The Sun in Time

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Pictured here, is the logo for the Sun in Time program.   The foreground consists of the famous Aztec calendar, while the background is an image of the solar corona taken from the ISAS/NASA Yohkoh spacecraft.  The Aztec calendar incorporates a mythological and calendrical system derived from earlier Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya.  The calendar was developed by observing the Sun's motions in the sky over a long period of time. sun_in_time_sm.jpg (25131 bytes)
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The Maya/Aztec calendar, which is extremely accurate, began on August 13, 3114 B.C.E1 or 4 Ahaw 8 Kumk'u in the Mayan language.  The Maya concept of time was of circles within circles which only appeared to be linear.  The calendar stone shows that we are in the fifth creation, with the four previously destroyed ones surrounding the central figure.  The end of the fifth creation of the Maya calendar is on December 23, 2012 of the Current Era (C.E.2), which came and went with no ill effects.

500 years ago, high in the Andes of Peru, Inca priests knew how important the Sun was to life itself.  They may not have known that the Sun rose at 6 a.m.3, but they knew the stars that foretold the Sun's rising.  They may not have used the name winter solstice (they called it Inti Raymi), but they watched the Sun's motion and knew when the dry season was upon them.  

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(20 kB jpeg image) Photo courtesy of  Dr. John Dimmock, 1998
The image to the left was taken at Machu Picchu, Peru in June of 1998, just after sunrise.  The stone in the foreground, was named Intihuatana by Hiram Bingham, an American historian who re-discovered the site of Machu Picchu in 1911.   The Inca uses for this stone are not known, but since the stone can be seen from many places within Machu Picchu, it was likely a "seat" from which the ruling Inca could have presided over important events.

1 B.C.E. -- Before Current Era, preferred nomenclature, equivalent to B.C.
2 C.E. -- Current Era, equivalent to A.D.
3 a.m. -- from the Latin, ante meridiem, meaning before the meridian.  Also, p.m. or post meridem, after the meridian.   The meridian is an imaginary line which divides the sky into eastern and western parts.  When the Sun is on the east side of the meridian, it is a.m., when the Sun is on the meridian it is noon, and when the Sun is west of the meridian, it is p.m. 

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This work was paid for by the NASA IDEAS program.

Please direct comments, questions, and suggestions to:
Mitzi Adams
mitzi dot adams @ msfc dot nasa dot gov
(256) 961-7626
Last Updated: April 23, 2014