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Astronomical Observation to Be Held at Tula Archaeological Zone
The capital city of the Toltecas during the Early Post Classic period (950-1150AD) has been identified as the ancient Tollan Xicocotitlan and is considered a privileged location for astronomical observation due to its urban planning. Photo: INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- The Archaeological Zone of Tula, in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, will open its doors for the first time at night, to receive visitors for the academic event Los Caminos del Cielo, Noche de Observacion Astronomica (Roads of the Sky, Night of Astronomical Observation) to take place on Friday, September 10th 2010, where telescopes will be installed at the central esplanade of this Prehispanic site.

The capital city of the Toltecas during the Early Post Classic period (950-1150AD) has been identified as the ancient Tollan Xicocotitlan and is considered a privileged location for astronomical observation due to its urban planning.

According to Nahua informants of Bernardino de Sahagun, Toltecas were great sky observers, “they knew…the stars, they gave them names…knowing well how the sky moved, how it rotated”. Architectonic orientation of the main buildings at Tula confirms this idea, declared archaeologist Alfonso Torres, researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Under this premise, from 17:00 hours of Friday September 10th 2010, the general public will be able to enter the archaeological zone, admission free, to participate in the academic activities programmed for the ocassion.

Astronomical observation night is organized by INAH and the Astronomical Society of Hidalgo A.C. (SAH), supported by the Tula City Hall, in charge of implementing security actions.

The activity will be guided by SAH specialists, association that will lend more than 40 professional telescopes, to be placed facing towards different constellations. According to the Hidalgo INAH Center archaeologist, on that date, Uranus and Jupiter will be visible, in conjunction with Pisces and Aquarius constellations, while Neptune will be in Aquarius.

After pointing out that, unfortunately, we do not know the names given to constellations by ancient Mesoamerican dwellers, the researcher added that during the night of astronomical observation, Scorpio constellation may be visible, as well as its brilliant star Antares.

“The constellation named Scorpio in Europe, was identified as a scorpion by several Mesoamerican cultures; it was named Citlatl Colotl by Mexicas and Sina’an by Mayas. Its disappearance in the western sky during the first hours of November marked the beginning of the dry season in Mesoamerica”, he commented.

Miguel Angel Mendoza, researcher at Hidalgo INAH Center and coordinator of the activity, mentioned that observation devises will be placed at the main esplanade, besides the Central Altar, where Prehispanic chants and dances will take place. The entrance to other locations will be restricted for security reasons.

Conferences part of the academic gathering are: “Positional Archaeo-astronomy”, imparted by historian Gilberto Morales Fuentes from the SAH; “Codices, Deities and Stars in Ancient Mexico”, in charge of archaeologist Alfonso Torres, as well as “Wars of Venus in Tula”, imparted by Dr. Robert Cobean, also researcher at Hidalgo INAH Center. All lectures will be in Spanish.

Activities will begin at 17:00 hours, and sky observation will take place from 21:00 to 23:00 hours.

Admission is free: Assistants must bring impermeable jackets, comfortable clothes and lanterns covered with red cellophane to mitigate the beam. Bags, backpacks, food, beverages, narcotics, weapons and other elements that can threaten security at the site, will not be allowed in.

“Astronomical observation depends on climatic conditions, we hope we can develop activities as planned since the 3rd day after the full moon is the best moment to observe the sky”, concluded the activity coordinator.

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