Stonehenge Skyscape

Sue Greaney
2019 Journal of Skyscape Archaeology  
At the midsummer solstice this year (2019), English Heritage launched https:// stonehengeskys -a new website to enable people around the world to experience the skies above Stonehenge, and to learn more about the movement of celestial bodies in relation to the monument. Stonehenge is famous for its alignment on the movements of the Sun, and is arguably the most iconic example of an ancient monument connected with the sky. Dramatic sunrise and sunset pictures have captured the
more » ... tion and, in part, have come to shape our view of the world-famous site. The stone circle receives 1.5 million visitors a year, but due to the fragile nature of the below-ground archaeology, the unique evidence for working and shaping the stones, and the Bronze Age carvings, access to the site has to be restricted. Only a small number of people get the chance to stand inside the stone circle at sunrise or sunset, and even fewer can experience the site on a clear, starry night. Without this first-hand experience, though, it is difficult to understand how Stonehenge aligns with the Sun. Digital technology has provided one way of sharing the perspective of standing within the stones -and some experience of the skies above the monument -with a global audience. Logging on to the website, viewers will see an image from the centre of the stone circle showing the daytime sky, accurate to within a window of approximately five minutes. This "Ambient" mode is a composite image, not a literal view; various image sources have been blended programmatically to create an impression of standing within the stones. The webcam itself, a Raspberry Pi-based solar-powered camera, with a 220° fish-eye lens, is mounted about 100 m away from the stone circle. Weather conditions are accurate -you may sometimes see raindrops on the Perspex dome! Website visitors can pan and rotate the view or use the highlighted squares at the top to move backwards in time to view a previous sunrise and sunset. Switching to the "Skyscape" view reveals markers that show the paths of the Sun, Moon and five visible planets, with a shaded band depicting the total annual movement of the Sun. This is to help people understand how the monument was carefully constructed to align with the midsummer solstice sunrise and the midwinter solstice sunset, and how
doi:10.1558/jsa.40034 fatcat:jpi7viqp4vachgcf33xvvhnu34