The Dashka Stone: Map of the Creator

In 1999, a professor at Bashkir State University in Russia named Alexander Chuvyrov made a remarkable archeological discovery. He was called to the house of Vladimir Krainov, who reported a strange slab buried in his backyard. Chuvyrov was instantly intrigued, as he had been searching for similar slabs that have been cited in various historical manuscripts. The slab was so heavy that it took over a week to unearth. The discovery was named the Dashka stone and later titled the Map of the Creator. The artifact is approximately 5 feet high, 3.5 feet wide, .5 feet thick, and weighs at least one ton. The stone was investigated and determined to be some sort of three-dimensional relief map of the Ural Region. Today the military uses similar maps to measure elevation and terrain. The Dashka stone reportedly contains representations of civil engineering work, weirs, an irrigation system, and powerful dams. To date, the ancient technology used to make the map is unknown and extremely advanced.

The map also contains numerous inscriptions. At first, the scientists thought that it was an Old Chinese language, although it was later reported that the inscriptions were done in a hieroglyphic-syllabic language of unknown origin. A group of Russian and Chinese specialists in the fields of cartography, physics, mathematics, geology, chemistry, and Old Chinese language researched the artifact and were the ones that identified it as a map of Ural region, with rivers Belya, Ufimka, and Sutolka listed.

Dating of the slab was reported to be over 100 million years old, but no reliable resources citing evidence of what type of test were used or the exact results could be found. If the Map of the Creator is genuine then it would suggest the existence of an ancient highly developed civilization. Researchers have claimed that a three-dimensional map of this order could have only been used for navigational purposes. Many websites claim that the slab is proof of ancient flight. Recent discoveries indicate that the slab is a piece of a larger artifact.

The Dashka stone continues to undergo scientific testing and is not available for public viewing. … veries.php … _0237.html

The Time We Found Pyramids on Mars

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars has long fascinated people. One of the few objects in the night sky to show a visible color and the only one that wandered, it was a natural draw. As astronomy blossomed and scientists realized that it was another world, visionaries began to speculate about life there.

The first good telescopic observations revealed a world with definite features, areas of light and dark which could be continents and oceans. In 1877, Giovanni Schiaparelli took advantage of a particularly favorable opposition (when Mars and Earth are on the same side of the Sun, and Mars appears high in the night sky) and he drew a map of the planet. In keeping with the belief that the dark regions were oceans, when he saw dark lines across the lighter areas, he dubbed them “canali,” which is Italian for “channels.”

Map of Mars by Giovanni Schiaparelli

Note that although the “rivers” or “canals” are not real, he did see many things that are real — the Hellas basin is a gigantic impact crater, and the “lake” that he depicts in “Thaumasia felix” is actually the caldera of Olympus Mons.

American astronomer Percival Lowell believed that Schiaparelli had discovered artificial canals. Lowell became a major early proponent for the idea of a complex civilization on Mars. He persisted even when later observers failed to find the canals, demonstrated the likelihood of them being an optical illusion, and even when spectrographic data revealed that Mars was not really a very hospitable place — cold, dry, and with an atmosphere too thin to maintain liquid water. The idea persisted occasionally in science fiction until 1965, when Mariner 4 flew by Mars.

In its brief flyby, it revealed a Mars that appeared as dead and hostile as the Moon — barren and pocked with craters. Furthermore, the canals were clearly not present.

Map of Martian Canals by Percival Lowell

Mariner 4 image of Mars, showing moon-like craters

The idea of life on Mars fell largely out of favor as a result of this, but interest in Mars remained. Though the canals were obviously not real, speculation turned from present Martians to Martians past. If there was no civilization now, was it possible there had been in the past? After Mariner 4, Mariners 6 and 7 also flew by, largely confirming the lifeless image. But then that all changed.

