Astronomers of the Future Club - March 2019 Meeting Report by Duncan Lunan

by Duncan Lunan - 19:53 on 07 April 2019









Astronomers of the Future Club - March 2019 Meeting Report

by Duncan Lunan


Photo Credit: Linda Lunan



While keeping to the promise to make AOTF meetings understandable by all, the Club has also been able to attract guest speakers on cutting-edge subjects. The meeting on Thursday March 28th was in that category, as Dr. Martin Sweatman of Edinburgh University School of Engineering, described the work on ancient astronomy which made headlines in late 2018, now the subject of his book “Prehistory Decoded” (Matador, 2019, £20.99). Although press coverage concentrated on the possible astronomical significance of ancient European cave paintings, and that was covered in the talk, Dr. Sweatman spoke mostly about the extraordinary site of Göbekli Tepi, near the boundaries of Turkey and Syria.


Like the findings of recent years at the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney, Göbekli Tepi has completely changed prevailing views about the Neolithic culture which created it, and yet for some reason both were completely covered up and hidden some centuries after their creation. Göbekli Tepi is much the older of the two, with the most recent finds on the site dated to c.9600 BC, and those seemingly at the end of concealing it.


 Most of Göbekli Tepi has still to be excavated, and no habitation has yet been found on the site or nearby. Yet it consists of a large number of skilfully carved stone megaliths, surrounded by curved walls which are apparently of later date. Archaeologists believe that the figures of animals and stylized people are ritualistic or totemistic, but they can be interpreted as constellation figures, and Dr. Sweatman believes that they date from a crucial moment in human history.


About 12,500 years ago, the northern hemisphere of the Earth suffered a major climate downturn called ‘the Younger Dryas’ which reversed the ending of the Ice Age, for about 1300 years. The first human settlers of North America died out, along with many of the larger animals, and hitherto that’s been attributed to hunting. But there’s growing evidence that the Dryas coincided with and was probably caused by one or more major impacts, spreading debris across all of North America and Europe, and the Göbekli Tepi may preserve a record of that event. It may be the result of the earlier breakup of a giant comet in the inner Solar System. On that hypothesis, remains of the breakup can still be seen in the form of the two annual Taurid meteor showers, as well as a large number of short-period comets like Comet Encke. The Tunguska airburst over Siberia in 1908 may have been another such impact, and with other possible examples known in the historical record, including possible earlier ones depicted in the cave paintings, it raises the worrying possibility that there could be more such events to come.


The next meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club will be on Thursday April 25th, from 19:15 to 21:00 hrs at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. The speaker will be science communicator Laura Thomas on “The Moon: our next step in the journey to Mars”, which she was unable to give to the AOTF Club last summer for reasons beyond our control. For more details contact Alan Martin (Chairman of AOTF Club) on: 07947 331 632, or see the AOTF Club web page (http://www.actascio.org/aotfclub.asp).


Duncan Lunan’s book “Incoming Asteroid!”, on protecting the Earth from impact threats, is available from the publishers, on Amazon or through booksellers; details of that and Duncan’s other recent books are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.


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