May 18th, 2012


My religion teaches science!

I am experiencing a slightly frustrating research issue, where it turns out that very few people care about "that thing I want to know." Not such a big deal, generally, except that a lot of people care about "that thing that's almost like what I want to know, but their thing is pseudoscience that doesn't provide me with real answers."

In other words, I'm trying to determine some particular heliacal rising and setting points of particular constellations, but all I find are "calculate your the sign that was rising on the day you were born!" websites that are only concerned with 12-13 distinct constellations. Add to this that I never took an actual astronomy course and didn't do so hot with trigonometry, and things aren't really looking up.

I have lucked out and found a couple of useful star heliacal rising dates, but the one that is mostly eluding me is a clear and simple set of dates for the Pleiades. And, of course, with the Pleiades, items quickly become more pseudo than science (because that's where the Dolphin Masters who founded Atlantis, Ascended Druidry, and the Ancient Mayan Crystal Civilzation came from, you know).

I have, however, found some interesting tools online, and as I find more and more tools (and more and more academic papers that explain the concepts I never learned in school) I understand the concepts a bit better each time.

Why does it matter what the heliacal rising and setting of the Pleiades are? Well, there's lore for one thing: Hesiod tells us that one should sharpen his sickle when the Pleiades appear (i.e., prepare for harvest), and plow when it ceases to be visible in the night sky (i.e., prepare to plant). And that gives us. . . Bingo! A yearly cycle that is not tied to the moon (more accurate) and has observable phenomena associated with it (easier to read than the change in length of a solar day). The Dog Star, Sirius, is another celestial object we can use to measure out time in a similar way, which I've found far easier to calculate (since it's just a dot, not a bunch of dots that take up 110' arcminutes, nearly 2°, in the night sky), and modern astronomers have made actual charts for that star.

Of course, I could just wait and watch the night sky for a few months and see what happens. . . except that I'd like to apply this to a paper, which I'd like to finish before. . . next May (it appears that the Pleiades may already be past its heliacal setting, which means I'm no less than a year from complete observations). Besides, as frustrating as it is, I like that my religion challenges me on occasion.