Astrophoto: Stonehenge, the Milky Way and an Eta Aquarids Meteor

Astrophotographer Peter Greig (St1nkyPete on Flickr) had always wanted to go to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, and chose to go there this year for his birthday. It turns out the Universe gave him a little birthday present, with a fabulous clear evening to see the Milky Way shining overhead, along with a few Eta Aquarid meteors flashing in the sky. He captured this amazing shot on May 12. Happy birthday, Peter!

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Stonehenge Was An Ancient Burial Ground For the Rich: Study

The site of Stonehenge — that mysterious collection of British rocks that could have served as a calendar using the stars — was also a graveyard for the elite, according to new research.

A British group led by the University College London looked at 63 bodies surrounding the historical site. They determined these people were part of a group of elite families that brought their relatives to Stonehenge for burial over more than 200 years, starting from 2,900 BC.

The bodies were buried long before the rocks visible today were erected, though.

“The first Stonehenge began its life as a huge graveyard,” stated UCL’s Parker Pearson, who led the study. “The original monument was a large circular enclosure built 500 years before the Stonehenge we know today, with the remains of many of the cremated bodies originally marked by the bluestones of Stonehenge. We have also discovered that the second Stonehenge was built 200 years earlier than thought, around 2500 BC.”

The findings were broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 in March.

A separate study, that will be broadcast on BBC 4 Monday (April 29), shows that humans were in the area of Stonehenge about 3,000 years before it was constructed — making human occupancy about 5,000 years than previously thought.

According to media reports, a team from the United Kingdom’s Open University spotted evidence of human activity about a mile from Stonehenge, in nearby Amesbury.

Archaeologists found an extinct species of cow, called a wild auroch, on the site as well, supposing that it was some sort of migration route that attracted human hunters.

Source: University College London

Incredible Astrophoto: Space Station Flies Over Stonehenge

In a gorgeous mix of archeology and space exploration, photographer Tim Burgess captured a stunning view of the International Space Station passing over the historic and iconic Stonehenge on April 20, 2013. Tim said this composite image is composed of 11 shots, 10 sec, f2.8, 400 ISO. As one person commented on Flickr, “An amazing feat of human engineering passing over an amazing feat of human engineering, captured by an amazing feat of human engineering.”

Thanks to Tim for allowing us to post this image on UT; keep track of Tim’s photography on Flickr and Twitter.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

The longest day – Summer Solstice 21st June 2011

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June 21st, 2011 is Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year.

This is the time when the Sun is at its highest or most northerly point in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere and when we receive the most hours of daylight. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere it is the reverse, so you will be having “Winter Solstice.”

Also known as “Midsummer” the Summer Solstice gets its name from the Latin for sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). The Sun reaches its most Northerly point and momentarily stands still before starting its journey South in the sky again until it reaches its most Southerly point “Winter Solstice”, before repeating the cycle. This is basically how we get our seasons.

It’s not actually the Sun that moves North or South over the seasons although it may appear so. It’s the Earths axial tilt that causes the Sun to change position in the sky as the Earth orbits the Sun throughout the year.

Why Are There Seasons
The angle of the Sun and the Earth's seasons. Image credit: NASA

Summer Solstice/ Midsummer is steeped in ancient folklore especially in Northern Europe with the most famous place directly related to it being Stonehenge, where the sun has been worshiped for thousands of years.

Stonehenge Credit: bistrochic.net

The Sun reaches its most Northerly point in the sky at 17:16 UTC momentarily and from that point forward starts to make its way South. This means the days will get shorter and shorter until Winter Solstice in December.