Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Archaeoastronomy

Paschal Full Moon and the Astronomy of Easter

The image shown above was last night’s Full Moon called the Paschal Full Moon.

In Christianity, the first astronomical full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox is usually designated as the Paschal Full Moon or the Paschal Term. Traditionally, Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.

Image taken via afocal method (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 on my Galileoscope)

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Happy Summer Solstice!

Diagram showing the different positions of the Earth throughout its elliptical orbit around the Sun

According to PAGASA, Philippine nights are at their shortest and daytimes are at their longest around the Summer solstice, which falls on June 22 at 1:16 A.M. (Philippine Standard Time). This is the time when the Sun attains its greatest declination of +23.5 degrees and passes directly overhead at noon for all observers at latitude 23.5 degrees North, which is known as the Tropic of Cancer.

The Sun rises farthest from the east, sets farthest from the west and reaches its northern limit during the summer solstice. Image credit: Andrew Fazekas

Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun” + “to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Amazed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer (see Shakespeare), St. John’s Day, or the Wiccan Litha.

Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids’ celebration of the day as the “wedding of Heaven and Earth”, resulting in the present day belief of a “lucky” wedding in June.

Today, the day is still celebrated around the world – most notably in England at Stonehenge and Avebury, where thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, 21 June 2005 (image: Wikipedia)

Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, some archaeologists say that its design includes a celestial observatory function, which might have allowed prediction of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events important to a contemporary religion.

As a matter of fact, when one stands within Stonehenge (facing north-east through the entrance towards the Heel stone or Sun stone one sees the sun rise above the stone at summer solstice.


Dr. Dante L. Ambrosio and Ethnoastronomy in the Philippines

Last June 4, one of my orgmates in U.P. AstroSoc told us the sad news that Dr. Dante L. Ambrosio, a former adviser of our organization and a notable promoter of Philippine Ethnoastronomy, has already passed away.

Dr. Ambrosio – a History professor of the College of Social Science and Philosophy in U.P. Diliman – was considered by many as the “Father of Philippine Ethnoastronomy”. He has proven this through a lot of his works regarding the field, including his book entitled, “Balatik: Katutubong Bituin ng mga Pilipino” which discusses our very own version of the constellations and interpretation of the skies which were developed by our early Filipino ancestors. Just like the other early civilizations, they made the sky part of their culture and consult them as they go on with their everyday lives (as in determining the propitious times for planting, fishing and hunting).

Balatik which is an equivalent of the constellation Orion, is a local term that means a trapping device used by hunters.

Dr. Ambrosio spent a considerable amount of time interviewing the Badjaos of Tawi-tawi in an effort to record the rich knowledge retained by the elders of indigenous communities which may be lost if not passed on to the next generation.

The following were  also his written articles that were published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI):

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Ambrosio once when I was still an officer of my organization, U.P. AstroSoc and we  invited him to discuss Philippine Ethnoastronomy for our Alternative Classroom Learning Experience (ACLE) presentation last August 2008.

U.P. AstroSoc’s ACLE 2008 Poster
 Taking from how he discussed the topic, I can honestly say that Dr. Ambrosio was very passionate with his research. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk to him personally after the event.
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Dr. Ambrosio during the ACLE last 2008

A lot of Filipinos around the country were  still not familiar with our local astronomy culture, that’s why Dr. Ambrosio’s works on Ethnoastronomy were really commendable. I salute him for being an outstanding Filipino in the field of astronomy who gave valuable and inspiring contributions in promoting our own culture and developing a sense of pride among fellow countrymen.

It’s  too bad that my friend who was supposed to interview him for her thesis didn’t got the chance to meet him again.

Nonetheless, he and his works will always leave a mark on our hearts. I hope that more Filipinos will be interested to continue what he had already started and will keep on promoting astronomy in the Philippines just the way he did.

I know that Dr. Ambrosio is now among the stars in the heavens now. 🙂

And for sure, he will always be missed.