Orion in the Mayan skies

By Phil Plait | January 25, 2011 6:37 am

Stéphane Guisard is an incredibly gifted astrophotographer, a man who strives to take the very best and most beautiful images of the sky that he possibly can. If his name is familiar, it might be because I linked to his amazing time-lapse video of the sky over Paranal, his all-sky picture from the same location, and most especially his stunning picture of the sky over Easter Island, which was so beautiful I picked it as my #3 photo for the Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009.

He just sent me a note about a new set he’s created, and it’s every bit as lovely as the ones from Rapa Nui. These were taken in northern Guatemala, at the site of some ancient Mayan ruins. They show the stars above these Mayan temples, and, well, they’re just spectacular. Here is Orion over one of the temples:

Trust me here: click that to get the bigger version; you lose the majesty of the shot by looking at this smaller version I’ve posted here. You really need to see this in all its glory.

He has six other shots there too, and they are all quite beautiful. Years ago I was able to see some Mayan ruins up close, and they were tremendous. From what I’ve read the Mayans didn’t interpret the sky the way we did; they didn’t use maps or charts to study the sky, yet their temples align with various astronomical events in the heavens.

Over the years, I’ve seen some people belittle ancient cultures as being stupid — a ridiculous idea, since we know many had a sophisticated grip on observational astronomy, and to be brutally honest many ancient peoples probably understood the motions and cycles of the night sky better than the vast majority of people alive today.

On the other hand, we have to be careful not to ascribe too much knowledge to them, either, making them seem almost supernatural in their abilities. They were men and women, much like us. They observed the sky, they were tied to it via agriculture and, later, religion. If we know more now, it’s because we’ve learned so much over time. And, of course, we have the advantage of learning from them.

It made me both proud and sad to visit those ruins, proud of what we can achieve, and sad that it can be so ephemeral. On the other hand… those ruins are still around. A bit worse for wear, but they still stand after many centuries. I wonder what of our works will remain in the coming millennia?

And Stéphane’s photographs serve as a reminder that the stars seen by those Mayan people were the same ones I can see now when I walk out my front door. There’s more than one thread that connects us to the past.

"Ephemeral?" Hmmm. Maybe not.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (119)

Links to this Post

  1. Orion’s Belt | Voyager Books | January 25, 2011
  2. Cielos norturnos desde Tikal « GuateCiencia | January 26, 2011
  1. Someone

    It really is a beautiful pic. Has that ancient look to it and looks like the photographer actually went back in the ancient times and took a camera with her. Literally ((Vibes)) Orion seems to follow me everywhere I go as well. No joke. I am part Mexican.

  2. Grand Lunar

    “..and to be brutally honest many ancient peoples probably understood the motions and cycles of the night sky better than the vast majority of people alive today.”

    Neil Tyson offers similar thoughts in a chapter in his book, “Death by Black Hole”.

    Today’s pop culture seems to revolve around celebrity gossip, what’s happening in politics, prime-time TV, horoscopes, ect.

    For the ancient people, the sky was their pop culture. So it’s little wonder they knew what was happening up there.

    Fortunately, there are people like you Phil that keep us in touch with what’s happening “up there”, and encouraging others to try to do the same.

  3. SteveT

    Visiting the site of these ruins in Tikal in 1993 still ranks as one of the most interesting vacation stops I’ve ever made. Seeing these ancient pyramids rising out of the jungle was awe-inspiring, to say the least. Glad I wasn’t there at night for a picture like this, however. Mayan ruins in a dark jungle would have played havoc with my overactive imagination.

    Fortunately, Stephane is a LOT braver than I am!

  4. Carlos

    Lord Vader, we have found them. ;)

    I’ve been to most of the major Mayan sites in Mexico – but none in Central America. Tikal ranks as one of my top 5 future destinations!

  5. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Carlos : Isn’t Mexico part of central America?

    After all, geographically~wise its neither quite North America nor quite South America is it?

    I must admit I find it hard to respect as more than halfway sane a culture that practices the barbarity of human sacrifice whatever else the Mayans might have achieved. :-(

    Sorry if this offends anyone but I’m glad their culture and society lost out and our Western civilisation won. I do NOT believe all cultures are equal (heresy these days I know!) and I *do* believe in Western values – you know all that freedom, equality, opportunity, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all stuff …

    For all its flaws – & sure we have some – NO society or civilisation* in history has been as good as ours, as tolerant, as free, as pro-science and pro-human rights and pro-kindness and opportunity as the “Anglospheric” US-British-Aussie-Kiwis-Canadian-Israeli etc .. Western one.

    I would be very wary about overly romanticising and overly gushing over a historical cultural tribal group that were, history suggests, pretty durn nasty, cruel and evil in their values and ideals.

    Great photo though. :-)

    —-

    * Personally, practicing human sacrifice as the Mayans did rules them out as far as counting as a civilisation goes in my book. They built some impressive structures sure, maybe they had some ideas of astronomy too but .. That sort of thing is the mark of barbarians NOT civilised good people in my view.

  6. Belfagor

    betelgeuse looks ready to explode :) understanding the rhythms and motions of the night sky should be a part of any secular humanist education (i love how that phrase has somehow been demonized). the aesthetics of the night sky rivals or surpasses (depending on personal taste) any poet or painter. it’s tragic that such an understanding has disappeared, except for a miniscule percentage.

  7. Daffy

    Messier Tidy Upper Says, you are forgetting that our culture largely came via the Romans who were every bit as brutal and barbaric as the Mayans. Who knows how the Mayans would have developed had their culture not been so thoroughly destroyed?

  8. Peter Davey

    A few years ago, there was a documentary on the BBC, attempting to gauge the effects of the sudden total disappearance of the human race.

    If I remember correctly, Mount Rushmore was judged likely to be one the last monuments to be eroded away.

    On the other hand, the documentary did not refer to any of the craft, probes, satellites, etc, off the Earth, some of which might well outlast any human construction on this planet.

    With a little more effort, and commitment on our part, the human race might come to outlast the Earth itself.

    The best monument to something is sometimes the thing itself.

  9. Messier Tidy Upper

    Actually, I think its not just that Western civilisation is pro-science so much as Western civilisation is the only scientific culture – the *only* one to elevate and understand and incorportae science as we know it.

    Science began with the proto-scientific notions of some of the Greek philosphers, really came into being during the Renaissence in Europe and developed to its peak in the USA and Western world around & after WW II.

    That’s not to say other cultures such as the Chinese & Indians didn’t make astronomical observations of sorts, didn’t invent things and have intelligent people but I’ not sure any other society or culture or civilisation (or barbarisation if that’s a word – eg. Vikings, Mongols, Mayans, Arabs, Aztecs, etc ..) had quite what we’d regard as *science* as such.

    The Mayans had something similar~ish perhaps – priests who watche dand has d some ideas of the sky and time – but I don’t think theyhad proper scientists as we know them today.

    @ 7. Daffy : The Romans had some good engineers and technicians and retained & spread much of the already ancient Greek – & Israelite – wisdom from among the people’s they conquered. I don’t think the Roman’s quite had science as we wuld understand it – I think that really started properly with Galileo and Bacon in Renaissanece Italy and England respectively.

    To me at least, the Romans weren’t barbarians in the way the Mayans were. They didn’t practice wholesale human sacrifice, they had honourable values that made some kind of sense although, yes, very differntand very much much worse than our own. The Romans – & before them the Greeks & early Hebrews – were civilised in a way the Mayans and many others just were not.

  10. Daffy

    Wow. Messier, you need to look some stuff up. The Chinese were way beyond “of sorts” when it came to astronomy.

    Seriously, your comments are starting to border on racism.

    Yeah, the Romans were real sweethearts. One of their methods of execution was to put a guy in a bag with a monkey, a cobra, and a dog; they would tie it up and throw it in a river. And maybe you think feeding people to lions while slack jawed yokels gawk, was less barbaric than human sacrifice, but I doubt the victims would support your idea.

  11. Daffy

    Need more? Romans liked to tie a person to a metal chair and slowly roast them to death—again, all for the pleasure of the crowd. Do I even need to mention nailing people to wood and letting them hang while they slowly die?

    Seriously, the only difference in the level of barbarity that I can see is that Romans were white.

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    Durnit! Out of editing time :

    ****************

    The Mayans had something similar~ish perhaps – priests who watched and had some ideas of the sky and time – but I don’t think they had proper scientists as we know them today.

    @ 7. Daffy : The Romans had some good engineers and technicians and retained & spread much of the already ancient Greek – & Israelite – wisdom from among the people’s they conquered. I don’t think the Roman’s quite had science as we would understand it – I think that really started properly with Galileo and Bacon in Renaissanece Italy and England respectively.

    To me at least, the Romans weren’t barbarians in the way the Mayans were. They didn’t practice wholesale human sacrifice, they had honourable values that made some kind of sense although, yes, very differntand very much much worse than our own. The Romans – & before them the Greeks & early Hebrews – were civilised in a way the Mayans and many others just were not.

    The early Greek-Jewish-Roman cultures lead eventually to the evolution of Western society & what we call (correctly I’d say) civilisation. Other cultures such as Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, Mongols, Muslims, Chinese etc for all they did manage, turned out to be dead ends that have led to nothing and have failed to produce great acts of science and invention and civilisation and exploration.

    That’s why, to put it bluntly, the Western world discovered and conquered them rather than vice-versa. We had explorers and scientists and visionaries. They had, in the Mayans case a group of Ruler-Priests who cut the hearts out of prisoners wrongly thinking they were making theSunrise by killing people.

    Or why in the case of the Incans, they had a group who superstitiously, foolishly thought the Conquistadores were Gods rather than fellow humans, why they sent noships to us and we sent ships to them. Plus in the case of the Chinese (& Japanese too) we saw a whole cultures and societies turn their backs on exploration and the outside world and retreat to stagnate within themselves for centuries, refusing to engage with those unlike them.

