Astronomers of the Future Club - July 2018 Meeting Report

by Duncan Lunan - 13:36 on 19 August 2018




Astronomers of the Future Club - July 2018 Meeting Report

by Duncan Lunan



                                                               Photo Credit:  Linda Lunan


At the Astronomers of the Future Club meeting in Troon on Thursday July 26th, Colin Baird and Club Treasurer Duncan Lunan gave a joint presentation on Newgrange, the greatest of the astronomically aligned megalithic tombs in Ireland.


The Neolithic culture began in northwest Africa around 4000 BC, spreading along the Mediterranean at least as far as Malta, and north around the coasts of Europe to Scandinavia. In Ireland c.3500 BC they built very large burial mounds with long passages leading to communal graves in the interiors. The largest of these, at Newgrange near the river Boyne, was surrounded by a stone circle, with many more nearby. For the next 2000 years the builders created stone rings and standing stones separately from their burial chambers, many of them with astronomical alignments, and just how far their astronomy progressed remains controversial.


Newgrange has a unique ‘light-box’ above the entrance, through which the rising Sun shines all the way to the rear wall of the passage for five days around the midwinter solstice. Claims that it’s a modern fake are disproved by the detailed accounts of the excavators and of the reconstruction, and claims that its alignment is coincidental can be dismissed now that excavations at the nearby mounds of Knowth, Dowth, Loughcrew and Tara have revealed passages similarly aligned to the solstices, equinoxes and other calendar dates, while one of the carved stones at Knowth bears a solar and lunar calendar which was still in use, or had been reinvented, by the Druids in Roman times.


The large stone at the entrance to the Newgrange passage is carved with five spirals which may represent the Sun on the five days when it shines into the interior. Three on the left spiral inward and two on the right spiral outward, and Colin Baird presented his interpretation of them as the paths of the Sun in the sky and below the horizon at that crucial time of year. As usual at AOTF meetings, a lively discussion followed.


The next meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club will be on Thursday August 30th, from 7.15 to 9 p.m. at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. The speaker will be Prof. Arjun Berera from Edinburgh, who will explain a paper which he published last year, updating the idea that life may be carried between worlds by meteorites, blasted off their surfaces by big impacts.


“Starfield, Science Fiction by Scottish Writers”, edited by Duncan Lunan, was reprinted in May and is available at (https://www.shorelineofinfinity.com/product/starfield/). “The Elements of Time”, “Children from the Sky”, “The Stones and the Stars” and “Incoming Asteroid!” are available on Amazon or through booksellers; more details are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.



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