Mariner 9 arrived in Mars orbit on November 14, 1971. It was followed within a month by the Soviet probes Mars 2 and Mars 3. On arrival, the probes discovered a Mars transformed: a vast dust storm completely masked the planet. Eventually, the dust settled, revealing a world of wonders previously unseen: staggeringly huge extinct volcanoes, a tremendous canyon system named for the probe (Valles Marineris), dry riverbeds, fog, clouds . . . and something else. On February 8, 1972, Mariner 9 returned an image of what looked an awful lot like pyramids in a region called Elysium Planitia:

Mariner 9 image of Elysium Planitia, showing pyramid-shaped structures

Could it be? Had there really been intelligent life on Mars, which had built pyramids eerily similar to the Egyptian pyramids at Giza? Some other vaguely artificial-looking objects were also observed, and piqued a bit of interest, but none more than the pyramids. That was nothing compared to what would come in 1976, though.

In 1976, two “flagship class” probes arrived at Mars: Viking 1 and Viking 2. Each was an orbiter/lander pair. Their orbiters surveyed the planet in much more detail than Mariner 9 had been able to achieve. In addition to obtaining better resolution images of the pyramids at Elysium Planitia, they also found some more in a region called Cydonia Mensae. As exciting as the first pyramid discovery had been, this really took off in the public imagination, for in addition to what seemed like a complex of pyramids, there was a gigantic face.

The “Face on Mars,” photographed by Viking 1; note that the black spots are data loss, not real objects

A consultant at Goddard Space Flight Center happened to see the images and found his fame in them. His name was Richard Hoagland, and he was to become the most ardent proponent of the Face on Mars. He described the pyramids as a buried city, and the Face as a crumbling monument akin to the Sphinx in Egypt.

There was no new data on these features for some time. No new missions were greenlit until Mars Observer, which ended in disaster when the probe suddenly ceased transmitting shortly before orbital insertion. It wasn’t until September 12, 1997, that a new spacecraft arrived at Mars: Mars Global Surveyor. It eventually imaged both Elysium and Cydonia, and the results were disappointing for anyone hoping to find evidence of life, although many refused to give up the faith. Mars Odyssey 2001, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have mapped the planet in ever increasing detail, and the features have proven to be disappointingly natural.

Elysium pyramid, photographed by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

It does look like a pyramid, doesn’t it? Even if there aren’t really alien-built structures on its surface, Mars still conceals a lot of mysteries. It boasts the largest volcanoes in the solar system by a huge margin, and also the largest canyon. It is smaller than Earth, but has the same land surface area as Earth’s continents. It has weather, including dust devils and gigantic dust storms. It has ice caps made of a mixture of water ice and frozen carbon dioxide, and water not only flowed in the past, but appears to be sometimes able to flow in the present as well. And who knows? Perhaps by the end of the century, some of us will be living there. And then we can build our own pyramids!

Via: MentalFloss

Groundhogs Day

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day then spring will come early. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.

Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow. In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g’spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime or quarter, per word spoken.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. And stars the famous Punxsutawney Phil. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise, Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler’s Knob. Phil is considered to be the world’s most famous prognosticating rodent. During the rest of the year, Phil lives in the town library with his “wife” Phyllis. A select group, called the Inner Circle, takes care of Phil year-round and also plans the annual ceremony. Members of the Inner Circle can be recognized by their top hats and tuxedos. As of 2011, Phil has two co-handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.

The celebration, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog.It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication and to St. Swithun‘s Day in July.

In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere the official first day of spring is almost seven weeks (46–48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21. The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendar systems. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the proundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes winter lasts 6 more weeks until the equinox.


The Sea of the Devil

The Bermuda Triangle’s infamous association with disappearing boats and aircraft is known across the globe. Less well known is an area off the west coast of Japan which has an equally deadly history. It is an area where Japanese sailors fear to voyage; they call it ‘Ma-no Uni’ – the ‘Sea of the Devil’ or the Dragon’s Triangle.

Legend has it that huge restless dragons surface from their deep shelters to seize any unfortunate passing mariners. Japanese sailors have often recorded freakish occurrences in the area and talk of hearing terrible noises and seeing awful red lights.

They believe one particularly potent creature lives in an immense palace beneath the waves. They call this monster ‘Li-Lung’, the ‘Dragon King of the Western Sea’, and say his lair is decorated with the ships he has captured.

