Strange star flashing in the heavens

Currently, Scholz’s star is a small, dim red dwarf in the constellation of Monoceros, about 20 light years away, and now moving away from us. However, about 70,000 years ago, it just grazed the outer reaches of the solar system as it wandered by, accompanied by its brown dwarf companion.

At the closest point in its flyby of the solar system, Scholz’s star would have been a 10th magnitude star – about 50 times fainter than can normally be seen with the naked eye at night. But because it is magnetically active, such stars can “flare” and briefly become thousands of times brighter. So it is possible that Scholz’s star may have been visible to the naked eye by our ancestors 70,000 years ago for minutes or hours at a time during these flaring events.

What would our ancestors have made of this stranger in the heavens? What would we have made of it a thousand years ago if it were passing by us then and not 70,000 years previously?

scholtzstar
An artist’s concept of Scholz’s star with its brown-dwarf companion in the foreground during their flyby of the solar system 70,000 years ago. The sun would appear as a bright star from the pair (left background). Credit: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester

 

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Cup and Ring markings

I had never heard of them before, until we moved to Yorkshire, near to the famous Ilkley Moor.  There I discovered that just about every rock on the Moors cupandring2was inscribed with cup and ring markings. And more than that, cup and ring markings are to be found in abundance all over of Britain, and to a lesser extent, the world.

They consist of a concave depression, no more than a few centimetres across, pecked into a rock surface and often surrounded by concentric circles also etched into the stone. Sometimes a linear channel called a gutter leads out from the middle.

They first date back to around 6,000 years ago, and continued to be carved on stones for cupandring1another 2-3,000 years.

They are perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of ancient times, and yet one of the least known.  Britain has more of these markings than anywhere else, and they are to be found throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

As an example, there are many to be found at Kilmartin Glen.  Amongst the numerous cup and ring markings can be found what can only be described as “rock art”, as well as standing stones, cairns, and from a later age, a hill fort.

But what are they meant to symbolise? Why did ancient peoples spend hours, days probably, making these strange marks on outcrops of rock?  And why did the tradition of making the carvings last so long?

There are no answers; Professor Alex Thom thought that their creators might have used a standard measure in their creation, and there seems to be some evidence for this, but far from conclusive.  And even if there is a standard measure, it does not answer the question, why?

The Tower of the Winds

What a wonderful title for a tower, and no, it’s not found in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Instead it stands inside the Vatican and was built to answer, in effect, the question, how long is a day.  The answer that they came up with was not 24 hours, but rather 23 hours and fifty six minutes.

The Tower of the Winds was built between 1578 and 1580 as a means leading to the reform of the Julian calendar which had been in use since 45 BCE. At midday the sun shines through a hole in the wall, and illuminates a large sundial inscribed on the floor of the tower, and thus provided the means of calculating the true length of a day.

tower-winds

The Gregorian calendar that followed introduced the leap year as a means of compensating for the real length of a day.

As the photo shows, the Tower is richly decorated, and is one of the highest points in Vatican City.

But predating that is an even older Tower of the Winds, to be found in Athens.  I can do no better than quote from the Athens Tourist Information web site, viz:

athens-plaka-tower_of_the_winds

The Tower of the Winds is found in the Roman Agora of Athens, between the quarters of Plaka and Monastiraki. This is among the most famous sights of Athens. A 12-metre-tall structure with a diameter of 8 metres, this tower has octagonal shape. It was made of fine Pentelic marble probably around 50 B.C. by the Greek astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus. This tower has many uses in the ancient times. It was originally constructed as a time piece, that is to estimate time, based on the position of the sun. It was also used for weather indicating and forecasting. The tower features a combination of sundials, a water clock and a wind vane. In fact, its frieze depicts the eight wind deities according to their direction: Boreas (N), Kaikias (NE), Eurus (E), Apeliotes (SE), Notus (S), Livas (SW), Zephyrus (W) and Skiron (NW). Source: http://www.greeka.com

Hillforts

An atlas listing and detailing 4,147 hillforts was released to the public for free on the 22nd June. The atlas gives an exhaustive list of all the known hillforts in Britain, and adds considerably to the previous list of  1,224 hillforts listed in the Wikipedia entry for June 2017. The press release states:

Mostly built during the Iron Age, the oldest hillforts date to around 1,000BC and the most recent to around 700AD. Hillforts were central to more than 1,500 years of ancient living: with numerous functions – some of which are yet to be fully uncovered – hillforts served as communal gathering spaces. The research also shows that, fascinatingly, not all hillforts are on hills; nor are they all forts.

And that is part of the mystery. There are some hillforts, for example, Maiden Castle in Dorset, the biggest hillfort in Europe, that are truly hillforts, not only atop significantly high hills, but with impressive defences, and in the case of Maiden Castle, with clear evidence of attack(s) by the Romans.

Yet there are others that look at first glance as “defended enclosures” to use the archeological term, but are indefensible.  They have a bank and ditch, but arranged in such a way that they offer no impediment to attackers.  Thornborough Henges is one of the most important examples, and is viewed as being part of a ritual landscape, whatever that means!

 

It is, as it is meant to be.

And it is thus.

It was a Retreat.  The mix of lack of sleep, inner contemplation, the challenge of solving/understanding a Koan.  A process anointed by the passage of centuries, a path followed by – perhaps millions? – over the centuries.

And somewhere on my own personal journey on that Retreat I understood something deep, profound, that moved me to tears of joy. An insight, no, deeper than that, an understanding that this IS the way the Universe works.

It is, as it’s meant to be, for better, for worse in our short term view, but as it is meant to be.

There is just Love

The structure of the Universe bubbles and froths. Particles and ghost particles come into existence, embrace, and vanish.  From this quantum energy was born the Stars, the Planets, all, the all that includes us.

What is this energy that confounds science?  The name they give it is “the vacuum energy”.  But can it’s true name be Love, Love unbounding perhaps?

I am an Astrologer not an Astronomer

I look to the heavens for meaning, not for science, although I find meaning in the science.

I feel the weight of all of humankind who have also gazed up on a starry night and wondered about the meaning of life, the Universe, and their own destiny.

Were their questions mine?  I suspect so, and what answers did they find?  What knowledge did the Wise Seers amass. The Druids, for example, spent 30 years learning their craft, and were renowned in antiquity for their knowledge of the heavens, and before them, came the builders of the Stone Circles which predicted the movement of the Cosmos.