    The West had two great things in its favour – scientists and explorers. Our civilisation produced those in a way others didn’t and that I think is why the world is as it is today.

    @11. Daffy :

    Were the Romans’ cruel and brutal in *some* of the things they occassionally did?

    Sure they were!

    Have we come an immensely long way since then in *many* areas?

    Of course we have!

    At least when the Romans executed prisoners (yes in cruel and unusual punishments we would’nt accept today) they executed them for acts they were actually guilty of (or falsly accused of in some cases perhaps!) rather than nonsense like making the Sun rise or the rain fall and crops grow.

    The Romans in broad terms displayed a kind of harsh logic and reasonable, practical sense that the Mayans and others just didn’t.

    Which is NOT to say they were perfect or brilliant or ethical role models for today just that in *relative* terms their culture for its time was well ahead of the Mayans, Chinese, Arabs and others.

    PS. Daffy : “Seriously, the only difference in the level of barbarity that I can see is that Romans were white.”

    Skin colour has nothing whatsoever to do with it & I find that remark offensive as well as totally erroneous.

    Don’t forget that historically the African tribes sold each other (& their own) into slavery – as did the Arabs – while it was the Europeans who abolished slavery, embraced civil rights and so forth. Our Western culture is one of the first to end or at least try to end racism, sexism etc .. while other cultures would be quite happy to keep such barbarities alive.

    Finally if you think that’s the *only* difference – well, you need to look much, *much* harder!

  13. Arvind Mishra

    Hats off to Stephan and You both Phil !
    Only today with very clear clue i could locate the Betelgeuse in night sky of Varanasi ,one of most ancient cities of the world!

  14. Daffy

    I don’t even know where to start.

    You say Westerners were somehow superior and that’s why they conquered the Mayans. First of all, the Roman did NOT conquer the Mayans. That was Europeans hundreds of years later—and it had just as much to do with smallpox which wiped out millions. The Europeans were lucky there, not superior.

    No, as far as I know, the Romans didn’t do a whole lot of sacrificing in the name of religion; they usually did it in the name of entertainment. This is better?

    And you want to talk superstition? Ever heard of the Inquisition? The Crusades? Witch burning (often in front of their own children)?

    Actually, the main thing the Europeans had going for them (apart from smallpox immunity) was precisely their barbarism, aggressiveness, and their willingness to slaughter anything or anyone who got in their way. It certainly made them more successful (so far) but it hardly makes them morally superior to anyone.

  15. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (9) said:

    Science began with the proto-scientific notions of some of the Greek philosphers, really came into being during the Renaissence in Europe and developed to its peak in the USA and Western world around & after WW II.

    That’s not to say other cultures such as the Chinese & Indians didn’t make astronomical observations of sorts, didn’t invent things and have intelligent people but I’ not sure any other society or culture or civilisation (or barbarisation if that’s a word – eg. Vikings, Mongols, Mayans, Arabs, Aztecs, etc ..) had quite what we’d regard as *science* as such.

    Actually, without the Islamic empire of the 7th – 11th centuries AD (and beyond, but this was when it was most significant), our “European” culture would not have the legacy of the Graeco-Roman philosophers and mathematicians. So, we owe much to those Arabs you denigrate.

    In a similar vein, Indian mathematicians made significant advances in mathematics, including (if memory serves) the invention of 0 and the formula for the calculation of pi. And they did this while we Europeans were indulging ourselves with cathedral-building contests.

  16. Gus Snarp

    “…many ancient peoples probably understood the motions and cycles of the night sky better than the vast majority of people alive today.” I think it would be more accurate to say that a tiny handful of the elite priestly class of many ancient peoples probably understood the motions and cycles of the night sky better than the vast majority of people alive today and the vast majority of people they led, but not nearly as well as a larger number of educated people today do.

    You’re right to note that the Maya were just people, not much different from us. This is the key, we should not overly romanticize them, nor pretend that they were grunting cavemen. And perhaps the most important lesson we can take from the Maya is that there is strong evidence that their great civilization fell apart due to their activities damaging the environment to the point that it could no longer support them. A problem to which we are still at risk of falling victim.

  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    @10. Daffy Says:

    Wow. Messier, you need to look some stuff up. The Chinese were way beyond “of sorts” when it came to astronomy.

    Let’s examine that claim of yours there shall we? :

    Did the Chinese record comets, novae, etc .. sure. Thats a tick in their favour.

    Did they have and invent telescopes for fuurtherstudying such objects and the planets?

    Er .. no.

    Did they come up with theories to explain how the stars worked, how the solar system was releated to the Erath

  18. Belfagor

    Tidy: please, the romans had to propitiate three different gods before walking through doors (fulculus cardea limnulus, for the door, hinges and threshold, respectively). as augustine noted, they were so superstitious it’s amazing they had time to run an empire at all. roman cruelty wasn’t reserved for condemned criminals, fathers had the right (and exercised it) to murder or sell into slavery children who displeased them. their legal system REQUIRED torture when it came to testimony given by slaves, and encouraged it in other cases. that mortality rate was a trackable stat in their sports says quite a bit. columbus wrote multiple times that he found mount purgatory with the garden of eden atop it in the middle of the ocean. (one of his journals is also bound in human skin. they’re not sure whose). and i don’t think you really wanted to cite early jewish culture which mandated genocide after conquest as a mark of civilization.

  19. Tasha

    The Ancient Mayans, and in fact most Ancient Civilizations practiced human sacrifice for religious purposes, mostly out of desperation when they had a drought or a flood and were starving and looking for a way to survive, they weren’t cruel about it, they were quick and efficient deaths and most of the people that were in that culture believed it to be a great privilege to be sacrificed to the God’s, to help their community, they BELIEVED that it would work, that it would help… and you think that’s far worse than killing for entertainment.

    And on a side note, almost all historians that study these pre-Christianity civilizations are finding that they had more knowledge and technology that have only started to spring up in the last 200 years for us, so to say that they were less advanced in a SEVERE understatement. The term “barbarian” is like the word “pagan” it’s used to describe something other than your own society, just like “pagan” is defined as anything other than the known religions. 1000, 2000 years from know, our society is going to be known as barbarians.

  20. Daffy

    Messier: “Did they have and invent telescopes for fuurtherstudying such objects and the planets? ”

    Nope. Neither did the Romans—you have now included Renaissance Europeans in your argument, but we were comparing Mayans and Romans.

    Messier: “Did they come up with theories to explain how the stars worked, how the solar system was releated to the Erath”

    Yes; they were just incorrect. As were the Romans.

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    [Continued] @ 10 .Daffy :

    Did the ancient Chinese come up with serious non-mythological theories to explain how the stars worked, how the solar system was related to the Earth and how the stars shone?

    If so, it’ll be the first I’ve heard of it.

    Can you name one ancient Chinese astronomer who made a positive scientific contribution to our present understanding of the cosmos before the *Westerners* contacted *them* and gave them the scientific method *Westerners* developed and the Chinese had not, shared with them the knowledge that *Westerners* had worked to gain and the Chinese had not?

    Well, can you?

    I respect the role ancient Chinese court astrologers (that’s what I understand they were – *not* scientists) played in observing and recording data that later Western scientists were able to use. That’s fine and good. But our culture is scientific and helped understand the universe in a way that their culture & society just didn’t.

    @16. Gus Snarp:

    You’re right to note that the Maya were just people, not much different from us. This is the key, we should not overly romanticize them, nor pretend that they were grunting cavemen.

    When did I say or even imply they were “grunting cavemen”? [Sic – the PC term today is “cave *people*” or so I gather.] :roll:

    I do NOT and never have thought of them in those terms – rather I think there’s a continuous spectrum of civilised to less civilised with the Mayans falling at one point on the chart and us at another far better one.

    For reasons that should be pretty obvious, really, but have a lot to do with the fact that we buiilt exploration ships and telescopes, they built sacrificial altars and temples. We sailed over to them and they stayed were they were rather than do the same.

    Still thanks I guess. ;-)

    And perhaps the most important lesson we can take from the Maya is that there is strong evidence that their great civilization fell apart due to their activities damaging the environment to the point that it could no longer support them. A problem to which we are still at risk of falling victim.

    Maybe.

    The Mayans like all other humans were humans – but they believed in some very bad ideas and grew up in a very bad culture.

    We, Westerners, are far more fortunate. Through chance of birth. :-)

    Perhaps, rather than apologise and try making the ridiculous false equivalences preferred by PC Cultural Relativists, we should be grateful for that reality & do better to see our way of life, our ideals and methods which have proven more successful, more logical / scientific and more ethical* prevails and continues and spreads to those who aren’t lucky enough to be born Westerners?

    Is that really such a bad view to hold or express?

    ———

    * We don’t have slaves or wars of conquest like they – and our historical predeccessors had, frex. Also we treat women as equals and give them control over their bodies in a way few if any previous cultures did. Or contemporary non-Western cultures do too.

  22. Diane

    Thanks for the never-ending supply of desktop wallpapers. It’s nice to step outside my botany world and look at something more profound from time to time.

  23. Tasha

    @ Messier Tidy Upper

    oh, i get it now, your idea of a civilized culture is one that contributes to the one we live in today and no matter how brilliant these ancient people were that came up with ideas more advanced then our own but were wiped out because of just being there, that’s nothing because they didn’t contribute.

    and by the way, if you remember the Bible correctly, you know the one that are ‘Western’ civilization was based off of, God asked Moses to kill his first son just to show his faith

  24. Messier Tidy Upper

    @19. Belfagor : Well, yes. The Romans were imperfect, deeply flawed and deply messed up in many ways and that sort of superstition and those aspects of their culture were pretty deplorable. Better than the Mayans though in my view.

