Upcoming Experiment Set to Uncover Potential Secondary Purpose of Stonehenge

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As Earth Day approaches, Stonehenge prepares for its annual midsummer celebration, where thousands gather to witness the sunrise aligning with the Heel Stone. This iconic event at the ancient monument draws large crowds. But Stonehenge may also hold another celestial secret related to the moonrise at the major lunar standstill, a lesser-known alignment.

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The major lunar standstill occurs every 18.6 years, when the Moon reaches its furthest points on the horizon for both rise and set. While the correlation between Stonehenge’s layout and these lunar events has been known for decades, there has yet to be a systematic observation and recording of the phenomenon.

This is where a new project involving archaeologists, astronomers, and photographers aims to shed light on Stonehenge’s lunar alignments. The initiative brings together experts from English Heritage, the Royal Astronomical Society, and various universities to study the connection between Stonehenge and the major lunar standstill.

The major lunar standstill hypothesis suggests that the four station stones surrounding Stonehenge, which form an almost exact rectangle, may align with the Moon’s position during this event. Although these smaller stones are less prominent than their larger counterparts, their unique configuration has drawn attention.

By marking the position of the moonrise and moonset over a month, researchers observed that these boundaries change with the lunar cycle, indicating the major lunar standstill. Unlike solar alignments, where the Sun’s path changes only slightly throughout the year, the major lunar standstill could offer a more dynamic display, possibly adding deeper meaning to the ancient monument.

In addition to observing the lunar standstill, the researchers also found evidence of early connections between Stonehenge and the Moon from 3000-2500 BC. Several cremated human remains and timber posts were found aligned with the southernmost major standstill moonrise. This points to a potential symbolic connection between the site and the Moon.

However, the major lunar standstill hypothesis raises new questions. It’s unclear if the lunar alignments of the station stones were symbolic or used for specific observations. There’s also the question of whether modern-day trees, traffic, or other features obstruct these alignments.

To answer these questions, researchers will begin observing the major lunar standstill alignments from February 2024 to November 2025. English Heritage plans to livestream the southernmost moonrise in June 2024, along with hosting other events like talks, pop-up planetariums, and storytelling sessions.

Collaborations across the Atlantic will also focus on the major lunar standstill, with the US Forest Service developing educational materials about the event at the Chimney Rock National Monument. These joint efforts aim to illuminate the possible connections between Stonehenge and the Moon’s movements, while adding depth to the ongoing exploration of this iconic site.

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