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Thread: Native Americans recorded supernova explosion

  1. #1
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    Native Americans recorded supernova explosion

    Prehistoric Native Americans may have carved a record of a supernova explosion that appeared in the skies a millennium ago into a rock in Arizona, US.

    John Barentine, an astronomer at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, came across the carving while hiking in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park in Arizona.
    It depicts a scorpion and an eight-pointed star.

    "I had just been reading about the supernova of AD 1006 and I knew it appeared in the constellation Scorpius, so the connection flashed into my mind." - John Barentine.

    http://www.newscientistspace.com/art...explosion.html

  2. #2
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    Assuming that Native Americans would have organized the stars into the same constellations long ago as we have now seems a bit rash.

    My impression is that part of the constellation currently called Scorpio is described by some Native Americans as being a duck, while another part is a rabbit, although the direction that the rock faces does seem to be suggestive.

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    Yeah,
    that part of the story sounded a bit dubious when i read it too.

    Information Link

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    The article mentioned that a planetarium was used to show how it would have looked from Arizona. For what it's worth, here's what Celestia shows for May 1, 1006, at about 07:00 UT (Midnight local?) from White Tank Mountain.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Hum,
    excellent work.

    The supernova remanant is at
    Position(2000): RA = 15h 04m 10.01s Dec = -41º 53' 44.88"

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    Sorry: I should have mentioned that SN1006 is the bright star in the center of the picture. I made a Celestia catalog entry that caused it to be drawn, but neglected to make an entry that would have labelled it, too.

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    I too would want to know what kind of constellations the Hohokam (or their descendants) had before I clinch it. There's also the very real possibility that the art is purely symbolic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Romanus
    I too would want to know what kind of constellations the Hohokam (or their descendants) had before I clinch it. There's also the very real possibility that the art is purely symbolic.
    As well as the possibility that it's made because it's pretty, though that idea would be anathema to an archaeologist.
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  9. #9
    "I had just been reading about the supernova of AD 1006 and I knew it appeared in the constellation Scorpius, so the connection flashed into my mind." - John Barentine.
    Well, that's some impressive synchronicity, wouldn't you say? Sounds more like he lept to this conclusion because the supernova had already been on his mind. If the paintings were conclusively dated to around AD 1006, I might be a little more credulous. For now, like selden, I'm pretty skeptical that Native Americans would have seen the same constellations as us.

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    Hum,
    i never really noticed, but the planet Mars was very bright in the scorpion constellation (constellation of the Rabbit Tracks)- at mag -2.1.


    Position(2000): RA = 15h57m59.21s Dec =-21°00'59.0"
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    GAH!!!

    I was just about to post a link to this!

    http://edition.cnn.com/2006/TECH/space/06/05/rock.art/

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    "Ancient Rock Art Depicts Exploding Star," or not?

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronom..._rock_art.html

    "Ancient Rock Art Depicts Exploding Star "

    "The Hohokam petroglyph depicts symbols of a scorpion and stars that match a model showing the relative positions of the supernova with respect to the constellation Scorpius. The model was created by John Barentine, an astronomer at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico and Gilbert Esquerdo, a research assistant at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona."

    My question:
    Why would Native Americans in 1006 use a scorpion to represent the constellation we know as Scorpio?

    Regarding the suggestion the carving also shows the stars of Scorpio,
    check the photo in the article & tell me how you can see scorpio in that?

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    Why would Native Americans in 1006 use a scorpion to represent the constellation we know as Scorpio?
    1) Because Scorpius actually looks like a scorpion!
    2) Scorpions are common in the desert southwest.

    [nitpick mode] Scorpius is the name of the constellation - Scorpio is a sign of the zodiac. [nitpick mode off]

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    See Astronomy topic Sn1006.
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    I share Dangerlaef's skepticism (welcome to the forum), but I can't really get a good look at the rock. What raised a red flag for me was the statement
    "Quantitative methods such as carbon-14 dating are alternative means to assign ages to works of prehistoric art, but they lack precision of more than a few decades, so any depiction in art that can be fixed to a specific year is extremely valuable," Barentine said.
    Now, exactly why do we need to date pre-written-language art from 1006 to a better accuracy than a few decades? Is there any investigation of that culture happening to such a level of precision?

