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Starwatch for May 2020

Written by John Del Re on May 20, 2020

Hello! I’m Karl Hricko of the United Astronomy Clubs of NJ and the National Space Society, bringing you the May 2020 Starwatch for WNTI.ORG.

Just imagine yourself back in time before the invention of any astronomical instruments.

How were the people before Stonehenge able figure out the cycling of the planets, stars, Sun and Moon? They were able to record the winter and summer solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes. They developed a calendar system, determined direction, and the motion of the heavens. This enabled them to create successful civilizations by knowing when to plant and when to harvest. They were also able to use this knowledge to celebrate their holidays.

To accomplish this, they used either natural and/or artificial sighting sources. For example, alignment of buildings, stones, poles – or natural features on the horizon. They also used pictograms and petroglyphs to record their observations. This was not only necessary for survival, but also to carry on cultural traditions by telling stories about heroes, and gods in the sky. Also, celestial bodies were observed in an attempt to predict their influence on humans. So over the ages, the ancient sky watchers were able to prepare the way for the development of modern astronomy.

Although we don’t have to build a Stonehenge, we can observe the visible planets as they wander among the stars. Before sunrise, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter can be seen from left to right looking south-southwest. Mars moves from Capricornus to Aquarius, Saturn is in Capricornus, and Jupiter is found in Sagittarius. After sunset in Taurus, you’ll see the very bright Venus and just below it is Mercury.

So as you consider the amazing accomplishments made by ancient civilizations you will appreciate their contribution to the development of astronomy.

Until our next Starwatch, don’t forget to check out, what’s up in the night sky!


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