Monday, June 12, 2006

Rock star chart update The Arizona rock art supposedly depicting a well-known supernova has drawn some attention. Ker Than at LiveScience passed along the question we posed as well regarding whether or not the scorpion actually represented the constellation Scorpio to the original author, John Barentine who replied:

“Your readers are right, this announcement very well should be greeted with some skepticism. The identification of what I refer to as a scorpion petroglyph with the classical constellation of Scorpius is, naturally, tentative. I make my case for these glyphs representing the 1006 supernova event largely on the arrangement of the scorpion and the bright star being very similar to the arrangement of these figures in the sky on the night the supernova appeared. Historical research (e.g. that of Richard Hinckley Allen in “Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning”, Dover Publications, 1963) suggests that in virtually every world culture where scorpions are indigenous creatures, the stars of the modern constellation Scorpius were identified with scorpions and their mythology. In fact, I believe Allen refers to this constellation and Taurus as among the “oldest” constellations in terms of their appearance in history.

“That said, of course there is the probability that the appearance of these symbols in proximity to one another is coincidental. Given that the people who created the drawing left no written record of their history, it’s impossible to verify this claim independently. However, we are pursuing the avenue of attempting to date the petroglyph via chemical means. A date roughly corresponding to the early 11th century would, I think, support my claim. Also, there is as much circumstantial evidence for my claim as there is for the famous Crab Nebula pictograph in Chaco Canyon, NM, with which many archaeologists do not agree. So my announcement today is a suggestion, first and foremost, worth further investigation.”

So it's possible that this particular constellation may be linked with a scorpion in different cultures.