Baltray Winter alignment

Winter Solstice discovery at Baltray
Read the story in the Drogheda Independent

A STUNNING discovery linking the mid-winter solstice sunrise, Rockabill (an island off North County Dublin) and standing stones at Baltray, has been made by three local men.
Journalist Anthony Murphy, along with Richard Moore, artist, and Michael Byrne, photographer, confirmed the discovery on Tuesday week last, December 21 – the Winter Solstice.

The sunrise of 1999 showing Rockabill

This photo was taken from a video of the event by Michael Byrne. Rockabill can be made out to the right of the Sun.

The revelation came during an ongoing astronomical, anthropological and archaeological investigation being carried out by the three men into the prehistoric sites around the Drogheda area. There are two standing stones at the site in Baltray. The larger, and southernmost of the stones is 2.9 metres high. It is a large, thin stone with flat sides.

During a visit to the stones in early July, Michael Byrne discovered that when he placed his binoculars against the flat side of the larger monolith, Rockabill was visible in the field of view.
‘It was as if the flat side of the rock was used as a ‘pointer’ towards Rockabill, said Anthony Murphy, who works as a journalist with the Drogheda Independent.

Working from an Ordinance Survey map, Mr. Murphy worked out that if he drew a line between the standing stones and Rockabill, the angle was approximately 129-130 degrees.
‘I knew that this was roughly the rising position of the sun at Winter Solstice, having done plenty of research on the mid-Winter spectacle at Newgrange,’ he said.

‘I consulted my computer software – a program called SkyGlobe, which incidentally was used to investigate alignment between one of the Giza pyramids and the star Sirius by author Robert Bauval – to work out the rising position of the mid-Winter Sun as viewed from this area, and the figure I came up with was approximately 130 degrees.’

‘So naturally we were anxious to see the actual Solstice sunrise at the stones to confirm our theory.’ ‘On the morning of the Solstice, it was decided that I would go and see the sunrise at Newgrange, while Michael and Richard were dispatched to Baltray to test my theory,’ Anthony explained.

At around 8.30 that morning, Richard Moore and Michael Byrne watched as the sun crept up over the Irish sea – and to their delight the globe of the Sun rose just slightly to the left of Rockabill – between one and a half to two sun diameters to the left, or East, of the island.
Michael Byrne shot a video of the event. ‘To say we were astonished with the revelation is an understatement,’ said Anthony, who has been an amateur astronomer for the past 17 years.
‘At Newgrange, the sun begins to rise at 8.58am - later than at Baltray because it has to rise over Donore hill – but the precise alignment with the passage at Newgrange has shifted over time, and the sun now rises about two sun diameters to the left of where it originally rose circa 3000BC.’

‘This is caused by a slight shift in the Earth’s axis, and means that the same situation applies to Baltray. Assuming that the stones are of megalithic origin, the alignment would have been perfect!’ ‘It is a very unusual alignment in that although two stones are used to mark the line of sunrise, one of these stones is an island way out in the Irish sea!’ ‘We will of course be carrying out further research into this phenomenon, which comes after further recent revelations about solar alignments at prehistoric sites.’

Local woman Anne Marie Moroney has recently published a book which shows how the setting sun at Winter solstice illuminates the southern passage at the Dowth mound in Brugh na Boinne.

The 1999 sunrise discovery from a videotape by Michael Byrne

Furthermore, the Winter issue of Archaeology Ireland magazine carries an article about a team of researchers in the West of Ireland who have found that a row of standing stones at Killadangan in County Mayo are aligned with the setting Sun on midwinter’s day.
‘We’re very excited about it, particularly because of the timing with the event at Newgrange being broadcast live on television, and also because the standing stones in Baltray are little known about, and mark the first prehistoric site encountered along the Boyne River.’

The men are planning to release a book some time next year detailing the results of their research in this area. ‘We are basically looking at the broad picture,’ said Richard Moore, ‘and have established firm links between the ancient sites, legend and folklore, and astronomy.’
‘Taken together, these three aspects make the whole thing very interesting, and our aim is to heighten awareness of the definite astronomical purpose which these people, and their monuments, had,’ Mr. Moore said.

‘We would like to say a word of thanks to the landowners who gave us kind permission to examine the stones,’ he concluded.

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