Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Wednesday, Winter Solstice, 2011
12:34 P.M.

Stonehenge in the snow! Picture taken January 7, 2010, from Reuters.

Since it is the winter solstice, I thought I'd write today's blog post on Stonehenge. As it turns out, Stonehenge was not just built by some strong dumb guys who wanted to prove to the world that they knew what a circle was. Stonehenge has a famous stone, called the "Heel Stone," which was used to find the exact date of the summer solstice. Of course, the people who built Stonehenge knew of the seasons, but by creating Stonehenge and the Heel Stone, they were able to offer visual confirmation of the day of the summer solstice.

Picture Credit: Mystical Realms

The Heel Stone is not in the center of Stonehenge; rather, it is 256 feet away from the "center" of Stonehenge.  Here, it is marked as the "Helestone." It's the same thing. There are also five other "station stones," and while I don't know the exact purpose of these stones, four of them create a rectangle, and the diagonals from each corner meet in the exact center of Stonehenge. The sides of the rectangle also have what English astronomer Gerald Hawkins called "astronomical significance." I'm not going to get into all the other amazing things about Stonehenge in this blog, but be assured that these "station stones" are not just randomly placed.

Picture Credit: Mystical Realms

Let's look at some actual pictures of the Heel Stone! In the simulation below, the Heel Stone is in the left portion of the foreground. Stonehenge and one of the station stones can be seen in the distance.

Now, take a look at this next image. Looking from the center of Stonehenge, the sun is rising directly over the Heel Stone. Isn't that incredible! Again, this image is a computer simulation, but I did find some other good pictures of sunrises over the Heel Stone during the summer solstice.

These other pictures aren't from within the center of Stonehenge, but the people are in the northeast line of sight from the center of Stonehenge to the Heel Stone, so the effect of the sun rising directly over the Heel Stone is preserved.

June 21, 2011. Photo credit:

Look at all those Stonehenge geeks! There are lots of fences around the Heel Stone, it is a pretty special chunk of rock.

Photo credit: Dr. Terence Meaden

The picture above shows the shadow cast by the Heel Stone, and as you can see, the shadow goes directly into the center of Stonehenge and matches perfectly with the simulated picture I showed you earlier!

Weatherwise, the forecast for change is still on track. The models are inconsistent on the details, but we will finally see some more interesting weather move through the Pacific Northwest.

That post took me exactly one hour! Have a nice solstice! The worst has passed. :)


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