Tabby’s star

I rather like it when scientists come up against something they can’t understand.  Tabby’s star is one such conundrum.  Its behaviour is – pun intended – out of this world.

One of the ways in which astronomers search for exoplanets is to see if the brightness of a star dips as a planet moves in front of it.  Such dips are quite small and quite regular, matching the orbit and size of the exoplanet. Except for Tabby’s star. Hundreds of exoplanets have been discovered by this method, and they all display the nice regularity I’ve described.  Except for Tabby’s star.

It’s light dips massively above the 1% a Jupiter sized planet moving in front of it would cause; as much as 15% and 22% have been recorded. The equivalent of something massive enough to obscure half of the surface area of the star. And when it does brightens again, that too is not as expected. Instead of the dip and the rise being the same shape, as current theory says it should, they do not match.  Furthermore, even the occurrence of these dips is irregular and difficult to explain.  Finally, to add to the mystery, apparently, Tabby’s star has been getting progressively dimmer over the last 100 years or so, (the star was first observed in 1890).

The name “Tabby’s Star” or “Boyajian’s Star” refer to the initial study’s lead author, Tabetha S. Boyajian. The star’s proper nomenclature is  KIC 8462852.  It didn’t show up in a computer led search for exoplanets and was found by good old fashioned humans.  These same humans have come up with many explanations for the behaviour of the star, including of course, aliens at work.  But currently, there are no explanations that fit the observations.  Although there are a lot of astronomers working on the puzzle and trying to come up with said explanations.  Just google “Tabby’s star” and see.

Which I rather like! One little pointer to the fact that we still have a lot to learn about this Universe that we live in!!

Begin it now.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment that one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  Begin it now.

Attributed to Goethe.

A face that still haunts me

It didn’t even warrant the title “stream”, trickle was a more apt description for the small outflow of water running over a few rocks and surrounded by a mantle of mud. I trod warily, trying to avoid the soft, sticky mire, distracted also by the number of items hanging from the trees surrounding the water. I found myself constantly looking up into their branches, which were hung with a panoply of teddy bears, ribbons of all descriptions, and a host of small trinkets and mirrors that glittered as they spun in the breeze and caught the sunlight.

earth-face
The mystery face.

So it was an unexpected discovery. There at the source of the spring, was a face. It stopped me in my tracks, and for a moment I wondered if I was really alone, the face seemed to have been so recently created.  As I looked harder, I saw the two green leaves that represented tears and felt the pain that seemed to emanate from it. I wondered who had created it, and what it meant to them, and I hoped that it represented a turning point, a transition that led to light and love. I stood there for a long time, feeling the mystery of the face, wondering about its creator, caught also by the ancient spirit of my surroundings, a place that felt outside of time. Of my time anyway.

I returned to that place a few times during the week that I spent holidaying nearby. I learnt that it was a place of healing, with a history that went back thousands of years, before Roman feet walked the land, and that somehow, the knowledge of its power had not been lost, and some still visited it.

On my visits, I never did see anyone else at this sacred site, although there was always a feeling, a feeling of awareness of a – I have no word for it – a presence.

 

 

 

Cup and Ring markings

I had never heard of them before, until we moved to Yorkshire, near to the famous Ilkley Moor.  There I discovered that just about every rock on the Moors cupandring2was inscribed with cup and ring markings. And more than that, cup and ring markings are to be found in abundance all over of Britain, and to a lesser extent, the world.

They consist of a concave depression, no more than a few centimetres across, pecked into a rock surface and often surrounded by concentric circles also etched into the stone. Sometimes a linear channel called a gutter leads out from the middle.

They first date back to around 6,000 years ago and continued to be carved on stones for cupandring1another 2-3,000 years.

They are perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of ancient times, and yet one of the least known.  Britain has more of these markings than anywhere else, and they are to be found throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

As an example, there are many to be found at Kilmartin Glen.  Amongst the numerous cup and ring markings can be found what can only be described as “rock art”, as well as standing stones, cairns, and from a later age, a hill fort.

But what are they meant to symbolise? Why did ancient peoples spend hours, days probably, making these strange marks on outcrops of rock?  And why did the tradition of making the carvings last so long?

There are no answers; Professor Alex Thom thought that their creators might have used a standard measure in their creation, and there seems to be some evidence for this, but far from conclusive.  And even if there is a standard measure, it does not answer the question, why?

Hillforts

An atlas listing and detailing 4,147 hillforts was released to the public for free on the 22nd June. The atlas gives an exhaustive list of all the known hillforts in Britain, and adds considerably to the previous list of  1,224 hillforts listed in the Wikipedia entry for June 2017. The press release states:

Mostly built during the Iron Age, the oldest hillforts date to around 1,000BC and the most recent to around 700AD. Hillforts were central to more than 1,500 years of ancient living: with numerous functions – some of which are yet to be fully uncovered – hillforts served as communal gathering spaces. The research also shows that, fascinatingly, not all hillforts are on hills; nor are they all forts.

And that is part of the mystery. There are some hillforts, for example, Maiden Castle in Dorset, the biggest hillfort in Europe, that are truly hillforts, not only atop significantly high hills, but with impressive defences, and in the case of Maiden Castle, with clear evidence of attack(s) by the Romans.

Yet there are others that look at first glance as “defended enclosures” to use the archeological term, but are indefensible.  They have a bank and ditch, but arranged in such a way that they offer no impediment to attackers.  Thornborough Henges is one of the most important examples, and is viewed as being part of a ritual landscape, whatever that means!

 

It is, as it is meant to be.

And it is thus.

It was a Retreat.  The mix of lack of sleep, inner contemplation, the challenge of solving/understanding a Koan.  A process anointed by the passage of centuries, a path followed by – perhaps millions? – over the centuries.

And somewhere on my own personal journey on that Retreat I understood something deep, profound, that moved me to tears of joy. An insight, no, deeper than that, an understanding that this IS the way the Universe works.

It is, as it’s meant to be, for better, for worse in our short term view, but as it is meant to be.

I am an Astrologer not an Astronomer

I look to the heavens for meaning, not for science, although I find meaning in the science.

I feel the weight of all of humankind who have also gazed up on a starry night and wondered about the meaning of life, the Universe, and their own destiny.

Were their questions mine?  I suspect so, and what answers did they find?  What knowledge did the Wise Seers amass? The Druids, for example, spent 30 years learning their craft and were renowned in antiquity for their knowledge of the heavens, and before them, came the builders of the Stone Circles which predicted the movement of the Cosmos.