This mysterious zone stretches from western Japan to Yap Island in the south and Taiwan to the west. Like the Bermuda Triangle, it is seen as having an above average number of navigation and communication failures. In truth, this area of ocean bears a remarkable resemblance to its Western cousin. Both areas are known for extreme changes in weather conditions, unexpected fogs, tidal waves, seaquakes and hurricanes, and both have examples of agonic lines, lines upon which a compass needle will point true north and south. Their most unwelcome similarities are the truly horrifying levels of unexplained sinkings and disappearances.

By the late 1940s, the amount of ships being lost without trace in the region lead to the Japanese government declaring the area a danger zone. In the early 1950s they decided to dispatch a research vessel to study the area. Despite enjoying good visibility and calm seas, the Kaiyo Maru No 5 disappeared without trace on 24th September 1952. The lives of all twenty-two crew and nine scientists were lost. The vessel has never been found. It has only been in relatively recent years that these incidents of strange disappearances have been reported in the West.

To the Japanese, they are regular occurrences which stretch back for centuries and continue to this day. Whether it is dragons or not, the real evidence behind this ocean’s terrible secret remains on the seabed.

The Ghost Ship Palatine

While some regard the Palatine as a legend, there is historical proof that she did exist. Her fiery phantom appears off of the isle. There is evidence that the Princess Augusta, a British ship, went aground on Block Island on December 26 or 27, 1738 or 1752 and broke up. Her crew was deposed and said provisions were scarce, half of the crew died and others were affected by the bitter cold. 150 surviving passengers from the Palatine region of Germany and Switzerland were aboard.A heavy snowstorm and strong winds caused the ship to ground herself on Sandy Point. The acting captain told survivors to salvage what cargo they could before and after she was destroyed.

Palatine Legends
There are two versions of what happened to the survivors. One is that the islanders nursed them back to health. The crew deliberately grounded the ship to hide their mistreatment of the immigrants and to hide their plundering.

The other legend is that the islanders lured the ship to run aground to salvage what they could. In some versions, they set the ship on fire to conceal what they did. A history book records that some of the locals lured ships ashore to plunder them during the new moon.

James Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about the ship and called her the Palatine. He stated islanders lured the ship to wreckage, then burned her. Samuel Livermore refuted Whittier’s version when he wrote about the island’s history in the late 1800s. The poet responded and wrote he did not intend to put the islanders in a bad light. He heard the story from a New Englander and said it was possible his source was wrong.

There are two versions of when the phantom ship appears. One is that she is seen around the anniversary of her being wrecked. The other is she is an omen of bad weather, appearing as a warning.

Palatine Phantom Ship
Benjamin Congdon, born in the late 1700s, wrote he saw the Palatine phantom about ten times. Many other New Englanders reported seeing the ghost ship in flames.

A woman, Kathy, reported she saw the ghost ship when she about seven. It was a hot summer day. She was playing with her two brothers and the large family dog. They saw a tall masted ship about a half mile off shore, ablaze and sails billowing. They saw the people and heard their cries for help. The dog reacted by barking with agitation. The children ran to tell their parents. One of the brothers was sent to the closest farmhouse to get help. The farmer was not surprised when told about the ship and gave the boy a history book for his father to read. The man had seen it twice. There is no information as to whether or not bad weather followed this sighting.

A marker on Sandy Point that tells of the Palatine graves and has the year, 1738. No wreckage has been found that positively identifies the ship as the Palatine. Often, legends are based on facts and get embellished as they are handed down. Such is the case here. There is historical documentation that the Princess Augusta was wrecked. There were many reliable eyewitnesses.

Via: Suite101

Winter Solstice

The December or Winter Solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it’s when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the winter solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20th and December 23rd. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight.You can use the Sunrise and Sunset calculator to find the number of daylight hours during the winter solstice in cities worldwide.

The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living South of the equator. Those living or traveling South from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.

On the contrary, for an observer in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight. Those living or traveling North of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.

