The equinox is of great significance for many cultures because it marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. Only on this date the sun rises on the equator of the planet, marking exactly the cardinal points: at dawn, the east and at sunset, the west.
In our times, the main world powers design and build solar observatories on Earth and in space to unravel the mysteries of the star around which revolves our system.
Kukulcán-Feathered Serpent God
Many ancient cultures used whatever technology they had to understand the relationship between the stars and our planet. The Sun and Venus played a very important role in creating the calendars for the activities related to sow and harvest, and religiousholidaysaccording to the natural cycles.
In theYucatánpeninsula, theMayancivilization invested much time and resources in astronomical and mathematical research, culminating in a legacy of majestic buildings that show the position of different stars on various dates of the year. Such is the case of the archaeological sites ofChichén-Itzá,DzibilchaltúnandTulum.
This is one of the best known archaeological sites and has been named as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Here theTemple ofKukulcánwas built around the year 1100 AD and was oriented according to detailed studies on the position of the planet in relation to the Sun during the whole year. This is the reason that through the spring and autumn equinoxes, the shadow of the pyramid’s 9 platforms, creates a projection of 7 reversed triangles in a staircase of the building, which the ancientMayasinterpreted as the arrival or departure of the feathered serpent god. This phenomenon of light and shadow indicated the season for planting and harvesting corn, sustenance of their people.
This archaeological site is located North ofMérida, and also offers a solar show, product of a detailed observation of theMayan civilization. During the equinoxes, the sun disc coincides with one of the windows of theTemplo de las Siete Muñecas(Temple of the Seven Dolls), which lights up with the morning glow.
This phenomenon discovered in 1982, shows that the function of the building is that of an astronomical observatory. Also it has been discovered in this building indication that record the apparent declines of the Sun and the Moon, which confirms that theancient Mayanswere holders of an advanced knowledge of the cycles of nature.
It is located 130 km south ofCancún, and is a true historical and cultural treasure of theRiviera Maya.Zamá, its original name in Mayan language which means dawn, was a walled city on three sides and protected from the sea by a cliff of 12 meters of height, where now stands the emblematic lighthouse which was used in ancient times as a reference point for navigation, port of trade and as a center of astrological studies, especially of the sunrise and sunset. According to the Mayan cosmovision, the planet Venus had as much importance as the Sun, as it emerged from the East at dawn asAh Chicum Ekand descended asLamatin the west at dusk.
The Sun rises at the spring equinox exactly behind the building known asEl Castillo(The Castle), and it sets the same day exactly on the west exit door of the archaeological site.
If you have the chance, visit one of these places and become a witness of the amazing knowledge of ancient civilizations.
But if you can’t, this March 20ththe North American Aerospace Agency (NASA) will be broadcasting, via internet, various activities related to the 2011 Sun-Earth Day from the archaeological site ofChichén-Itzá. You can check the full program at this internet address:http://sunearthday.nasa.gov