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The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

#178: Oct. - Dec. 2021 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor
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The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Please use this thread to discuss the above referenced chapter of
The Human Cosmos: A Secret History of the Stars Hardcover by Jo Marchant.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Bull No. 18
from the Hall of Bulls at Lascaux Cave.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Here's some info about the Pleiades:

In our Northern Hemispheres skies, the Pleiades cluster is associated with the winter season. It’s easy to imagine this misty patch of icy-blue suns as hoarfrost clinging to the dome of night. Frosty November is often called the month of the Pleiades, because it’s at this time that the Pleiades shine from dusk until dawn. But you can see the Pleiades cluster in the evening sky well into April.

https://earthsky.org/favorite-star-patt ... de-renown/

I've made it my goal to check out the Pleiades one of these late evenings. According to my star app, it doesn't rise until fairly late (about 11 p.m.) Maybe we can all check it out as part of this discussion!
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

geo wrote:Here's some info about the Pleiades:

In our Northern Hemispheres skies, the Pleiades cluster is associated with the winter season. It’s easy to imagine this misty patch of icy-blue suns as hoarfrost clinging to the dome of night. Frosty November is often called the month of the Pleiades, because it’s at this time that the Pleiades shine from dusk until dawn. But you can see the Pleiades cluster in the evening sky well into April.

https://earthsky.org/favorite-star-patt ... de-renown/

I've made it my goal to check out the Pleiades one of these late evenings. According to my star app, it doesn't rise until fairly late (about 11 p.m.) Maybe we can all check it out as part of this discussion!
Yes, the Pleiades are exactly on the path of the sun, so are also prominent at the same time of year in the Southern Hemisphere, where they are a summer constellation.

This looks like a really intriguing book. Marchant opens chapter one with an excellent summary of how prehistoric art used star maps as its template, starting with the story of how schoolboys in south-west France eighty years ago discovered the incredible array of beautiful prehistoric paintings in the cave of Lascaux.

This cave art shows the great antiquity of human interest in the stars. Our species first migrated from Africa to Europe about 45,000 years ago. The depiction of the Taurus constellation in the wonderful cave art of Lascaux includes the Pleiades. Looking at the stars is central to the story of how wonder and awe at the immensity and stability of visual astronomy have inspired cultural creativity.

At the moment, Venus and Mercury are very prominent in the western evening sky. Mercury is adjacent to one of the other brightest stars on the ecliptic, Spica.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Robert Tulip wrote:Marchant opens chapter one with an excellent summary of how prehistoric art used star maps as its template, starting with the story of how schoolboys in south-west France eighty years ago discovered the incredible array of beautiful prehistoric paintings in the cave of Lascaux.

This cave art shows the great antiquity of human interest in the stars. Our species first migrated from Africa to Europe about 45,000 years ago. The depiction of the Taurus constellation in the wonderful cave art of Lascaux includes the Pleiades. Looking at the stars is central to the story of how wonder and awe at the immensity and stability of visual astronomy have inspired cultural creativity.
And, yet, there seems to be a hesitance to accept that the Lascaux paintings were astronomical in nature, as if it's difficult to fathom that early humans could have been this advanced. The paintings were created about about 15,000-17,000 BCE. To put this in some kind of perspective, the earliest forms of writing appeared almost 5,500 years ago. Gilgamesh was written about 2100 BCE. The Iliad was written around 700 to 750 B.C.

But when you consider that homo sapiens have been around for about 300,000 years, it doesn't seem exactly farfetched. Anatomically modern humans began to migrate out of Africa starting about 70,000-100,000 years ago. It doesn't seem implausible (to me) that the Paleolithic people would have been hugely inspired/influenced by the night sky. Marchant takes a similar stance, and provides some interesting possibilities.
Robert Tulip wrote:
At the moment, Venus and Mercury are very prominent in the western evening sky. Mercury is adjacent to one of the other brightest stars on the ecliptic, Spica.
Here on the east coast lately, Jupiter and Saturn are very prominent in the night sky, already high above the horizon by 8 p.m. or so. I'm lucky enough to live on the water and at least a couple of times a week, I go on a night kayak, drift around and stare up at the sky.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Last year was the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction... Unfortunately, it was overcast by me (New Jersey) at the apex. This is the known as the Christmas Star. Wont be seen again for 20 years. But the 2020 one was the supposedly the most brilliant one since the year 1226.

I spent most of last year tracking Saturn and Jupiter...and mars was also closest to earth at the time as well. Was an awesome year for looking up.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

geo wrote: there seems to be a hesitance to accept that the Lascaux paintings were astronomical in nature, as if it's difficult to fathom that early humans could have been this advanced.

