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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 – Positional Astronomy and Cycle of Stars (continued), Mayan Astronomy, Venus.doc

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Natural Science
NATS 1745
Robin Metcalfe

Lecture 3 – Positional Astronomy and Cycle of Stars (continued), Mayan Astronomy, Venus 1. Positional Astronomy and Cycle of Stars 2. Mayan Astronomy 3. Venus 1. Positional Astronomy and Cycle of Stars -13) The constellations we see depend on our latitude: - Northern hemisphere: we all see constellations North of CE (celestial equator) - Southern hemisphere: we all see constellations S of the CE - Constellations are a purely visual connection, made up of groups of stars that various civilizations have grouped together in shapes of images/symbols -14) Every night at a given latitude, each star rises and sets at the exact same azimuths -15) Direction can therefore be found with a “star compass”, in which the horizon is divided into directions marked precisely by the rising or setting of bright stars - This method of navigation was practical for Polynesians, as they lived in a tropical climate that was not prone to cloudy skies; this method of star-based navigation is impractical for navigation where they may be unclear skies 2. Mayan Astronomy (300-1500 AD) -1) Mayan sites and records reveal: the Maya tracked celestial cycles in order to worship the Mayan gods associated with celestial bodies - Mayan civilization existed in isolation from the “known world” and thus their achievements in astronomy are to be considered great - Mayans practiced religion comprised of multiple gods who were associated with celestial bodies -2) Pyramid of Kulkulcan: - 365 steps (shows Mayans were aware of the Sun’s annual cycle) - annual serpent-pattern of light and shade tracks the time of year (e.g. on the equinoxes, full serpent ends at Kulkulcan’s head) - pyramid could have been used as a calendar -3) El Caracol: openings in the observatory dome are aligned to the northernmost and southernmost setting positions of planet Venus (allowed the Maya to measure the duration of Venus’ full path in the sky) - Venus considered the embodiment of the god Kulkulcan -4) Mayan bark books: durable books containing listings of historical events, including celestial events (e.g. the “Dresden Codex” contains Mayan dates of the full eclipse cycle and the Venus cycle) - Mayans tracked eclipses for main reason that they were considered omens, Venus cycle tracked in relation to god Kulkulcan -5) 2012: Mayan calendar notation ends on December 21, 2012. This is not based on any astronomical cycle. Mayan records describe this date as the last date of one calendar cycle, as opposed to the last date of all time -6) Mayan number symbols: visually represent their quantity, making them efficient for addition and subtraction of large numbers. This allowed the Maya to easily record the number of days between celestial events and to recognize their long-term patterns - The pace of a civilizations scientific discoveries is influenced by their chosen number system, the ease of working with large numbers -7) Eclipses: - Believed by many civilizations to be heralds of bad times, due to the “damaged” appearance of the Sun or Mo
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