Calendar in the Sky Articles

Easter and the Maya New Year

Bryan Mendez
April 1st, 2018 is the Christian celebration of Easter in the Gregorian Calendar and it is also the start of a new year in the Maya Haab calendar. Next year they won’t occur on the same day. Both events are astronomical in origin. Let’s explore how these two calendars work.

The Groundhog and the Candle

Bryan Mendez

February 2nd is celebrated in the United States as both Groundhog’s Day and Candlemas, or Dia de la Candelaria in Spanish. Both celebrations have their roots in astronomical events.

Candlemas (Dia de la Candelaria) is a Christian celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem, commemorating Mary's ritual purification after her childbirth. Following ancient Hebrew tradition, this took place 40 days after Jesus was born. Therefore, Candlemas is now celebrated 40 days after Christmas (Dec 25) on February 2nd. Some people do not remove Christmas decorations until this date, as it marks the end of the Christmas season.

These dates are where the first astronomical connection comes into play.

Astronomia de los Muertos

Bryan Mendez
October 31st - November 2nd is a festive time in the Americas, where we celebrate life by acknowledging the dead. The holidays of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) have long and complex histories. However, as with many holidays, the roots of these celebrations have connections to astronomy.

Solstice at Palenque, Chiapas

Bryan Mendez
At Palenque, the famous Classic Maya site in the southern state of Chiapas, a poetic statement is replayed year after year in the written history as well as in the art and architecture of the site.

Doomsday from Stellar Explosions

Bryan Mendez
Perhaps the most violent of all the predictions for how the world could end in 2012 is the idea that one or more stars might explode on December 21 and wipe out all life on Earth.  

Doomsday from Rogue Planets

Karin Hauck
One popular suggestion for how the world might end in 2012 is that there is a “rogue planet” out there -- not in a safe orbit circling the Sun, but moving inward toward the Sun on a collision course with Earth.
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