But when you consider that homo sapiens have been around for about 300,000 years, it doesn't seem exactly farfetched. Anatomically modern humans began to migrate out of Africa starting about 70,000-100,000 years ago. It doesn't seem implausible (to me) that the Paleolithic people would have been hugely inspired/influenced by the night sky. Marchant takes a similar stance, and provides some interesting possibilities.
I admit I had never heard that the stars were present in the cave, and I visited there with my sons. Probably my overall sense of awe erased some tangential mention by our guide. Somehow it seems very plausible, especially given the importance of the annual migrations which gave rise to the hunt, according to "Sapiens" by Harari. If you wanted to plot an annual return in advance, the stars would be a big help.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

geo wrote:Anatomically modern humans began to migrate out of Africa starting about 70,000-100,000 years ago. It doesn't seem implausible (to me) that the Paleolithic people would have been hugely inspired/influenced by the night sky. Marchant takes a similar stance, and provides some interesting possibilities.
It is intriguing to wonder about the intelligence of stone age humanity. Human brains have been about the current size for all that time, indicating the existence of language. So it is surprising that technology only really took off in the last few thousand years, and invites questions about human capacity to cope with the current exponential improvements in technology.
geo wrote: Here on the east coast lately, Jupiter and Saturn are very prominent in the night sky, already high above the horizon by 8 p.m. or so.
An interesting point about visual astronomy is that planetary rising and setting happens at the same time of day or night all around the world. If Jupiter and Saturn are prominent soon after dusk, that is not something that applies to one geographical region of the earth but is the case around the whole planet. So it is true in the USA and Australia and Africa and everywhere that Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are now all visible in the evening. Longitude does not affect visibility, but latitude does, with the planets currently quite low in the south from northern viewing points.

I remember when I was about twenty years old, coming home from a party at about 3am and seeing Orion and the Pleiades in the sky. The first view of the Pleiades each year has excited me because here in Australia it means summer is on the way.

In Works and Days, the ancient Greek Poet Hesiod said that when the Pleiades set at dusk it is time to plough the soil. That illustrates how observation of the stars has governed knowledge of the seasons. But since Hesiod, the last visibility of the Pleiades at evening, known as its heliacal setting, has drifted about six weeks later, due to the movement known as precession of the equinox.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Robert Tulip wrote:An interesting point about visual astronomy is that planetary rising and setting happens at the same time of day or night all around the world. If Jupiter and Saturn are prominent soon after dusk, that is not something that applies to one geographical region of the earth but is the case around the whole planet.
Understood! I think my confusion stems from knowing that certain stars and constellations are hemisphere-dependent. For example, the Southern Cross can't be seen in the northern hemisphere. And likewise, those Down Under, like Robert, can't see Cassiopeia or the Big Dipper. I naturally assumed it might be the same for planets, but evidently that isn't the case. Thanks for pointing this out!

Now maybe someone can explain why toilets flow counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere. :-D
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Just got my copy yesterday. Will be joining in hopefully soon. I still gotta get my Think Again notes converted into conversation topics. Lol
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Would one of you like to be the book discussion leader for The Human Cosmos?

I'm so excited to say that the forum upgrade is in progress. I know you guys don't always see what I post in the BookTalk.org News forum so I'm giving you that good news here. You'll soon be able to enjoy BT on mobile devices and we should have a flood of new traffic that will increase gradually over time.

Let me know about discussion leader.
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

Chris OConnor wrote:Would one of you like to be the book discussion leader for The Human Cosmos?
Can’t wait to see these changes, Chris.

I’m not sure we need a discussion leader. But Robert seems a natural choice. :clap:

I will do my best to contribute as well.
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Mr. P wrote:Just got my copy yesterday. Will be joining in hopefully soon. I still gotta get my Think Again notes converted into conversation topics. Lol
What’s this Think Again, Mr. P?
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

geo wrote:Bull No. 18
from the Hall of Bulls at Lascaux Cave.
This painting, done millennia before the invention of writing, shows accurate depiction of the most vivid stars of the night sky in the constellation of Taurus. The Pleiades are the group of six stars above the bull, while the Hyades, including the bright star Aldebaran, can be seen accurately positioned within the bull's head. There are also stars that correspond to the tips of the bull's horns.

Image
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Re: The Human Cosmos - Ch. 1: Myth

geo wrote:
Mr. P wrote:Just got my copy yesterday. Will be joining in hopefully soon. I still gotta get my Think Again notes converted into conversation topics. Lol
What’s this Think Again, Mr. P?

Our current non fiction book!
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