    Why? Romans built better technology, had a relatively fairer and more free culture and had the guts and vision toexplore outside their narrow “known world” while the Mayans remained stuck in their local region and stagnated.

    The Roman legacy left a better wiser world – even if it took a few centuries of evolution *& the discarding of some of their dumber ideas, the Mayans turned out to be more a socio-cultural example of what NOT-to-do, methinks.

    @21. Daffy :

    Messier: “Did they have and invent telescopes for fuurtherstudying such objects and the planets? ”
    Nope. Neither did the Romans— you have now included Renaissance Europeans in your argument, but we were comparing Mayans and Romans.

    Well, yes & no.

    I was comparing the Mayans to both Romans and our own civilisation actually.

    The Romans were, I think, slightly ahead of the Mayans and far behind our present day Western global civilisation.

    Messier: “Did they come up with theories to explain how the stars worked, how the solar system was releated to the Erath”
    Yes; they were just incorrect. As were the Romans.

    The Romans were *less wrong* than the Mayans.

    As Isaac Asimov noted there’s a relativity of wrongness.

    My understanding is the Roman ideas of cosmology were adopted from the Greeks – and the Greek philosphers debated a number of ideas such as the Sun being a burning coal. Wrong? Of course! ;-)

    As wrong as the Sun is a God that needs blood from the pumping hearts of human sacrifices to rise? :-(

    Not so much. :roll:

    The Romans were a long way from the truth sure – but the Mayans were wa-aay further behind them. As I’ve noted I see cultures (and cultures are, lets face it, just *ideas* on how things should work) as on a broad spectrum from the least advanced & least “good” (for want of a better word) to the most advanced and most good. The Mayans aren’t at tehvery bottom of that spectrum, the Romans aren’t at the very top, but the Romans are higher than the Mayans and we’re way higher than both of them – and I think all the other alternative cultures around. Hopefully a future society will be higher than us. But at the moment were at the good end of that cultural spectrum. We’re lucky our ancestors led us here and are standing on the shoulders of giants -as Isaac Newton rightly said – but here we are. Why deny it?

    Am I the only one here to have any sense of pride in Western civilisation and how far we’ve progressed and how we’ve advanced and suceeded in making more things better for more people? Stillroom toimprove sure, but better.

    Why do so many on the political Left seem to hate or at best de-value their own culture, their own historic accomplishments so much? That baffles me, it really does.

    [Must get some sleep tonight now.]

  25. Bob Dog

    Makes sense that someone from there left their imprint, or we are from there, and our mission is to return?

  26. Gus Snarp

    @Messier Tidy Upper <- That's how you'll know that I'm addressing your comments. Mine was a general comment on potential views of the Maya, and specifically directed more at Phil.

    As to your larger argument, I have no real problem with the core of your thesis, but I think you are foolish to bring our past into it. It matters not a whit, nor can it be effectively determined, who was more benighted and more dastardly among ancient Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Arabs, Maya, Inca, Aztecs, Egyptians, Sumerians, Kurgans, Babylonians, Israelites, etc. All of them contributed to what is now modern Western Civilization, and it is pointless to argue about them when the only comparison that matters is with us. This mistake belongs not just to you, but also to your interlocutors. The only real arguments against ours being the greatest civilization are the number of people we willingly kill for profits and resources, particularly if their skin is darker than our own. WWII killed between 50 and 70 million people, most of them civilians, and most by members of modern Western Civilization. The obvious counter argument would be that the Maya might have killed just as many had there been that many around, and that level of technology. But then they wouldn't have been the ancient Maya, would they? Nevertheless, I generally concede your claim.

    As to your "Maybe." on the potential of our falling victim to environmental destruction, it is redundant to apply to a statement of potential. We have the potential, whether we will fall victim is debatable, but I never suggested otherwise. What's not debatable is that our current population growth and resource consumption is unsustainable. Our civilization must change or fall, but I make no prediction on the likelihood of either, or what form the change will take.

    ***EDIT: Hmm, this comes off a bit rude, but I like the words, mostly, so I’ll just say it’s meant as a friendly riposte, not an attack.***

  27. Daffy

    Messier: “Did the ancient Chinese come up with serious non-mythological theories to explain how the stars worked, how the solar system was releated to the Earth and how the stars shone?”

    Define “Non-mythological” and how it differs from Roman theories of the cosmos and I will answer. Seriously. You are again comparing an ancient culture with a far more modern one (Renaissance Europe), which is hardly reasonable (and even then was filled with superstition). Roman astronomy was completely a part of astrological belief.

    “Can you name one ancient Chinese astronomer who made a positive scientific contribution to our present understanding of the cosmos before *we* contacte dthem and gave them the scientific method *we* developed and they did not, shared with them the knowledge *we* ha sd worked togain and they had not? ”

    So—the only valid astronomy occurred in China after WE contacted them? Ridiculous and racist. Look up Shi Shen and Gan De. Then, for good measure, Google “Chinese inventions.” I am trying not to jump to conclusions here, but your insistence that the only valid contributions to civilization have been from white people is becoming disturbing.

  28. the antipodean apologist said:

    Did the ancient Chinese come up with serious non-mythological theories to explain how the stars worked, how the solar system was related to the Earth and how the stars shone?

    As Daffy pointed out, neither did the Romans.

    And by the way…

    The Romans had some good engineers and technicians and retained & spread much of the already ancient Greek – & Israelite – wisdom from among the people’s they conquered.

    Perhaps you’d care to elaborate on some of that fine “Israelite” astronomy you mentioned there? Or any “science” from that part of the world and that era that passes muster with modern science?

    (Oh, and by the way, there was no “Israel” throughout the entire Roman era. Israel did not exist until 1947.)

    I love the way you duck and cover when people call you on your b.s. I know you’re going to say something like, “but I didn’t mean Israelite astronomy, I meant general wisdom blah blah.” But of course you won’t offer the same expansion of topic to the Chinese, whose contributions to ethics alone would rank them pretty high on any rational measure of “wisdom.”

  29. Justin B

    Do we know if these photos are the pure photos and not enhanced by Photoshop or another editing program? I’m definitely not trying to say anything about the photo above as its beautiful, but just curious. Maybe its the camera and how it takes night photos but the trees and some stars seem enhanced.

  30. Messier Tidy Upper

    @23. Tasha Says:

    @ Messier Tidy Upper : oh, i get it now, your idea of a civilized culture is one that contributes to the one we live in today and no matter how brilliant these ancient people were that came up with ideas more advanced then our own but were wiped out because of just being there, that’s nothing because they didn’t contribute.

    No. Not at all. :-(

    A civilised culture is a complex thing to define precisely but it is one that develops science, explores therest of the world, provides most opportunity for ist people – and sometimes others -to enjoy “life, liberty & thepursuitof happiness” and continues improving.

    In my view anyhow.

    and by the way, if you remember the Bible correctly, you know the one that are ‘Western’ civilization was based off of, God asked Moses to kill his first son just to show his faith.

    Firstly, yes I’m aware of that mythical tale the truth of which is hard to verify. Natch.

    Secondly, if you’d remembered the Bible (or the Torah) correctly you’d have recalled that it was NOT Moses but Abraham – who was then actually known as Abram – who was supposedly asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. ;-)

    Thirdly & finally for now (I’m..so .. durn .tired!), Abraham didi NOT actually committ human sacrifice! Isaac was saved by Gods rorders at thelast minute. In the Mayan equivalent story Isaac would have had his heart cut out instead.

    Which is one reason why I say Mayan’s rate well below other cultures, ethically & socially, such as in this specific case the Israelites / proto-Westerners.

  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 27.Kuhnigget : there was no “Israel” throughout the entire Roman era. Israel did not exist until 1947.

    That’s factually wrong – see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Israel_(Samaria)

    The Jewish people had the Davidic Kingdom united under Kings Saul, David and Solomon and previously long occupied after the Exodus from Egypt. (“Biblically” led by Moses and then Joshua in case Tasha’s wondering! ;-) )

    David’s Jewish kingdom eventually split in twain after many decades of an internal conflict and fissioned into *two* separate Jewish Kingdoms – Israel in the North and Judea in the South.

    (FYI. The so-called “West bank territories” remain properly known as Judea and Samaria to this day.)

    The one much touted “nation” that has NEVER historically existed which you might just possibly be thinking of the Islamic Jihadist dream state of “Palestine” which was always either part of an empire (Arab, Ottoman, British) ruled by another nation (Jordan, Egypt, Israel) or not consdiered at all. (The “Palestinians” used to just consider themslevs as ‘Syrians’ before Arafat invented them.)

    By contrast the Jewish people’s presence on and ruling over their land goes back millennium incl. several ages of Jewish self-rule & several independent Jewish states suchas Judea, Israel, Samara, the Hasmonean Kingdom, etc ..

    Please try to know just a little more of what you discuss before dropping such clangers, kuhnigget.

  32. Tasha

    @ Messier Tidy Upper:
    “Am I the only one here to have any sense of pride in Western civilisation and how far we’ve progressed and how we’ve advanced and suceeded in making more things better for more people? Stillroom toimprove sure, but better.
    Why do so many on the political Left seem to hate or at best de-value their own culture, their own historic accomplishments so much? That baffles me, it really does”

    It’s more or less the fact that you’re belittling every other civilization that didn’t make a contribution to our own, when we would be far more advanced if we evolved from some of them instead of the one we did evolve from. You’re showing an extremely ethnocentric view-point that the rest of us aren’t happy with. Ethnocentrism is just another form of racism, to think that our civilization is better than the rest.

  33. Daffy

    Messier,

    Go look up Psalm 137:9 and tell me how morally superior western thought is. Go ahead; I promise not to laugh. Well, maybe a little.