December 20th and December 23rd solstices occur less frequently than December 21st or December 22nd solstices in the Gregorian calendar. The last December 23rd solstice occurred in 1903, and will not occur again until the year 2303. A December 20th solstice has occurred very rarely, with the next one occurring in the year 2080.


The Black Knight Satellite

“Our home is Epsilon Boötis, which is a double star. We live on the sixth planet of seven—check that, the sixth of seven—counting outwards from the sun, which is the larger of the two stars. Our sixth planet has one moon. Our fourth planet has three. Our first and third planet each have one. Our probe is in the orbit of your moon.”–signal translation originating from ‘The Black Knight’ Satellite, Time Magazine April 9, 1973

In 1953, four years before the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik I, an object of unknown origin was sighted by Dr Lincoln La Paz of the University of New Mexico orbiting the earth. As more reports of sightings trickled in from around the world, the U.S. Department of Defense appointed distinguished astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh(best known for his discovery of the dwarf ‘planet’ of Pluto in 1930) to run a search for the mystery object. The blip became known as “Black Knight”.The Pentagon never formally released the results of Dr Tombaugh’s study. No more was heard about the object until December, 1957, when Dr Luis Corralos of the Communications Ministry in Venezuela photographed it. The first modern satellites, Sputnik I & 2, had been launched just a few months earlier. Dr Corralos was taking pictures of the second of these modern marvels as it passed over Caracas, and his photos caught the unknown object shadowing the Russian craft.
“Black Knight” was observed once again in 1960, this time by one of the stations that formed the Northern American Air Defense System. The object was in a polar orbit, something that neither the Americans or Soviets were capable of at the time. Several times larger and heavier than anything capable of being launched with 1960, rockets, it shouldn’t have been there, but it was. The observance sent panic through the U.S. military. Not only did the intelligence agencies have no idea that the USSR had launched a new satellite, nothing in their reports on Soviet space activity suggested they had the capacity to place an object into a polar orbit, or to launch something that was estimated to be in excess of 15 tons. The military scientists were horrified, since they were at least four years away from achieving polar orbits and getting payloads that large into space.

Similar waves of shock and anxiety were spreading through the Soviet ranks. They had not launched the satellite and knew they were years away from being able to accomplish such a feat, they also knew that the Americans could not do it either. No one knew where it came from, but it was definitely there.

Three years later Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper was launched into space on his 22 orbit mission in the Faith 7 capsule. On his final orbit, he reported seeing a glowing green shape ahead of his capsule, and heading in his direction. The Muchea tracking station, in Australia, which Cooper reported this to was also able to pick it up on radar traveling in an east-to-west orbit. This event was reported by NBC, but reporters were forbidden to ask Cooper about the event on his landing. The official explanation is that an electrical malfunction in the capsule had caused high levels of carbon dioxide, which induced hallucinations.

If this weren’t enough, Ham radio operators worldwide had been receiving messages from Black Knight. Perhaps the strangest phenomenon associated with the Black Knight was the Long Delay Echo (LDE). The effect observed was that radio or television signals sent into space bounce back seconds (or even days) later, as if recorded and retransmitted by a satellite. First indentified over 30 years earlier by Norwegian geophysicist Carl Stormer and a Dutch collaborator Balthasar van der Pol, the duo discovered that short wave radio messages were followed by mysterious echoes that were picked up at indiscriminate intervals after the original transmissions. Indeed, the delays were so long that they could not be readily attributed to atmospheric quirks, magnetic storms or other natural phenomena. To this day, scientists have been unable to solve the mystery of the echoes.

Scottish Astronomer and science writer Duncan Lunan, in a paper presented to the British Interplanetary Society in 1973, noticed a correspondence between the LDE effect and the periodic appearances of Black Knight. To go further, he claimed that these “echoes” carried messages and star map which he had decoded and the transmission corresponded to a star chart which would have been plotted from Earth 13,000 years ago, and focused on the star system of Epsilon Boötes. Lunan theorized the messages may have been relayed to earth by a robot spacecraft from a highly advanced civilization far beyond the solar system. More astonishing, Lunan added, the automatic vehicle may have been circling the moon for thousands of years, waiting patiently for earthlings to acquire the necessary know-how to contact it.

