Rare cosmic event may reveal Stonehenge’s mysterious link to moon

Rare cosmic event may reveal Stonehenge’s mysterious link to moon

A rare ongoing cosmic event may help scientists understand whether Stonehenge aligns with certain positions of the moon.

Stonehenge is well known for its solar alignment. Tens of thousands of people gather at the monument every midsummer night to witness the rising sun in alignment with the structure’s Heel stone standing outside the circle.

There is a hypothesis that Stonehenge also aligns with moonrise and moonset during a rare astronomical event.

Archaeologists and astronomers are testing the theory now during “major lunar standstill”, a rare phenomenon that takes place every 18.6 years.

It occurs when the moon rises and sets at a more northerly and southerly place along the horizon than usual, reaching altitudes higher in the sky than the summer sun and lower than the winter sun.

Scientists suspect Stonehenge’s builders noticed this cosmic event in the initial phase of its construction and that it influenced the monument’s later design.

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The iconic mega structure includes several smaller elements such as 56 pits arranged in a circle and four station stones.

These station stones appear to have been carefully placed to form an almost exact rectangle encompassing the stone circle, archaeologists said.

The shorter sides of the rectangle are parallel to the main axis of the stone circle and the longer sides skirt the outside.

The longer sides of the rectangle are thought to align with the moon’s positions during a major lunar standstill.

“Stonehenge’s architectural connection to the sun is well known, but its link with the moon is less well understood,” Clive Ruggles, professor of archaeoastronomy at Leicester University, said.

“The four station stones align with the moon’s extreme positions, and researchers have debated for years whether this was deliberate, and – if so – how this was achieved and what might have been its purpose,” Dr Ruggles added.

Scientists believe a rare lunar movement may have been noticed in the early phase of Stonehenge’s construction and it influenced the monument’s later design (English Heritage)

The rare event would allow astronomers to further investigate the ancient monument’s mysteries and its relationship with celestial phenomena.

Scientists hope to understand what it may have been like for the ancient people living near Stonehenge to experience these extreme moonrises and moonsets and to witness their visual effects on the stones.

“Observing this connection firsthand in 2024 and 2025 is crucial. Unlike the sun, tracking the moon’s extremes isn’t straightforward, requiring specific timing and weather conditions,” archaeologist Amanda Chadburn from the University of Oxford said.

Over the year, researchers hope to document moonrises and moonsets at key moments in the year when the moon will align with the station stones.

Source: independent.co.uk