    Again, you seem to feel sacrificial slaughter is somehow worse than general slaughter. Why?

    The only thread I can see in your thesis is you excusing slaughter from white people, while condemning it in any others. Praising social and technological development in white people, and dismissing it as irrelevant in all others.

  34. Kevin

    I got a nice photo of Orion through the opening of our observatory dome, as one of our astronomers was looking at M42. – http://flic.kr/p/98DMke

  35. Daffy

    I am not blind to the accomplishments of our culture. Neither am I blind to the accomplishments of others.

    Neither am I blind to the horrors committed by ours (and others).

  36. Had a look at the full sky in the desert at 4 in the morning in Sam Village, Rajasthan India. it is truely breath taking at how huge sky feels away from the grey buildings in the city. how truely moving moment. Your picture is beautiful and yes, it is amazing how ancient civilisations had studied the planetary movements and positions so accurately. even made so many mathematical calculations based on them. Coming from india, i am truely proud that mathematicians and astronomers like aryabhata’s works are referred to even today’s modern study of astronomy.
    beautiful picture…

  37. Akash Kumar Sharma

    @ Messier and all others involved in the unending discussion of superiority , by merit of scientific achievement of the west or the east . science is ,was and will be governed; NOT by explorations or astronomical observations or quality of devices invented , rather ; by the ability to think and ponder, ability to appreciate the beauty of what is already bestowed by Mother Earth . such thinking doesn’t requires creation of a megalith or a microscope or number theory. even sweeping the road beautifully is science as , if it is done with care and dedication, helps establish a cleaner environment for the living beings . A bad sweeper can cause greater mess and thus disease. so, even sweeping needs thought of where and how to sweep and THAT IS SCIENCE. Why do u try to limit science to the realms of a few disciplines ? Science is thus well distributed among all humans whether they lived in Tokyo or Brussels or Ancient Maya. They had their own way of thinking and own perspective of science and were no inferior or superior to anyone living in the present.
    Also , those civilisations which have not attacked any other civilisation doesn’t mean that the former were weak to attack, rather that can be attributed to their STRENGTH, as they might have have understood the “RIGHT TO LIVE” for other civilisations too !

  38. Josie

    I think Messier Tidy Upper needs to watch Braveheart again…and then watch or read Jared Diamond’s Guns Germs and Steel.

  39. KC

    Ugh…youse guys take a beautiful picture of the night sky and turn it into a flame war over West vs. East. So much for our advanced western civilization….

  40. Tasha

    @ Akash Kumar Sharma

    Very well said! I applaud and thank you.

    @KC

    I know, and sorry for the argument, ethnocentrism pisses me off as a minor of anthropology

  41. @ KC:

    This is the internet. Welcome to it.

    @ MTU:

    The Jewish people had the Davidic Kingdom united under Kings Saul, David and Solomon and previously long occupied after the Exodus from Egypt. (“Biblically” led by Moses and then Joshua in case Tasha’s wondering! )

    Noted, and known. But please refer to the map on the wikipedia page you so helpfully linked to. The Kingdom of Israel covered roughly one-third of the territory inhabited by the Yahweh worshippers of Canaan. This territory was no more united politically than it was united culturally. The “Israel” of ancient times was not and never was equivalent to the Israel of today. Nor were the “Jewish people” united under any such Israel. The unification of Yahweh worshippers was a development of the priest culture of Jerusalem, which was taking advantage of a power vacuum left after the fall of the Northern Kingdom. No such unification existed until that time.

    Yet again, you are treating the religious mythology compiled by the successive Kingdom of Judah as if it were historical fact. It was and is not. There is no historical basis for any massive Moses-led exodus of “the” Jewish people from Egypt, and plenty of archaeological evidence against it. You might as well start rewriting American history based on stories of Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox.

    And I notice you failed to answer my direct question to you, which was, I presume, at the heart of your statement about “ancient Greek – and Israelite – wisdom”: What wisdom? Please point out the accurate science, let alone astronomy – since this was what initiated your response – in Israelite mythology. And please refrain from the strawman name calling. (He questions biblical historicity therefore he must be an Islamic Jihadist….give me a break.)

    I’ll wait.

  42. KC

    “This is the internet. Welcome to it. ”

    That’s no excuse.

    (Godwin’s law vi0lation in 10….9….8….7….)

  43. chris j.

    Justin B @30:

    thank you! i had the exact same question. there seem to be far too many low magnitude stars in a bluish sky with white clouds, and illuminated trees. this must be a composite.

  44. DrFlimmer

    I have seen such a discussion before….

    Btw: Awesome picture!

  45. @ KC:

    Sorry. I meant to post a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head. Besides, since when is a back and forth of heated opinion a “flame war?” Now, if I had called MTU an ignorant slut, that would be different…

    And I propose the Godwin law codicil: Commenters shall reference Godwin’s Law within 50 comments or 2 hours following any exchange, regardless of whether Godwin’s Law has yet been invoked. Also countdowns. Countdowns are always good for a larf.

    @ Dr. Flimmer:

    Um…like maybe yesterday? :)

  46. PhilB

    All, my view is that I live in an age and in a place where I can see, know, and understand things unimagined a short time ago, and I’m proud of where we are and seem to be going. I’m sure that most of you feel the same, despite different backgrounds, and Messier has touched a nerve by being pushed into insinuating that there’s only one right place and time that’s best.
    All of us stand on a temple of knowledge built by many who went before.
    I also think that the reason Western civilization became so prominent was because we had a simple alphabet, and developed the movable type printing press. This allowed knowledge to be stored, reused, and built upon. If you could easily find, read, and absorb information, you didn’t have to spend many years at the foot of a teacher who might impart biases and opinions rather than facts. The working lives of the common farmer and laborer in 1400 CE probably differed little from that of 700 CE or 700 BCE, but compared to today? The abundance of books has caused an explosion of knowledge that has changed most of the world. Western Europe was lucky, and used and propagated the knowledge of others to advance their own interests.

  47. The Beer

    BA: Great Picture!! I didn’t see it before I Emlargened and I’m gald for that. I think its the first picture I’ve enlarged on you site and really thought it was fully worth it. Not to put down previous pictures.. just that I didn’t think them much more impressive being a little bigger.

    MTU: I think you are trying to paint broad strokes with a small paint brush of facts. You narrow down multiple cultures over thousands of years to one practice?? Condemn or hate the practice but don’t degrade the culture for one thing. Just like I would not condemn the Roman culture for lack of caring for a human life outside of a Roman’s life. Or that the Roman culture, while they thought it was immoral to start a war, would do everything to provoke another country just for the excuse.

    With regards to the “science”, the scientific method may be the best method but it was not the only one back then. China apparently invented gunpowder and a device to predict earthquakes! And paper I think. ALSO… considering that North America was ENTERED only 10,000 years ago, I thikn South Americans can be given a little leeway (and credit) for their level of development up to that time. These were not simple societies.. I think they deserve to be looked at with wider eyes.

  48. Jess Tauber

    No time to be the Glee Club cheerleader for the Home Team.

  49. @ PhilB:

    I tend to agree with your assessment of the alphabet, although I think “luck” did play a greater part in European success. We can’t discount the fact that European “enlightenment” and industrialization was made fruitful by the exploitation (no moral meaning implied) of what was, for the most part, a virgin pair of continents with all their resources intact.

    Had China followed up on the voyages of Admiral Zheng, history might have turned out a little differently.

    @ Beer:

    The Chinese did invent paper, however that earthquake machine didn’t actually predict them, it just recorded the general direction from which they originated, measured with small iron beads dropping out of an urn decorated with dragon heads.

    And yes, that IS a great picture. M. Guisard has done it again.

  50. Keith Bowden

    Breathtaking. His work is always phenomenal.

    “The Mayan skies painting a colour creation up above.
    I can see red, green and yellow the colours of Mayan skies.”

    Re: the Mayan temples.
    Do we build anything with the intent of making it last these days?

  51. john

    i wonder if the AVERAGE common ancient mayan man or woman knew about the stars-planets as the AVERAGE common man-woman today? i wonder if he-she just waited till the priests told them, “go ! corn planting time !”

    the average common modern mayan man-woman doesn’t know much about astronomy today

  52. Carlos

    @Messier

    Central America is a subset of North America that starts at Guatemala and Belize and is defined by political borders. Mexico never ever considers itself part of Central America. Meso America (or Middle America) covers the southern half of Mexico and portions of Central America. It is defined primarily by cultural boundaries based on similar pre-Hispanic cultures (Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayas, etc).

    Your assertion that Western Culture dominated the Mayas is incorrect. Most Mayan cities were abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in the New World. At the time of the Conquest, the predominant group were the Aztecs, which by the way had lost many of the scientific and mathematical accomplishments of the Mayas.

    It is true that the Mayas practiced human sacrifice – but not at the level depicted in most movies. The great majority of sacrifices were prisoners of war. While the sacrifices might have been more institutionalized, I do not consider them significantly more barbaric than the way most European cultures killed, tortured, and enslaved their own prisoners of war in the same time period (250-900AD which is the Mayan civilization peak). And let’s not mention the very high number of deaths related to the slave trade in the English colonies and the early United States. How many Africans perished in the trans-Atlantic voyage. Is locking someone in a filthy ship on a voyage up to six months long really any better than taking their heart out?

    With regard to Roman superiority, it is true than in many areas of science and philosophy the Romans probably reached a higher peak than the Mayas. However, both believed that things like the sun and moon were gods. If I recall, the sun was Apollo in his chariot. I’ll grant you he didn’t need blood sacrifices to keep going, but I would not call it a significantly more advanced interpretation. Fundamentally Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Chinese, and Europeans until Copernicus were just coming up with qualitative or loose geometric ways of explaining the motion of the stars and planets. It wasn’t until Kepler that solid mathematical models finally came out.

