Stonehenge welcomed record crowds for the winter solstice on Saturday morning. Many people travel to England each year to visit Stonehenge. They want to be at the monument on the day of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice. The majority of visitors arrive very early in the morning so they are able to see the Sun rise over the stones. It seemed to be a success this Dec. 21. It is believed there were over 3,500 people in attendance this morning.
According to reports from an England tourist site, there were more than 3,000 people who visited Stonehenge on the morning of the winter solstice in 2012. The study revealed that was over five times the amount of people as had visited the site at dawn in 2011.
It is thought that on the day of the winter solstice at dawn, the central Altar stone of Stonehenge lines up with the Heel stone, Slaughter stone and the rising sun that is coming up in the northeast. All these seem to be on a carefully lined path which points directly toward the winter solstice sunset. It is believed that the winter solstice would have been much more imperative to the people who erected Stonehenge than the summer solstice. The winter solstice was the time of year when they had to slaughter parts of the cattle herd so it would be thinned out and the animals would not need food during the cold winter months. It also meant that most of the wine they had made was fermented finally.
Today, people wonder what is so fascinating about the winter solstice sunrise and sunset. The solstice in December is the pause of the Sun going south. It has reached its most southern point on the cosmic sphere. This is an imaginary orb of stars which go around the Earth. It is when the Sun sets at the farthest point at its sunset. The Sun appears to turn in the sky and it goes from shorter daylight to longer days, for everyone who lives in the northern latitudes.
The Stonehenge monument, which was built around 3,000 B.C., is able to show how careful the ancestors of today observed the Sun. Such astronomical observations as these were used to control various human happenings such as when they let domestic animals mate, when they sowed crops and the measuring of winter food reserves that were eaten between various harvests. Today Stonehenge is thought to be the most famous of all the prehistoric astronomical monuments that are all over the Earth.
Back when the monument was opened and the public was allowed to see it, individuals were able to move about the actual stones, even climbing up on them.
However this was halted in 1977 and Stonehenge was roped off because of severe erosion. Now visitors are not able to touch any of the stones, but, if one goes to visit, a person can walk about the monument from a nearby distance. Although it seems these rules are relaxed on solstice days.
The Stonehenge monument in England is popular both during the winter and summer solstice sunrise and sunset, but it sounds as if it was extremely popular this year with the record crowd on hand for the winter solstice.
By Kimberly Ruble