In 1960 Radio Astronomer Ronald Bracewell of Stanford University speculated on life elsewhere in the galaxy. An article published in Nature offered the theory that an advanced civilization might not necessarily use long-range radio signals to communicate with other intelligent beings. Such signals would be considerably weakened over interstellar distances. Instead, Bracewell said, those far-off beings might employ robot space probes as their message bearers. Sent to a promising nearby star, such a vehicle could swing into an orbit around it at approximately the right distance to encounter a planet with life-supporting temperatures. If it picked up telltale radio signals, the probe might then bounce them back to advertise its presence, thereby producing an effect like the echoes of the 1920s. Finally, as its first message, the robot might transmit a picture of the area of the heavens from which it came.

Black Knight made its presence known again in 1974. This time it wasn’t picked up by way of radar or radio frequency, rather it formed a direct link to one man. That man was science fiction author Philip K. Dick, best known for writing the stories on which the movies Blade Runner (1982) and Total Recall (1990) were based.

Beginning in February of 1974, and continuing for the next eight years, Dick had a series of “mystic” experiences and communications with the Black Knight Satellite that left behind was what he called the Exegesis, an 8000- page, one-million-word continuing dialogue with himself written at night. More about the accounts of Philip Dick can be found here.

Just as mysteriously as it arrives the Black Knight seems to also disappear—leaving us to wonder and speculate as to it’s existence, it’s origin and it’s true purpose.

What Happened to the USS Cyclops?

The 1918 Loss of the Navy Ship with 306 Aboard Still a Mystery

The U.S.S. Cyclops disappearance is the single largest loss of life on a ship not involved in combat. There were theories, but no answers. Her wreckage has never been found. The Cyclops was a Proteus class collier ship built for the US Navy before World War I. Before the war, she supported U.S. warships in European and Caribbean waters off the Atlantic seaboard as a member of the Naval Auxiliary Force. The Cyclops was commissioned into service in 1917, and continued carrying supplies to facilitate the U.S. Navy’s wartime operations. But this ship is best remembered for her disappearance.

The Cyclops’ Final Voyage
The ship left Rio de Janeiro on February 16, 1918, and arrived in Bahia on February 20. Before leaving port, Captain Worley had submitted a report that the starboard engine had a cracked cylinder and was inoperative. It was recommended that repairs be delayed until the ship returned to the United States.

Two days later, the ship departed for Baltimore, with no scheduled stops; however she made an unscheduled landing in Barbados on March 3, 1918. Captain Worley visited United States consul Brockholst Livingston and took on additional cargo. Officials in Barbados reported the water was over the Plimsoll line, indicating an overload.

The Cyclops left for Baltimore on March 4. The molasses tanker Amalco sighted her on March 9th near Virginia. The ship was never seen or heard from again. Reports indicate that on March 10, a violent storm swept through the Virginia Cape region, suggesting that the combination of the overloaded condition, engine trouble and bad weather may have ultimately caused the loss of this ship.

The Cyclops and Espionage Theory
About the time the search for the Cyclops was called off, a distressing telegram was received by the State Department from Livingston. It stated that Captain Worley was referred to as the “damned Dutchman” and apparently was disliked by other officers. There were rumors about men being confined and one was even said to have been executed. Livingston wrote that there were numerous Germanic names.

The Office of Naval Intelligence investigations revealed that Captain Worley was born Johan Frederick Wichmann in Germany in 1862, and he had arrived in America by jumping ship in San Francisco in 1878. By 1898, he had changed his name to Worley. During this time, he qualified for the position of ship’s master and had commanded several civilian merchant ships.

The investigators discovered Worley berated and swore at officers and men for minor offenses, sometimes becoming violent. There were allegations that he was pro-German and might have conspired with the enemy. His closest friends and associates were either German or Americans of German descent. One of the passengers on the final voyage was Alfred Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the consul-general in Rio de Janeiro, who was pro-German. This led to the theory that Worley handed the ship over to the Germans. After the war ended, German records were searched and this theory was debunked.

and the Bermuda Triangle
The disappearance of the Cyclops is often credited to the Bermuda Triangle, which is an imaginary line from Miami, Florida to Bermuda to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s considered one of the earliest documented incidents involving the disappearance of a US ship. Many people cite the fact that the vessel disappeared without sending a distress signal as evidence it was lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Ship-board communication was in its infancy in 1918 and it wasn’t unusual for a fast-sinking vessel to have little or no time to make a distress call.