    As for Western powers having prevailed over the pre-hispanic cultures in Mesoamerica, that can most certainly not be attributed to higher civilization. The idea of the conquering Spanish was to destroy everything, kill anyone who resisted, enslave the survivors, and convert them to “Christianity” which at the time was far less warm and fuzzy than today. The victory the Spanish over the Aztecs was due to things:
    1) Spanish bringing over Small Pox with them
    2) Aztecs having pissed of enough neighbors that they initially allied with the Spanish, not realizing the new devil was worse than the devil they knew.
    3) The Aztecs erroneous belief that Cortez might have been the returning god Quetzalcoatl – though this is probably been overstated.
    4) The use of metal and gunpowder weapons by the Spanish. Strangely, pre-hispanic cultures never discovered metal working for weapons.

    Of these, I would argue #4 was the only one that showed a “superior” civilization or technology – and it was likely the least impact. #3 could be argued to be related to civilization, though I wonder what would have happened if Genghis Khan had looked like Jesus. #1 and #2 were by far the most significant reasons for the Spanish conquest, and neither had anything to do with civilization or technology.

    I could refute even more, but alas, I need to go home!

  53. …though I wonder what would have happened if Genghis Khan had looked like Jesus.

    Now that’s an idea and a half!

  54. Jess Tauber

    There WERE Native American weapons of metal- like metal mace heads found in archaeological sites. Some used meteoritic iron-nickel. Look, a space connection! Pretty rare, though.

    Depopulation, superstition, fear of loud bangs, vicious war hounds, plant-fiber armor, brittle projectiles and edges- you win. For now.

  55. Déjà vu!
    (You knew I was going to say that. didn’t you.)

    When I saw that image I was reminded of my own humble attempt, some 10 years ago:

    http://faxmentis.org/html/science19a.html

    Added bonus! Mouseover to see the astrological significance.

    …and see why M42 really deserves a new nickname: “Orion’s *******”

    (Just thinking)

  56. Joseph G

    Whoah. Where’d the astronomy go?
    *backs out of the room slowly*

  57. sorrykb

    The rise and fall of civilization, as played out in the comments section.
    Maybe the Mayans were all destroyed in a flame war.
    *sigh*
    Very nice picture, though.

  58. Gunnar

    @Carlos #52

    I would (in agreement with Jared Diamond) add a fifth reason that significantly contributed to the ease of the Spaniards’ conquest of indigenous peoples (especially significant in the case of Pizarro’s conquest of the Incas)–namely their possession of horses and their skill in training and using them for military purposes. I would agree with you, though, that items 1 and 2 on your list were probably the most significant.

    I also strongly suspect kuhnigget @ #50 is right that had the Chinese followed up on the voyages of Admiral Zheng (instead of foolishly deciding that the rest of the world could not possibly have anything of value or benefit to Chinese culture), history might have turned out differently–and more than just a little! Would humankind be less advanced scientifically and technologically now if the Chinese had been the first to systematically explore and exploit new lands and resources as the Europeans eventually did? I doubt it! As I understand it, the Chinese of Admiral Zheng’s time were more advanced technologically and more enlightened in almost every other way than were their European contemporaries.

    I agree with MTU that our Western civilization has accomplished much that is highly laudable and worthwhile, but I also agree that he tends to be too dismissive of the contributions made by other cultures and ancient civilizations. For example: there is good reason to conclude that American principles of representative goverment may have been inspired as much as or more by the examples set by confederations of Native American tribes in what is now New York and New England than by ancient Greek or Roman ideas of democracy. I don’t think that MTU would really disagree, though, that the factors that contributed the European’s eventual dominance of World culture and thought were due at least as much to luck as to any intrinsic merit that Europeans possessed.

    Sorry Phil! I couldn’t resist adding my two bits to the off topic discussion that resulted from MTU’s remarks. I, like the others here, greatly appreciate the beauty and the value of the picture you shared with us!

  59. Whoah. Where’d the astronomy go?
    *backs out of the room slowly*

    The rise and fall of civilization, as played out in the comments section

    Oh, c’mon, people! Since when did a little back and forth become “flame war”? Jeez. Stick around for the good doctor’s next UFO post and watch the fun.

  60. Thameron

    In a couple of millennia artifacts from the visits during our time will still be there on the moon and some of the things we created will be in interstellar space. I’d say we did okay.

  61. Actually, this picture is extra special because the Ancestral Maya held the lower half of Orion to be the heart of creation. The Maya saw the sky as a reflection of a house and the center of a house is the hearth that gives it warmth. When the sky was raised the gods laid out the house, with Rigel, Alnitak, and Saiph the three “hearthstones” and the Orion Nebula the fire of the hearth.

  62. Jamie

    To all you guys debating the Mayans and other cultures and how the west came to dominate, you need to go and read Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. If you’ve read it all ready then it sounds like many of you need to go back and re read it!

  63. mfumbesi

    Great pics, I’m also a big fan of Orion.

  64. ggremlin

    You can almost feel that Indiana Jones and Laura Croft are to the side someway getting ready to dash into the temple and steal, excuse me, rescue the crystal skull before the blinding light from the heavens can work its evil magic. Great picture!

  65. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (18) said:

    Did the Chinese record comets, novae, etc .. sure. Thats a tick in their favour.

    Did they have and invent telescopes for fuurtherstudying such objects and the planets?

    Er .. no.

    Yes, but consider why:

    It’s because they don’t have red grapes.

    Therefore they cannot make red wine.

    Therefore, they never had any incentive to produce transparent colourless glass (IIUC, the glass industry started in Europe and developed the way it did almost exclusively to show off the colour of the wine).

    The ability to make transparent colourless glass, combined with the naval warfare in which European nations excelled, led to the development of lenses.

    Lenses led to the development of telescopes and microscopes.

    Have you never played Sid Meier’s Civilisation? ;-)

    Did they come up with theories to explain how the stars worked, how the solar system was releated to the Erath

    Obviously not, since they did not possess the observing tools to realise that simplistic, intuitive models of the solar system were wrong.

    Us Europeans would never have come up with the inventions and theories we did if it had not been for our obsession with red wine. It’s really not as if some European just said one day “Hmmm, I think I’ll invent a device that lets me see far away things as if they were much closer”. You can’t claim that the Chinese were not “civilised” just because they did not make red wine.

  66. Nigel Depledge

    Tasha (20) said:

    And on a side note, almost all historians that study these pre-Christianity civilizations are finding that they had more knowledge and technology that have only started to spring up in the last 200 years for us…

    This sounds improbable. Any examples?

  67. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (22) said:

    For reasons that should be pretty obvious, really, but have a lot to do with the fact that we buiilt exploration ships and telescopes, they built sacrificial altars and temples. We sailed over to them and they stayed were they were rather than do the same.

    And what did we do with our ships and telescopes? We built empires. And all of those European empires were built on theft and slavery. So who is more civilised?

  68. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (22) said:

    We don’t have slaves or wars of conquest like they – and our historical predeccessors had, frex. Also we treat women as equals and give them control over their bodies in a way few if any previous cultures did. Or contemporary non-Western cultures do too.

    These are all recent developments.

    In the UK, it is less than a century since women were given the vote. And we were among the first nations (definitely not the first) to do this.

    As recently as 1948, citizens in India rebelled against British rule.

    As recently as the 1970s, Britain returned governance of its last few African colonies to the indigenous population.

    Several European nations still have overseas colonies, and the USA joined the club after WWII.

    It was only in the 1960s that laws were introduced to require that medicines be tested before they could be sold.

    As recently as the 1950s, scientists were conducting experiments on human subjects that we now consider abhorrent.

    In short, our modern “civilised” outlook on human rights and so forth are all very recent. Your allusions to the long history of “Western” culture seem to gloss over these facts, so that it looks like you are cherry-picking to make western culture seem better than it really was.

    Yes, now we have ethics and equal rights (in theory at least – though in the UK, women still get paid less on average than men in the same job roles) and many other good things. But we have many of these only because our parents’ generation fought for them.

    Western culture has nothing intrinsic about it that makes it especially better than any other – it is the way it is largely through a series of coincidences.

  69. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (25) said:

    Am I the only one here to have any sense of pride in Western civilisation and how far we’ve progressed and how we’ve advanced and suceeded in making more things better for more people? Stillroom toimprove sure, but better.

    Of course not, and is is disingenuous of you to suggest otherwise.

    As a British citizen, I am immensely proud of Britain’s role in creating the world in which we live today.

    Unlike you, however, I am not blind to the less-than-savoury exploits that helped achieve all those things. Do you think I should, for example, be proud of the practice of deporting criminals from England to Oz? Or of running sugar plantations in the West Indies using slave labour?

    Although England has one of the oldest parliaments in the world (not the oldest – that is on the Isle of Man), it was not until some time in the 19th century that working-class men were permitted to vote. And women – irrespective of their social standing – did not get to vote until the 20th century. While I am proud of some aspects of this, there are some things that are truly shameful.

    The same can be said of other achievements. For example, I think USAians should be very proud of the Apollo programme. But they should be ashamed of much of what they did in Vietnam. Although, to be fair, the situation Vietnam found itself in almost certainly arose from European colonialism (of two largely different kinds) in the first place.

    Why do so many on the political Left seem to hate or at best de-value their own culture, their own historic accomplishments so much? That baffles me, it really does.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to brand someone as “leftist” because they acknowledge flaws in their country’s history and culture. Even if I were on the political left (I actually consider myself to be somewhere in the middle), I would still be proud of many historic achievements made in and by England. But I would still be ashamed of some of the things that my antecedents did in the achieving of those things.

