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6 June 2010
Push to complete modern Scottish stone circle

For centuries, a hilltop high above Glasgow (Scotland) has been the scene of solstice celebrations. Sighthill Park lies under the line of the midsummer sunset, with Glasgow Cathedral at one end and Summerhill at the other. The cathedral sits on an ancient Neolithic excavation.
     In the 1970's, Duncan Lunan, an amateur astronomer and science writer, began construction of an aligned, standing stone circle to map the movements of the sun, moon and stars. Over the course of several months, calculations were completed for the precise placement of the circle. Using photographs and astronomical charts, 17 of the sun and star stones were lowered by RAF helicopter flying off of the HMS Gannet. The moon stones were too large to be transported by air. Lunan noted, "Getting the precision right was the really hard part. And the winters of 1978 and 1979 were really terrible too, you could hardly see a thing," he said.
     Lunan originally planned to create a replica of of the Stonehenge and Callanish stone circles in Glasgow. But, inspired by the unique astronomical significance of the setting, the project evolved into a true stone circle observatory. The project was a tribute to four faculty memebrs at Glasgow University who advanced understanding of ancient astronomy. "It started with Alexander Thom who, between the two world wars, was inspired by the falling moon over the Callanish Stones," Lunan said."He became convinced that they used astronomy and mathematics on an advanced scale. This was at a time when most archaeologists wouldn't go near this stuff, claiming that primitive society was not capable of such understanding. It is very fitting that this stone circle is in Glasgow, as a tribute to them." Thom's work was continued by his son Dr. Archie Tom and two collegues, Dr. Ewan McKay and Professor Archie Roy.
     The initial project was started under the Jobs Creation Scheme, but was not completed when funding was withdrawn by Prime Minister Maragaret Thatcher. Four of the circle stones still lie under a bush in Sighthill Park, waiting to be put into place.
     Lunan now hopes to complete the project and revive the solstice celebrations. He regrets the fact that the project has become lost to the history of the city. "There is still nothing up here to say who built the circle, who it was built for or how it works. I have been told that nowadays children are afraid of it, that they think it is linked to black magic, that sort of thing. That is something I want to change."
     He is hoping that the stone circle will become a major attraction in Glasgow, featured on the city-wide astronomy map. Plans include placing markers to represent each solar body using exact scale within the city limits. The stone cirlce would represent the sun, and Pluto would lie at the appropriate distance in Cathkin Braes. A lecture on the Sighthill Stone Circle is scheduled on June 21, followed by a visit to circle for the midsummer sunset.
     
Source: The Herald (2 June 2010)

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