It’s alleged that, in 1968, a Navy diver reported the discovery of the wreckage of an old ship off of the Norfolk, Virginia coast in about three hundred feet of water. He said it looked like the bridge was on stilts. When he saw a picture of the Cyclops, he was convinced this was the ship wreckage he had seen on the sea bottom. The location would have been in the area where the violent storm of 1918, occurred. Further expeditions to the site failed to find the wreckage. The disappearance of the Cyclops remains an enigma of the ocean.

Via: Suite101

The Timeless Mystery of Stonehenge

The more we dig, the more the mystery seems to deepen,” said William Hawley (1851–1941), the official archaeologist of Stonehenge following World War I. He was reporting to the press about his underfunded historical project that seemed to be languishing. Hawley wasn’t able to make much progress in understanding Stonehenge by the time he wearily gave up the task around 1925. Since then, many others have tried, and much information has been gained. Still, old legends and theories about Stonehenge seem to carry as much validity as information based on careful tests performed with the best in modern equipment. As Hawley observed, each new discovery seems to broaden the sublime aura of Stonehenge.

Located on Salisbury Plain in England, Stonehenge is a site of concentric rings of stone, an avenue, and paths leading to nearby burial sites. The stone circles are situated on a henge, an area enclosed by a bank and ditch; the surrounding circular ditch is 340 feet in diameter and five feet deep. There are four stone alignments—two are circles and two others are horseshoe-shaped patterns. The outer circle is about 100 feet in diameter and originally consisted of 30 upright stones (17 still stand), weighing an average of 25 tons and linked on top by a ring of stones. The stones, composed of Sarsen, a kind of sandstone, average about 26 feet in height. Pairs of standing stones are topped by a series of lintels—a term that describes an object that rests across two pillars, similar to the top part of a doorway. Such pairs of standing stones with a third horizontal lintel joining them at the top are called trilithons. All the stones were smoothed and shaped. The lintels are locked in place by sculpted, dovetail joints, and the edges were smoothed to maintain a gentle curving appearance.

A second ring consists of bluestones, a smaller-sized stone. Within that circle are five linteled pairs of Sarsen stones in a horseshoe shape. Another horseshoe, consisting of blue-stones, is at the center. An avenue outlined with parallel banks and ditches 40 feet apart leads into the henge. A single standing stone, called the Heel Stone, is positioned in the center of the avenue just outside the outer circular ditch.

Several of the upright stones were toppled during the Roman occupation of Britain between 55 B.C.E. and 410 C.E. Two upright stones and a lintel fell in 1797, and two more in 1900. The five stones that fell since 1797 were put back in place in 1958 to restore the look Stonehenge had between 400 and 1797.

Several theories have emerged about when Stonehenge was erected and the purposes it served. Stonehenge begins being mentioned in recorded history during the twelfth century, most notably by Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100–1154) in his History of the Kings of Britain. Geoffrey’s history freely mixes documented events with folklore and contains many chronological inaccuracies. Still, his fanciful story of how Stonehenge was erected on Salisbury Plain remained popular for centuries. Geoffrey credited Stonehenge to Merlin, a wizard most often associated with the legendary King Arthur. In Geoffrey’s account, Merlin was asked by Ambrosius Aurelianus, brother of Uther Pendragon and uncle of King Arthur, to erect a monument to commemorate the site where several hundred British nobles were murdered by Saxons. Merlin used magic to transport the stones from Ireland, where they had been erected in the form of Stonehenge after having been brought from Africa by giants. The formation of stones was called the Giants Dance.