  70. Nigel Depledge

    Justin B (30) said:

    Do we know if these photos are the pure photos and not enhanced by Photoshop or another editing program? I’m definitely not trying to say anything about the photo above as its beautiful, but just curious. Maybe its the camera and how it takes night photos but the trees and some stars seem enhanced.

    OK, there are several possibilities here…

    1. It could simply be a shortish (say 1 – 2 sec) exposure using a very high ISO setting (such as ISO6400, for instance). Modern DSLR cameras return extraordinarily good results at high ISO settings, to the extent that they are in no way comparable to the ISO ratings of film photography.

    2. It could be a combination of one long exposure using a camera on an equatorial tracking mount, to get plenty of light from the stars, and one static exposure to get the foreground objects sharply in the shot.

    3. It could be a combination of 2 – 5 shortish shots taken at very different settings (e.g. from a 1-sec exposure at ISO 6400 to a 0.1-sec exposure at ISO 200) that have been combined using HDR (high dynamic range) processing. I can’t rule this out but I feel this is unlikely, because much of the foreground is dark, and one would expect HDR to bring up more foreground detail.

  71. Michel

    I can´t stand those people who say that it was all about UFOnauts.
    They so underestimate (wo)mens will and capabilitty.
    NOOOOO “we never could have done something so clever without help”
    So.
    Dear Dr.Phil
    Tell me what alien helped you with that Hubble scope?
    (And who was quilty of of missreading the alien blueprint that made it near sighted).

    [/I want to know]

    But now I have a serious question.
    Here it comes.

    One of my customers in my cibercafe is a German (please leave roots out of it) that makes horoscopes. He comes in, starts some page, put in some “very important” data into the page, prints it out.

    So he pays for the time used and his prints and makes (I´m sure) more money out of that than I make for his online time.

    My problem is that any penny that comes in is money in my bank.
    My other problem is that I need every penny (it´s a bloody crisis here).

    How can I make him dissapear? You must know of ways…

  72. Nigel Depledge

    Akash Kumar Sharma (38) said:

    even sweeping the road beautifully is science as , if it is done with care and dedication, helps establish a cleaner environment for the living beings . A bad sweeper can cause greater mess and thus disease. so, even sweeping needs thought of where and how to sweep and THAT IS SCIENCE. Why do u try to limit science to the realms of a few disciplines ?

    Erm … where to begin?

    Sweeping the road is not science, unless it increases our collective understanding of the universe.

    Science is a process whereby we (by which I mean all humans) increase our understanding of how and why the universe is the way it is. Science is the testing of ideas against reality (in the form of observation and experiment) and the development of those ideas through reasoned processes.

    What you describe is something else.

    “Science” is not the word you were looking for.

  73. Nigel Depledge

    KC (40) said:

    Ugh…youse guys take a beautiful picture of the night sky and turn it into a flame war over West vs. East. So much for our advanced western civilization….

    Flame war?

    Sheesh, where have you been hiding, that you think this polite squabble is a flame war?

  74. Nigel Depledge

    Phil B (47) said:

    Messier has touched a nerve by being pushed into insinuating that there’s only one right place and time that’s best.

    No, he’s touched a nerve by stating outright that various ancient civilisations (such as Arabs, Chinese, Mayans and others) were not civilised because of certain practices they employed, or because they failed to end up developing the dominant lifestyle in the world today.

    At the same time as he cites our wonderful western history and traditions, he glosses over the many less savoury aspects of the development of western civilisation, and he calls anyone a lefty who points out that our civilisation was built through being uncivilised towards other peoples.

    . . .I also think that the reason Western civilization became so prominent was because we had a simple alphabet, and developed the movable type printing press. This allowed knowledge to be stored, reused, and built upon.

    I agree that this helped immensely.

    However, I think that a more important development was the cannon and the ship to carry it.

    There is a reason that “gunboat diplomacy” has a place in the modern lexicon.

    … The working lives of the common farmer and laborer in 1400 CE probably differed little from that of 700 CE or 700 BCE, but compared to today?

    I’m not so sure about this, but I do accept that the changes that have occurred over the last 200 years are far greater than any changes that happened over any preceding chunk of 200 years.

    The abundance of books has caused an explosion of knowledge that has changed most of the world. Western Europe was lucky, and used and propagated the knowledge of others to advance their own interests.

    (My bolding)

    Oh, yes, indeedy!

  75. The Beer

    kuhnigget: Thanks for the correction

    Something I forgot to mention in my last post.. I read history all the time and I still get caught up in not appreciating the sophistication of people long ago. And that they are exactly (though a little shorter) like us today. They are just in different circumstances. For example, I’ve been listening to a podcast going over Roman history, and I’ve come to realize that in man’s last 2,000 years..Politics has not really changed! They had the same strategies, concerns, and results as politicians do today. Now take that concept to science, and imagine trying to figure out the sky and be able to predict patterns out 1,000 years without a calculator! Genius!

  76. Carlos

    I still think the Rebels are hiding somewhere in that picture. I keep looking for an X-wing, but can’t seem to find one.

  77. AR

    Wonderful photos! They’re all very beautiful.

    Can someone explain the one entitled “Northern Pole rotation above Temple 1 and Temple 2″? Was it photoshopped to get the streaky stars or was the photo taken some special way to achieve this? (I’ve snooped around the site, and Googled the effect, and can’t figure it out.)

  78. Nigel Depledge

    Keith Bowden (51) said:

    Do we build anything with the intent of making it last these days?

    Erm … yes.
    http [colon slash slash] en [dot] wikipedia.org/wiki/Millau_Viaduct

  79. Nigel Depledge

    Jess Tauber (55) said:

    There WERE Native American weapons of metal- like metal mace heads found in archaeological sites. Some used meteoritic iron-nickel. Look, a space connection! Pretty rare, though.

    Maybe readily-accessible metal ores were pretty rare in that part of the world? If so, metallurgy would never have developed the way it did in Europe.

  80. Nigel Depledge

    AR (78) said:

    Can someone explain the one entitled “Northern Pole rotation above Temple 1 and Temple 2″? Was it photoshopped to get the streaky stars or was the photo taken some special way to achieve this? (I’ve snooped around the site, and Googled the effect, and can’t figure it out.)

    Gosh, I am genuinely surprised that a visitor to an astronomy blog cannot figure this out.

    You know how the Earth rotates about its axis? It makes one complete rotation in 24 hours (near enough). That’s 360° in 24 hours, or 15° per hour. This results in the apparent motion of stars across the sky each night. They appear to rise and set rather like the sun and moon, because of Earth’s rotation.

    But there is one point in each of the northern and southern skies that stays in the same place throughout the night, because it is directly above one of Earth’s poles. These are termed the celestial north and south poles. In the northern sky, there happens to be a star that is visible to the naked eye and is really very, very close to the celestial north pole. Hence its name, Polaris.

    Now, the photograph:
    If you take a long-exposure photo of something that is moving, it appears on the picture as a blur. If the object is small and is moving in a straight line, the blur will form a straight line; likewise, if the object is moving in a curve, the blur on the photo will be in the shape of that curve.

    So, it looks to me as if the photographer simply put a wide-ish-angle lens on the camera, mounted the camera on a tripod, pointed it at the celestial north pole and then opened the shutter for about an hour (more technically, it was probably stopped down to a very narrow aperture and set at a low ISO setting to be able to capture the photograph without everything being overloaded with light – an hour is a very long photographic exposure). I guess it to be an hour because of the size of the star trails (they look to me to be roughly 15° in extent).

    The foreground (i.e. objects on the ground like trees and buildings and so on) is pin-sharp because it all stayed in exactly the same position relative to the camera while the shutter was open.

    Exactly the same effect can be achieved with a film camera – no need for Photoshopping.

    I hope this explains the effect.

    You can do the same thing yourself – all you need is a camera on which you can set the exposure time and a tripod. If you go to a dark site on a clear night and take a 60-second exposure of the sky, the Earth rotates by 0.25° during the time the shutter is open, and this is enough that the stars and planets in your field of view will be a little bit streaked out.

    Of course, it is possible that a more elaborate set-up and some post-processing were used. For example, my camera is limited to a maximum exposure time of 60 seconds (I cannot make it take longer pics than this) so to achieve the same effect I would need to take many shots and then use software to “stack” them together (but, actually, I would get star trails with gaps in them because of the time it takes the camera to write each 60-second image onto the memory card).

  81. @ AR #78

    The effect you are referring to is achieved by taking a longish exposure of the stars with a locked-off camera aimed directly at the celestial pole. While the camera lens is open, the earth’s rotation makes the stars appear to spin around the pole, thus leaving a small streak. (Notice the “north star”, Polaris, isn’t quite centered on the pole, thus it makes a tiny arc, too.) Theoretically, if you could leave the lens open 24 hours, you’d get complete circles concentrically arranged around the pole. The temples and landscape aren’t moving, obviously, so during the long exposure they appear as they do to the naked eye.

  82. Oops. Nigel of the smokin’ fingertips beat me too it.

  83. chris j.

    Nigel, that’s exactly why Justin B. and i are having such a hard time classifying the picture as a “photograph.” to get that many stars, the camera should have been tracking, which should have made the foreground blurry/streaked.

  84. @ Chris #84:

    Guisard does not hide his photoshopping, however, he doesn’t make composites of skies and terrain from different sights and times.

    From what I understand, star backgrounds are composited from a series (upwards of thirty or more for some of his shots) of individual shots, stacked in order to build up the brightness of individual stars. The exposures themselves are fairly short. Note that in this shot the clouds moved slightly as he was snapping the sky over several frames, so they can’t help but be fuzzed up a bit.

    The landscape elements are captured in a separate exposure then layered on top of the stacked star background. I’m assuming he has to do some kind of mask to keep the edges of the foreground sharp, but I dunno what technique he uses. Prolly just uses the same foreground image, with the density boosted way up as a matte layer between the foreground and background, but that’s just a guess.

