Displaying astronomical alignments in academic papers

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[Cross-posted to i-Science]

Segesta alignment
Astronomical align­ment at Segesta

There’s a couple of paper which have come out recently which use dif­fer­ent tech­niques for indic­at­ing astro­nom­ical align­ments at archaelo­gical sites. The image above is one I put together for a poster to show why hori­zon alti­tude is import­ant as well as azi­muth. It’s quite tight, so it’d be no good if you wanted to see where sun­rise was in mid­sum­mer for instance, and chart­ing the paths of astro­nom­ical bod­ies over a site is a prob­lem. By and large you can treat a site as a small flat area, so there’s not usu­ally any car­to­graphic prob­lems in account­ing for the curvature of the earth. The sky in con­trast is very curved over every archae­olo­gical site, so how to you dis­play that in a paper?

The Megalithic Portal put me on to an inter­est­ing art­icle pub­lished in Information Visualization: A Sky Dome visu­al­isa­tion for iden­ti­fic­a­tion of astro­nom­ical ori­ent­a­tions by Georg Zotti. The abstract includes:

This paper presents a novel dia­gram com­bin­ing archae­olo­gical maps with a folded-apart, flattened view of the whole sky, show­ing the local hori­zon and the daily paths of the Sun, Moon and brighter stars. By use of this dia­gram, inter­est­ing group­ings of astro­nom­ical ori­ent­a­tion dir­ec­tions, for example, to cer­tain sun­rise and sun­set points could be iden­ti­fied, which were evid­ently used to mark cer­tain days of the year.

Unfortunately Information Visualization isn’t a journal archae­olo­gists get, and it costs $30 to down­load the paper. What I can talk about though is a con­fer­ence paper on his own site: A Sky Dome Visualisation for Identification of Astronomical Orientations, which includes in the abstract:

This paper presents a novel dia­gram com­bin­ing archae­olo­gical maps with a folded-apart, flattened view of the whole sky, show­ing the local hori­zon and the daily paths of sun, moon and brighter stars. By use of this dia­gram, inter­est­ing group­ings of astro­nom­ical ori­ent­a­tion dir­ec­tions, e.g. to cer­tain sun­rise and sun­set points could be iden­ti­fied, which were evid­ently used to mark cer­tain days of the year.

The two look as though they’re likely to be similar.

The idea is actu­ally rather clever and I’ll go through a very sim­pli­fied ver­sion of a dia­gram based on his method.
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