Later theories emerged to overshadow Geoffrey’s tale. Stonehenge was credited as the work of the Mycenae, a civilization that thrived in the Aegean Sea area of the eastern Mediterranean region before the rise of Greece in the first millennium B.C.E. The Mycenae connection fit together with a theory that prevailed into the twentieth century that ancient megaliths throughout western Europe were designed and erected by members of eastern Mediterranean cultures, from which modern languages, histories, and other forms of culture emerged. In the second half of the twentieth century, however, advanced techniques for dating ancient objects showed that Stonehenge actually preceded the rise of Mycenean cuture.

The most popular modern theory connects Stonehenge with Celtic culture that thrived in Britain before the Romans came. A priestly order among the Celts called the Druids were believed to have supervised construction of Stonehenge and other stone circles in the region. Druids were keepers of lore and leaders of ceremonial rites among Celts. They have been associated with magic powers, human sacrifice, and various mystical rites, but many of those attributes were bestowed on them by non-Celtic historians and are, therefore, suspect. As Christianity spread through Great Britain by the fourth century, Celtic culture and the Druids were eventually overwhelmed.

Under the supervision of Druids, the theory goes, Stonehenge was a sacred ceremonial site. The famous Slaughter Stone at Stonehenge, which shows traces of red after a rain, was believed to have been an altar where Druids performed human sacrifices. It was subsequently discovered that the redness derives from iron minerals in the Slaughter Stone.

William Stukeley (1687–1765) perpetuated the Druid link to Stonehenge in the 1740s with his book, Stonehenge: A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids (1740). Stukeley identified the avenue leading into Stonehenge as a procession route. Back during the 1720s, he had discovered parallel lines of banks and ditches near Stonehenge. He called the phenomenon a cursus, a Latin word for racetrack, since he thought the lines were joined at the ends to form an oval.

Stukeley contributed to a growing trend in Great Britain to recognize ancient Britons, especially Druids, as “bards” (poets) living in communion with nature. Stukeley himself “went Druid” and joined an order that practiced secret Druidic rites, and he assumed the name of Chyndonax after a fabled French Druid priest.

Sir J. Norman Lockyer
(1836–1920), who was once director of the Solar Physics Observatory in London and the founder of the journal Nature, published The Dawn of Astronomy in 1894. The book argued that ancient temples in Egypt were aligned for stellar observations and as calendars—to determine the summer solstice, for instance. His findings were controversial, but they helped spur further studies of the astronomical interests of ancient societies. Lockyer came to the same conclusion about ancient Britons as he had of Egyptians after studying Stonehenge and nearby pre-historic, megalithic structures. Lockyer believed that Stonehenge served as a calendar. It was known that Celts had divided their year into eight parts. According to Lockyer, Stonehenge and other megalithic sites were used to determine key points of the year, such as the coming of warm weather for planting. Lockyer viewed Druids, the keepers of Celtic lore and knowledge, as astronomer priests responsible for devising the megalithic calendars.

The astronomical orientation of Stonehenge, meanwhile, was largely ignored by archaeologists. However, it received a tremendous boost during the 1960s and 1970s when Boston University astronomer Gerald Hawkins studied the site and used a computer to compare historical solar and lunar alignments with vantage points in Stonehenge. He published his findings in 1963 in Nature, then in an expanded version in a book, Stonehenge Decoded (1965), which offered the most convincing scientific evidence yet that Stonehenge served as an astronomical observatory, specifically as a calendar.

When one stands in the middle of Stonehenge and looks through the entrance of the avenue on the morning of the summer solstice, for example, the Sun will rise above the Heel Stone, which is set on the avenue. If one stands in the entrance and looks into the circle at dusk of that day, the Sun will set between a trilithon. According to Hawkins, the use of Stonehenge as a calendar probably evolved from painstaking trial and error experiments with wooden poles to a permanent form with the standing stones. Hawkins’s work was greeted with great interest and much skepticism. Nevertheless, along with other studies around the same time, it helped spur a trend for greater scientific research into Stonehenge and confirmed a new discipline, archaeoastronomy, the study of the use of astronomy among ancient societies.

