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The Precession of the Equinoxes

The precession of the equinoxes is the term used to describe the distance the sun travels around the Earth. It is calculated by the positions of the Sun and the Moon as viewed from Earth around the plane of the ecliptic, the invisible path the planet follows as it orbits around the sun over the course of a year. Astronomers can accurately calculate the distance the Earth has traveled by measuring our position against the fixed stars in the 12 constellations, commonly known as the zodiac, and the time of year the sun rises directly in the east and west, known as the equinoxes.

The discovery of the precession is accredited to the ancient Greek astronomer, Hipparchus of Nicea, regarded as the greatest astronomical observer in antiquity. By studying Babylonian and Chaldean records over a century apart, Hipparchus discovered that the position of the equinoxes move westward along the ecliptic axis of Earth at a rate of 1 degree every 71.6 years. This means therefore that a complete cycle will take approximately 25, 765 years to complete.

How Hipparchus measured the precession of the Equinoxes

Twice a year the sun rises in central positions, once in the East and once in the West. These are known as the equinoxes and take place six months apart, in summer and in winter. Ancient astronomers did not have clocks and could not tell when the day and night had the same length, but they could identify the equinox by the position of the Sun rising exactly in the east and setting exactly in the west. Evidence that the ancients had a profound understanding of astronomical alignments can be found all over the world in ancient temples such as those in Egypt and Mesoamerica.

Hipparchus was able to determine the movement of the Earth by the change in position of the most northerly star, known as the polar star. From studying ancient texts, the Greek genius knew that in 12,000BCE the brilliant Vega in the constellation Lyra was the most northerly star, but by the year 3000 BCE, the pole star had changed to Thuban in the constellation of Draco, thus he was able to calculate the precession.

The dates of the pole stars differ depending on which astrological account you read indicating that little is known in the modern world about the celestial movements of our universe. How then did our ancient ancestors have such a profound knowledge of astronomy they were able to align their monuments to exact position of the sun and the stars. One thing that is agrees upon by today´s astrologists is that the most northerly star in the galaxy is currently Polaris.

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