement to coin. This was partly due to the country having no monarchy, Charles I having lost his head, leading to a republic headed up by Oliver Cromwell. How could England have coins when there was no monarchy to put on them? It was also due to the lack of coin available for people to use, leading them to make their own. The practice was outlawed in 1772.

A huge range of tokens were made but I know of only two with an astronomy link. One is in the British Museum  Issued in 1666 by Richard Berry it shows 3 men with astronomical instruments. Possibly depicting a pub called The Astronomers from the dockside in London.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1242148&partId=1&searchText=Astronomy&page=1

The other was issued in Maidstone Kent by Thomas Swinoke and is in the image below. It shows 3 men one with a globe and 2 with scientific instruments, possibly telescopes. It is possible that it depicts the pub the Worlds End.


More information can be found on 17th-century tokens here http://www.thecoppercorner.com/history/17thC_hist.html

Scottish Fireball – Meteor hunt.

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On the 29th Feb about 6.45pm a large fireball was spotted by a number of observers streaking across the sky in Scotland.  Along with the bright streak that lit up the sky there was also reports of a following sonic boom bang.  The event was captured on a number of dash cams as well as static cameras making it possible to try and narrow down where to look for any meteorite debris from this event.

The hunt is now on for any meteorites, with excitement building over who will discover any debris first.  Last night’s BBC TV magazine program called the oneshow even featured a Scottish meteorite hunter.  Whom had a interesting if a little unusual golf club technique of finding meteorites.

One meteor hunter online suggests that the meteor seems to have disintegrated during descent in a ESE to WNW track and a good place to look for meteorites is roughly in a line between Aberdeen-Aviemore-Fort Augustus…but it also could be further west than this, too.   The map above has also been produced with examples of where meteorites can be found from this event.  All of this is a little ambiguous at the moment.  So anyone who is going out there hoping to strike the cosmic jackpot – I say happy hunting to you.  As you really are looking for a needle in a haystack! 

A 6 tailed comet

On the 1st March 1744 comet C/1743 X1 reached perihelion.  Although only the 6th brightest recorded comet.  It will be remembered for its striking 6 tails which developed.  It reached a blazing apparent magnitude of -7 and was visible during daylight, after it passed by the sun a relatively close 0.2 AU.  It has been suggested that the multiple tails occurred due the at least 3 active nucleus, maybe as the comet tore itself apart during perihelion.

It was spotted by a young Charles Messier on whom it had a great effect and lead him down the road of becoming an astronomer.

Comets as bright as these are rare events.  A similar but more recent example was comet Mcnaught or the great comet of 2007 as it became known.

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