Planispheres and Astronomy Software
Many of the blog postings in the Ancient World Blog STONEHENGE can only be understood if one has a good historical planisphere or software program at hand.
In my opinion, the best software program available at an affordable price is Starry
Night Pro, see
Less expensive and useful is Milton D. Heifetz's Historical
Planisphere with Precession of the Equinoxes.
The Heifetz Planisphere is available from Learning Technologies,
inc., 40 Cameron Avenue, Somerville, MA, 02144 USA, internet at
http://www.starlab.com, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 800-537-8703, 617-628-1459, and fax 617-628-8606.
is a file I have drawn, in color but only as an approximation of the
Heifetz Planisphere, and I recommend you do get the original.
However, my drawing gives you the major stars and constellations of the heavens in their positions ca. 3000 BC.
The center of heaven (for us in the Northern Hemisphere) - the North
Ecliptic Pole - is the small red-circumferenced green circle in the
middle of the drawing. The correspondingly colored large green circle
around it is the ECLIPTIC - we could also call this the "path of the
Sun" (and also of the planets and Moon, thought they do diverge from
it a bit in their movement). The ECLIPTIC is fixed and DOES NOT
What has given the ancients over the millennia a great deal of
trouble is the CELESTIAL EQUATOR which is marked on akskymap.tif as a
large orange circle with a red-circumferenced orange circle in its
middle. THIS CIRCLE DOES appear to move its position for an observer
on Earth, because the Planet Earth wobbles like a spinning top and
its AXIS revolves around the red-dotted-line circle in the drawing
ONCE every 25920 years - which astronomers call precession.
As the red-circumferenced orange circle in the middle of the drawing
rotates counter-clockwise in 25920 years, it marks what we call the
Northern Pole Star, which is currently ca. Polaris - marked as a red-
circumferenced yellow circle on the red-dotted-line. In 3000 BC,
however, the position of the Northern Pole Star was at the red-
circumferenced orange circle in the middle. The pole star is always
at the middle of the orange circle marking the celestial equator, so
that this orange circle "moves" as the pole star moves. Hence, the
points at which the celestial equator and ecliptic intersect - these
points mark the Equinoxes - also move, and the solstices also move
I have drawn the Line of the Equinoxes 3000 BC as well as the Line of
the Equinoxes 2002 AD on that drawing. Anyone can see how precession
affects the seasons. In 3000 BC the Spring Equinox was just to the
right of Orion. In our modern age the Spring Equinox is approaching
Aquarius (counter-clockwise) This is what the song in the
musical "Hair" some 30 years ago was proclaiming as "the Dawn of the
Age of Aquarius". Mankind, however, still has some time to wait
before this happens.
Mainstream historians of astronomy today allege that the ancients
were not familiar with precession - and this only shows that our
modern historians of astronomy know next to nothing about the ancient
skywatchers. We will continue to produce evidence that the ancients have been quite familiar with this phenomenon for thousands and thousands of years and that the
ancient Norse belief that "the sky was falling" is based on this
knowledge. Indeed, the need to account for precession (i.e. to
correctly predict the seasons and establish a workable calendar)
clearly was one major factor which led to the serious study of
astronomy by the ancients and to the megalithic sites which we study
The line of the Equinoxes ca. 3000 BC shows why the ancients of that
period, for example, regarded the otherwise insignificant constellation of Serpens Caput to be so important. It was directly on the Equinox Line. Today, we pay little
attention to this "minor" constellation.
Make sure you also always look at the Milky Way in your astronomical
analysis, for the ancientd paid far more attention to the Milky Way
than we do today in our artificially lighted planet, whose man-made
lights and pollution are increasingly blotting out our heavens. The
horn of the Milky Way at Cepheus can clearly be seen and only when
one actually sees this position can one understand the megaliths of
e.g. Scotland which mark this constellation.
As a special treat, I have also tried in my drawing to make the major
stars of the heavens have the color in which they appear, even to the
unaided eye, and which the ancients noted carefully, in part using
megaliths of a comparable color to mark a given star.
Especially the reddish or
orange stars were given excessive attention by the skywatchers of
old. Perhaps they regarded these stars to be particularly powerful.
This surely was so for two of the major "red" stars of the heavens,
Antares and Aldebaran, which are more or less directly across from
each other near the line of the Equinoxes in ca. 3000 BC.
Once one gets the feel for the heavens in this perspective, the
astronomy of the ancients becomes more understandable. I thus
recommend you to print this drawing out for further use, but also to
get the software and the planisphere listed above. It is OUR world,
and we have no other, so we ought to know the basics about this one,
both past and present.
The ISandIS Network
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