Credit for Stonehenge to the Celts continued until the 1950s, when radiocarbon testing determined that Stonehenge dated from about 3000 B.C.E. and that work was begun on the site even before the Celts migrated into Britain from the European continent. Subsequent studies have revealed that Stonehenge was built in waves of construction spanning several centuries. Smaller stones were brought to the site around 2600 B.C.E. and the largest stones arrived around 2100 B.C.E. The last work on the site dates from around 1800 B.C.E.

Though information has come forth about when Stonehenge was erected, the identity of its builders remains unknown—and where the stones came from and how they were moved into place, are yet other matters to be investigated. The Sarcens likely came from Marlborough Downs, a quarry site about 18 miles northeast of Stonehenge. How the stones could be moved from by a prehistoric people without the aid of the wheel or a pulley system is not known. The most common theory of how prehistoric people moved megaliths has them creating a track of logs on which the large stones were rolled along.

Another megalith transport theory involves the use of a type of sleigh running on a track greased with animal fat. Such an experiment with a sleigh carrying a 40-ton slab of stone was successful near Stonehenge in 1995. A dedicated team of more than 100 workers managed to push and pull the slab along the 18-mile journey from Marlborough Downs.

To erect the slab, the group dug a hole. The slab was pushed over the hole until it fell in. Then, a team pushed while another pulled by rope to make the slab stand upright. The hole was filled after the process was repeated with a second slab. The lintel stone that forms the top of the trilithon was pushed up a ramp and then maneuvered into place on top of the two pillars. Engineers at the test site believed that levers may have been used to raise the lintel stone, and timber put underneath; the process was repeated until the lintel stone rested on timber at the necessary height to push it in place to complete the trilithon.

Whether such methods were actually used during the construction is not known. Still, human sweat and ingenuity were shown as a legitimate alternative to Merlin’s magic and other theories about how Stonehenge was erected.

Via: UnexplainedStuff

Milky Way over Switzerland

This magnificent photo taken in Switzerland shows the expanse of the Milky Way galaxy across the heavens. This small size really doesn’t do it justice; click here to view a much larger image. Hovering over the photo at the link will also point out major star clusters and nebulae.

Via: Neatorama | Photo: Stephane Vetter

2010 Winter Solstice and Lunar Eclipse

The only total lunar eclipse of 2010 will be visible from all of North America and the Western Hemisphere. The eclipse “officially” begins on Dec. 21 at 12:29 a.m. EST as the moon begins to enter Earth’s outer, or penumbral, shadow. That won’t happen again until 2014.

The entire 72 minutes of the total lunar eclipse will be visible from all of North and South America, the northern and western part of Europe, and a small part of northeast Asia including Korea and much of Japan. Totality will also be visible in its entirety from the North Island of New Zealand and Hawaii.

In all, an estimated 1.5 billion people will have an opportunity to enjoy the best part of this lunar show. In other parts of the world, either only the partial stages of the eclipse will be visible or the eclipse will occur when it’s daytime and the moon is not above their local horizon.

But even in clear weather, skywatchers will not notice any changes in the moon’s appearance until about 45 minutes later when a slight “smudge” or shading begins to become evident on the upper left portion of the moon’s disk. The moon might take on some odd colors during the eclipse. This is the first lunar eclipse during the winter solstice in 456 years. According to NASA, the last time a lunar eclipse and the winter solstice happened at the same time was in AD 1554.


What Are Sundogs and Moon Dogs?

Sundogs, also called “mock suns” or “parahelia” (Greek for “beside the sun”), appear as one or two patches of light on either or both sides of the sun. Sundogs give the illusion that there are two or three suns in the sky. Sundogs may be white or colored, and often appear along the path of a 22 degrees halo (a thin ring of light around the sun).

These patches of light are occasionally seen around a very bright, full moon. In that case, they are called moon dogs.

Sundogs are produced by the refraction (bending) of sunlight through relatively large ice crystals. Sundogs and moon dogs form only in cold regions.

Sources: Ahrens, C. Donald. Meteorology Today: An Introduction to Weather, Climate, and the Environment, 5th ed., pp. 99-100; Engelbert, Phillis. The Complete Weather Resource, vol. 2, pp. 329-31.