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    Threads merged - apologies from the management for any ensuing confusion.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G
    I share Dangerlaef's skepticism (welcome to the forum), but I can't really get a good look at the rock. What raised a red flag for me was the statement

    Now, exactly why do we need to date pre-written-language art from 1006 to a better accuracy than a few decades? Is there any investigation of that culture happening to such a level of precision?
    Since we're talking about whether an image depicts a supernova or not, then yes, we do need to date it a lot better than to within a couple of decades.
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  18. #18
    Right, Henrik. But I believe Ken G's problem (one I share) is that the researcher is attempting to date the painting based on the supernova! He's not attempting to determine the age of the painting to verify whether it depicts the supernova, he's taking it for a given that the painting does depict the supernova and extrapolating from there. It's bad science, basically. Drawing conclusions from unproven assumptions.

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    The problem is that that's using the same data to verify the hypothesis that you used to get the idea in the first place, which is one of the unforgivable sins in science.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen
    Since we're talking about whether an image depicts a supernova or not, then yes, we do need to date it a lot better than to within a couple of decades.
    As furtim is saying, the author applies the logic in the opposite direction, he suggests that if we take the image as being of the supernova, then we can date it at 1006, which is better dating than we can do with carbon-14. Never mind that this overlooks the possibility that the image was drawn from decades-old memory (or isn't of the supernova, of course), it is still pretty irrelevant to be able to hone the accuracy of the dating of that particular image, given what I am sure is staggering uncertainty about all the other timescales pertaining to that culture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blob
    Prehistoric Native Americans may have carved a record of a supernova...
    Here's a historic Native American's take:
    ...We American Indians have been here a long time. Our history goes further back than even the great flood, of which there is some record in the Judeo-Christian bible. In the Black Rock desert you can see the watermarks high on the mountains left by the flood waters. The anthropologists wonder how our ancestors could have put the pictographs in the stone when we didn't have iron or metal. We didn't need metal becuse the earth was still warm. The rocks today were mud back then, and our ancestors would carve with their fingers and sticks...Rolling Thunder Speaks , 1999, p.41

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    In northern europe at least, 1006 would be in the range for dating to sub year precision if there's suitable wood samples present, but since there's probably no simple way to link specific wood samples to the petroglyphs that won't help a lot.
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    Did the Ancient Greeks and Native Americans Swap Starcharts?

    “There are three possible solutions to this: Either the Hohokam people had the same name for the constellation as the Greeks, there was significant contact between North America and Europe prior to this date, or the petroglyph is a fake and does not date to that period.”
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  24. #24
    "So my announcement today is a suggestion, first and foremost, worth further investigation."

    Translation: I like seeing my name in the papers.

    It's good that he seems to be doing the real work of verifying this claim, but is anybody else bothered by the seemingly increasing trend in the sciences to announce first and verify later?

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    It's publish first, then get the money, then verify.

    “There are three possible solutions to this: Either the Hohokam people had the same name for the constellation as the Greeks, there was significant contact between North America and Europe prior to this date, or the petroglyph is a fake and does not date to that period.”
    Or someone made a nice picture of something completely different.
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    The worst part is, the later retraction will be a footnote instead of a headline. Makes it hard for the public to tell the difference between "real" science and pseudoscience.

  27. #27
    Has he even published anything, Henrik? It seems like he only has enough evidence to make a press release.

    You're absolutely right, Ken. It's a very sad state of affairs. Scientists could, if they were responsible, stop this from happening, but as we can see they're not all that responsible.

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    To be fair, I do think scientists walk a tricky fine line here. If one waits until one is absolutely certain one is right, there is the danger of getting "scooped" by someone else not so responsible. But if one goes off "half cocked", one's own reputation is compromised. So each person has to judge just how solid their conclusions need to be before "going public". Worse, most people don't really care if something is "right", as long as it's "cool". That's why pseudoscience thrives, in a nutshell. Hard science's only advantage over pseudoscience is its reputation for accuracy, so it must walk a fine line to maintain that reputation without surrendering the "coolness" factor to pseudoscience. Granted, science can be "cool" even once it is quite certain, but people want cool now. They'll get it from the fantasy-hawkers while the scientists are waiting to collect more solid information. I think this particular example is obviously one where the researcher "jumped the gun" and went public long before the evidence warranted it, but I can at least see the difficult problem of deciding when a scientific speculation is really worth hanging your name on.

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    When I said publish I didn't mean "write an article for Nature", I meant "call a press conference".
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    Yes, and now when we say "the referee process", we mean, "can you convince the reporters".

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