Monday, February 2, 2009

Equinox and Solstice

The pre-Incan indigenous people of Ecuador read the skies. They knew they lived at the center of the earth. I wonder if they knew that the earth is round? How did they predict the solstices and the equinoxes? I had no idea what a solstice or an equinox is...I looked it up on Wikipedia. 'Equinoxes occur twice a year when the tilt of the Earth's axis is oriented neither from nor to the Sun, causing the Sun to be located vertically above a point on the equator. A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is most oriented toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme.' The equinox occurs in March and September and the Solstice every June and December. Why would these primitive people find it useful to make all these measurements? They knew that the Earth was tilted on its axis and they measured the tilt. My question is why?

When I look at the heavens, or if I visit the Planetarium, I am very aware of how small and insignificant I am and how vast and endless the Universe is. I am fearful and then accepting of my very small place in a very large and infinite space.

The sky in the jungle is big and close. The Milky Way shines in the sky and stars are abundant. On rainy days, we could not see the stars, but we were lucky to drift through the lake with our eyes upward. The rain would not let up in the Andes, so we had to imagine the stars and the primitive people who watched them and recorded what they saw. The Quitu-Cara site at Cochasqui had two elaborate calendars, one lunar and one solar, one for festivities and ceremonies and another to help plan for planting and harvesting.

I look at the sky through my window and it is cloudy and rainy and no stars in sight. When the sky is clear, I find myself breathless when I think that the stars I see tonight are the same stars I saw in the Andes and in the jungle and at my sister's house in Tuscany.

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