  85. AR

    Nigel and Kuhnigget:

    Yeesh. Do I feel like dope now!

    I may be a visitor to an astronomy blog — a semi-regular one, even! — but I’ve nothing but a very amateurish interest in it. I think astronomy’s neat, and I learn something new every time I visit, but I’ve got little to no background in it. Ditto photography. As much as possible, I try to resolve my ignorance via Google rather than by asking commenters here for the basics. Google just didn’t help this time.

    I had gotten as far as figuring out that there was a stable point at the center, as well as why (more or less). I assumed, though, that if the shutter had been open for any length of time, the foreground couldn’t possibly have been as clear as it is. That’s why I assumed it had involved something else.

    Thanks very much, by the way, for taking the time to give such a detailed explanation. Like I said, I learn something every time. :)

  86. AR

    Er… “A dope”, that is. I don’t really feel like dope.

  87. MrBrown

    @ Kuhnigget:

    I think you’re pretty spot on with your assessment of how he put the photo together. However, and I could be wrong here, my guess is that the photo of the starfield background was taken somewhere different where there was open sky. He couldn’t have taken multiple exposures of the starfield through the trees because stacking the images would’ve caused the foreground to blur and would have been a nightmare to mask out (if you know what I mean!?).

    It’s a stunning image, but I wander why, if he went to all the trouble of taking multiple exposures of the starfield and stacking them and then masking/superimposing the foreground…why didn’t he do something about all that noise in the foreground image? Plenty of software out there to remove noise.

    I’d love to know exactly what his processes were for this particular shot…

  88. Jeff

    “Over the years, I’ve seen some people belittle ancient cultures as being stupid — a ridiculous idea, since we know many had a sophisticated grip on observational astronomy, and to be brutally honest many ancient peoples probably understood the motions and cycles of the night sky better than the vast majority of people alive today. ”

    Absolutely, they had no artificial lights to block the night sky and lived in tune with nature. They absolutely did understand nature than the average civilized person today. We have a lot of electronic gadgets today, but we are cut off from nature, at least some of us trapped in cities are.

  89. Joseph G

    @kuhnigget: Of course I was joking (a little) about running off, but it’s definitely not a typical BA thread, you’ve gotta admit. I do love arguing politics at times – sometimes a bit too much… Which is why I thought I should leave. Don’t even get me started on mid-east politics. Seriously, don’t. :P

  90. @ Joseph G:

    So how ’bout that Shuraya Party in Lebanon? Talk about your retro-politics.

    //snort

  91. >>I’ve seen some people belittle ancient cultures as being stupid <<

    And this is why the belief that such things as pyramids must have been built by aliens keeps cropping up again and again.

  92. Joseph G

    @kuhnigget: *snerk*
    Next on BA, Assyrian nationalists get royally pissed as Phil debunks Chaldean astrology :P

  93. sHx

    @53 Carlos

    “As for Western powers having prevailed over the pre-hispanic cultures in Mesoamerica, that can most certainly not be attributed to higher civilization.”

    Oh, no! It can most certainly be attributed to that.

    It was the Spanish who built ships, instruments and navigation skills (all signs of higher civilisation) that enabled them to sail far and wide for fresh pastures. It was the Spanish that discovered and conquered Americas, not the other way round.

    “4) The use of metal and gunpowder weapons by the Spanish. Strangely, pre-hispanic cultures never discovered metal working for weapons.”

    Nothing strange about it at all. The Spanish benefited from a science that had been practiced for thousands of years. It was called Alchemy.

    As for the Smallpox, the internal conflict in Americas and the likeness of Cortez to a deity, well, these are hardly relevant matters to the level of civilisation, are they not?

  94. surge

    Messier sure has some tidying up to do before posting those much ado about his/her sacred civilization. The western wars, killings, lootings, deceptions and enslavements will be considered ‘barbaric’ by a later civilization that finds out about it. So let’s drop it and enjoy a good picture and appreciate the knowledge and interpretations the developing ancient civilizations made with a lot less resources and more imagination. Some ego centric like you in a later society, equipped with better technology might find what you know as science and astronomy laughable.
    That’s why they say (or they should) – don’t drink and post

  95. Nigel Depledge

    Chris J (84) said:

    Nigel, that’s exactly why Justin B. and i are having such a hard time classifying the picture as a “photograph.” to get that many stars, the camera should have been tracking, which should have made the foreground blurry/streaked.

    I’m guessing this is a reply to my comment #71.

    I did mention the possibility that it was a combination of two shots composited together, one being a tracked shot to get bright stars and the other being a static shot to get a sharp, crisp image of the building.

    However, consider this: at a truly dark site, the starry sky will be far, far brighter than objects on the ground such as trees and buildings. If the only light available is from the stars, then the stars will inevitably be much brighter in relation to everything else in the shot. So, if you have a camera that is adequately sensitive to dim light, this could be just a single shot.

    Going into detail:

    To get a nice image of stars that are too dim to be naked-eye-visible, you need one of two things –
    Either (a) a long exposure time using a “normal” ISO setting;
    Or (b) a camera equipped with a sensor that is far more sensitive to light than is the human eye.

    If you use option (a), you will need to track the stars to avoid them streaking out, in the which case the building would be blurred.

    Thus, option (b) is the best one, and high-end modern DSLRs can give really, really great shots in seriously dim lighting conditions. I do not know what the maximum available ISO setting is on a modern DSLR, but I know someone whose camera goes up to at least ISO6400 and still takes very nice shots at that sensitivity setting.

    A year or two ago, the BBC made a new wildlife documentary featuring David Attenborough, and there was one sequence where they were filming the mating ritual of a bird or paradise that had never before been filmed. The commentary included information about the reason it had never been filmed before – film and video cameras were simply not sensitive enough to capture anything in the darkness of the dense rain forest where this bird lives. It took a modern, highly-sensitive digital camera to get footage of the birds.

    Now, I suspect that the camera the BBC used would have been hideously expensive, but bear in mind that it was broadcast-quality footage they were taking in extremely poor light. A high-quality, high-sensitivity still camera sensor for astrophotography could be in the region of a few thousand dollars, but that is not beyond the means of a keen photographer. And that is assuming that the original sensor with which the camera was equipped would not be up to the task of taking this photo – which is something of which I am not convinced.

    So, unless we have a reason to doubt that the photographer possesses a suitably sensitive sensor in his camera, the simpler explanation for the pic is that it was taken as a short exposure (well, short for an astrophotograph – I think you might be able to get away with perhaps a 10- or 15- second exposure for this kind of image without star streaking ruining the shot) using a wide aperture and a very, very high ISO setting.

  96. Nigel Depledge

    D’oh!

    I just now read Kuhnigget’s (85) follow-up to Chris (84) – and Kuhnigget actually went to the fellow’s website and read how he took the shot.

    Now I feel foolish for speculating without reading all the comments.

  97. Nigel Depledge

    sHx (94) said:

    It was the Spanish who built ships, instruments and navigation skills (all signs of higher civilisation)

    No, they are signs of higher technology. Higher tech is not necessarily more civilised. The Romans, for example, had several technologies that their Greek predecessors did not, yet I can envisage several arguments that the ancient Greeks were more civilised than the Romans.

    that enabled them to sail far and wide for fresh pastures. It was the Spanish that discovered and conquered Americas, not the other way round.

    Proving only that the Spaniards saw an opportunity and exploited it. They conquered the Americas through a variety of means (the unwitting introduction of smallpox being one of them, their higher technology being another) but that does not tell us anything about how civilised they were.

  98. Nigel Depledge

    sHx(94) said:

    As for the Smallpox, the internal conflict in Americas and the likeness of Cortez to a deity, well, these are hardly relevant matters to the level of civilisation, are they not?

    True, but they are relevant to the conquest of the Americas. And the conquest of the Americas is not relevant to the “level” of civilisation of either culture.

  99. I think some folks are misinterpreting what I said and reading too much into it. :-(

    I ask that folks here please re-read what I actually wrote rather than what they think I wrote.

    I do not mean to “belittle” other cultures any more than it is “belittling” to point out at the Olympic games that an athlete who got the silver or bronze medal didn’t get the gold medal.

    I think we tend nowadays – especially in certain trendy circles – to overly venerate and consider overly *special* and excessively “sacred” the notion of “culture” & use “cultural tradition” as an excuse for letting some groups get away with what is otherwise ethically, politically even scientifically unacceptable.

    What is culture anyway?

    Culture is, in essence, a particular set of *ideas* and other things (Culinary, artistic, clothing styles, etc ..) that a particular nation or ethnic or tribal group has.

    All people are human beings natch with all the usual good and bad aspects that Human nature always brings. All people, all human individuals have potential for good and evil & have the same inalienable human rights. We all bleed, laugh, love, cry, desire, hope and fear. People are people whatver their culture, colour or creed.

    Now *ideas*, OTOH, we know can be right or wrong, harmless or harmful.

    Cultures are just *ideas* of a certain type as are ideologies like Communism, Islam, Mayan-ism, Capitalism and so on.

    Some cultural idea-sets can be good & right – like the ideas of fredom of expression, people’s right to life, liberty & pursuit of happiness. (The Western ideal in a nutshell, IMHON)

    Others such as the Islamic cultural tradition of making women second class citizens that must be veiled, cannot be allowed to drive or do anything without male orders and control and get “Honour-killed” at the slightest even imaginary infraction are harmful and cruel and well, just plain wrong.

    Just as it is NOT equally true to say the idea that is “3 + 2 = 5″ is the same as & as correct & useful and good as “3 + 2 = 0″ or “3 + 2 = 7″ so it is with the idea that “Western culture” is the same as & equally good or bad as the “Mayan culture” or “Islamic culture.”

