Stargazing at Stonehenge

Partway through last month I went on a trip to one of the most amazing places in Britain. The stones at Stonehenge have stood for over four and a half thousand years. There’s been a monument of some kind at the site for even longer. Our very own wonder of the ancient world was erected around the same time as Egypt’s pyramids and it’s amazing to think that, even when the Romans invaded Britain, Stonehenge was standing tall and proud as an ancient mystery.

The great thing about the visit was that I was able to walk inside the stones, after dark, with hardly anyone around. To coincide with the winter solstice, the day was organized by the Royal Astronomical Society to mark the end of the International Year of Astronomy. Archaeologists were on hand to explain the different elements of the site, while astronomers were there to talk you through the night sky above.

Sadly, the day was overcast. I was especially disappointed because the first thing one of our astronomer guides said was that Cassiopeia, Johnny’s very own constellation (his Star Mark) would have been directly overhead, set against the backbone of the Milky Way. There’s even talk of making the area the UK’s second designated dark sky park, following on from Galloway Forest Park in Scotland.

For millennia, indeed since before Stonehenge was even thought of, people have gazed upwards at the night sky in awe. The stars have driven humanity’s progress, whether it was calculating when to plant crops, navigating ships or racing to the Moon. Now it’s rare to be able to see the night sky and there’s a danger we’ll lose our interest and sense of wonder at the heavens. It’s important for our futures and those of our descendants that this doesn’t happen, and the International Dark Sky association are doing their best to fight against light pollution everywhere.

As well as the stones, the site was hosting the IYA’s From the Earth to the Universe exhibition. If that doesn’t have enough spectacular space shots for you, check out today’s entry in the Twelve Days of Johnny Mackintosh, over at JohnnyMackintosh.com.

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~ by keithmansfield on January 2, 2010.

One Response to “Stargazing at Stonehenge”

  1. Don’t know if you’ve come across this before but you may enjoy my documentary DVD ‘Standing with Stones’. 100 megalithic sites from Cornwall to the Scottish Isles in a 2 hour film. http://www.standingwithstones.com/Landing.html

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