    Just as Einstein’s Relativity incomplete and nOt the Theory of Everything that was desired is the best approximation we have yet to scientific Truth so is Western civilisation to cultural truth – in my view natch.

    I know that’s a bit of a simplification for the sake of the analogy but I think it is, in ultimate distillate, true.

    I think its time we looked critically and without undue veneration at the whole notion of “culture.”

    Traditional cultures, in my view, suck. They lost out out for reasons – good ones – tha they have a tendency to be cruel, unfair, superstitious, unfounded, and generally messed up.

    Sure, they have their occassional good and neutrla aspects too – cultural dress for example can be distinctiev and cultural cusinses are fine and add beneficial and positive diversity but some cultural philosophies eg. Mayan human sacrifice, Muslim jihads, fatwahs and worship of homicide-suicide bombers and ingrained Judaeophobia (anti-Semitism in oldspeak) are *really* nasty and deserve to be challenged,and rejected by the modern world.

    All cultures are NOT equal. Cultural Relativism is humbug, nonsense, tripe and garbage.

    Western civilisation gets the gold medal (so far) in the “culture race” just as the USA gets the gold medal in the space race with Russia ( or the USSR for most of that time) doing well early and ending up witha hard-won silver medal but a silver nonetheless.

    Yes the West has improved greatly over time, is still improving and needs to improve further. No skinm colour has nothing todo with it, I’m talig philosphie sand ideas NOT anything remotely racial. :roll:

  100. That’s :

    No skin colour has nothing to do with it, I’m talking philosphies and ideas NOT anything remotely racial.

    Natch.

    Sorry about uncorrected typos ,etc .., am trying to put things as best I can here & will freely admit I’m not an expert in this field just giving my opinion for whatever its worth.

    A few folks have mentioned Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs & Steel” – that’s on my to-read list. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to it yet but I mean to one day. So many good books, so precious little time to read them all. :-(

    I intend to respond more and answer some specific comments later. Wish I had time to do so now but .. must .. get ..sleep ..work .. tomorrow.

  101. Messier Tidy Upper

    Or, in a nutshell :

    There is much that is admirable & good about other cultures and what they’ve accomplished but there’s nothing quite equal to our culture and what we’ve suceeded in achieving.

    I’ll pit the inventions, the successes, the ideals, the essential goodness and benefits our Western civilisation offers the world against all-comers & all rivals and I think it wins hands-down. ;-)

    I’ll add that I think this due in no small part that’s due to our unfetterness and our Science.

    No other culture in global history has come up with Science as we have.

    Or liberty and equality of opportunity, choice and freedom as we have.

    Are we fortunate to be born Westerners, or to choose to adopt Western values by immigration as so many have? (Immmigrated from less ideal cultures too I may add.)

    *By Jove, yes!* 8)

  102. Tasha

    @ Messier Tidy Upper

    My point is, is that you look down on the Mayan culture because of one aspect: human sacrifice which really isn’t that bug a deal in the big aspect of ALL of human history. The Roman’s even performed animal sacrifice the Mayan’s thought that humans were more special and that their God’s deserved more so that they could survive. The Roman’s killed for pleasure, it’s a difference between a serious ritual because they believed it was the way to survive and laughing as someone’s being tortured to death. Torture in the Medieval ages and Renaissance involved boiling to death, frying to death, being put over a smokeless fire in and burned to death starting with the genitals, stretched to death, the punishment for treason in England was drawn and quartered, they would be dragged to their hanging, hung until almost dead, taken down and had their genitals cut off, his guts cut out and watched burned with his eyes and then his organs would be cut out and then his body quartered, and this was a punishment that was still in place 250 years ago. This is better than human sacrifice?

    @ Nigel Depledge:

    The Harappan civilization had a plumbing system so sophisticated it has only been matched in the last 150 years. Them and the society of Catal Huyuk also seems to have no definable social cast, meaning equality amongst ALL the people something not even seen today with discrimination against different social castes. Catal Huyuk also had indoor plastering on their walls. The Egyptians and even earlier the Grooved Ware People (the creators of the Northwest European Megaliths) had a system of moving big stones that we STILL can’t figure out how it was done. The ancient Mayans had a number system that is far more efficient than our own. These are just the examples I can think of at the top of my head, I’m really tired.

  103. Tasha

    also: @ Messier Tidy Upper

    We are humans as a collective, we reached where we are today as input from everyone, throughout everyone’s history, why not think our accomplishments as being Western, but human accomplishments?

    and @ Nigel Depledge #73

    science is defined by: “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation”. By that definition, sweeping IS science due to many factors, one main one being that in order for us to sweep we need the ability of opposing thumbs which is important in our history of evolution is important in anthropology. The cognitive ability to know when to sweep and why is psychological. The maximum way to sweep and get the most with the least amount of effort is physics. The bodily processes we go through to make that active movement is biology, etc, etc.

  104. DrFlimmer

    @ #101 Messier Tidy Upper

    Actually, mostly I agree with what you wrote in that post. Good for you!

    The main problem that I have with “us” is that we have great values, but from time to time we don’t show them. The recent wars have proved, again, that we don’t hold on to them all the time. And that is a very bad example (too bad that human beings like nitpicking!). Because, to show everyone else, that our values are better, we have to show it all the time. This may be hard, but it is inevitable to do so.
    To stress this point once more: We could behave properly (that is to say according to our values) all the time except one moment. And then your opponents come and say: “See, we knew it, you are not a s good as you pretend!” What to answer?

    We have great values, I totally agree on that — but we also give really bad examples!

  105. The Beer

    @ Messier:

    People may be misunderstanding you (or maybe you are not correctly expressing yourself maybe?? Possibly??). But I re-read what you wrote as you asked and it is still what I thought you wrote:

    “Sorry if this offends anyone but I’m glad their culture and society lost out and our Western civilisation won. ”

    To me, that is a blanket statement with very little substance (only because of the human sacrifices….maybe because they didn’t develop science yet.). And while the culture may be a shell of its former self, I think they are not entirely gone. I would hate to be one of them and have read your post. Its not any different then if I said the same thing talking about Onieda’s (tribe), Navaho, or some other indian tribe that ‘lost’.

    But I think you also have to consider the context that you made the statement. It was completely OUT of context to the thread (even though it was the first 10). I think if there was any relevance to this thread when you stated it, you might not have gotten so many responses to your post.

    I hate to post out of context myself but I really think was you stated was wrong and you don’t see or understand anything bad about what you stated.

  106. Get real people, all of you! The article was presenting photos of the Orion Star cluster and not a discussion of history as all have presented from their own perspective with the exception of a very few. If you want to debate these things, do so in another forum.. NOT HERE!!! Just enjoy what this photographer has done and presented for all of us. Thank you Stéphane.

  107. All bow before Wayne, eh? The Great Gatekeeper of all things Badastronomical!

  108. This stunning image of Orion above the Tikal temple pyramid brings to mind the ancient Maya traditional origin narration. In this story the primordial fireplace which was established just before the creation of the Universe was prepared through the use of a tripod made with three stones in the sky. This tripod created a triangle of stars inside which the creator deities lit the first fire. The stars are Alnitak, Rigel and Seiph. These three stars form a triangle within which lies the Orion Nebula. This dark region with its dimly sparkling bits of light presented to the ancient Mayas the smoky embers of the dying primordial fire.

  109. Hello everybody,

    I am happy you like my pictures.

    I have read quickly through the posts, though not extensively, and saw there were many questions about “how did he take this picture ?”.

    Just a few things :

    -All the other pictures are “one shot”. I do not compose pictures of a foreground with different background, that is not “ethical” to me. Northern pole rotation is a composition of many of these to get the start trail length; but all the other ones are actually unique single shots.
    -for the skeptical, you can recognize most of these shots in the following time lapse movie (which means that these single shots were not even taken in RAW mode but only jpeg :0 !

    http://astrosurf.com/sguisard/Pagim/P112-P126.html

    I am using a Canon5d MarkII camera and the 14 ane 24 mm lens from Canon at f2.8. ISO was high (3200-4000) and exp time short enough not too make too long trail in individual exposures (=between 15 and 30sec). Monuments are lit bu the Moon light.

    Those having more technical questions, can find my email address at the bottom og my website :
    http://www.astrosurf.com/sguisard
    I do not have time to answer very quickly but do try to always answer.

    Best regards,

    Stéphane

  110. Et violà! De la bouche du maître!

    Merci buttercups, Stéphane!

  111. Thank you Stéphane. As for “kuhnigget”, you really understand what I said don’t you?! Thanks for your input. Nobody bows to anyone do they? If they do, then something is wrong… All I ask is keep to the subject matter. What a thought EH!

  112. @ Wayne:

    Oh-kay!

    Thankfully, the good doctor is rather tolerant of free-flowing commentary. And since it’s his blog….

    And you’re saying you wouldn’t bow to HRH Queen Liz? Tch tch! Bad Canadian Wayne! No OBE for you.

  113. “kuhnigget” enough said.

  114. Haw haw!

    Prolly a French Canadian…. :P

  115. vesey

    Reading all of the argumentative cultural posts, four things always end up happening if someone promotes or defends Western culture. (a) they get accused of racism (b) they get accused of ethno or Euro centrism, (c) any conquests by Europeans were based on racism while no suggestion is ever made that possibly the conquests by other races could have been racist and (d) Israel for some reason always gets trashed and it’s history denied or called into question……..nice pictures though !!!

  116. |Melvin

    |I am proud! I am white Mayan from Guatemala! Hooray Guatemala.

  117. A13jo

    tikal travel to next year at 20/12/12, obviously nothing will happen as speculated, but I want to be on that day with my telescope observing the heavens of my beloved Guatemala imagine being hundreds of years fall behind.

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