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Space Age Stone Age discovery

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Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 10.06.31DR FABIO SILVA, a lecturer in the Sophia Centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Lampeter campus, and Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, have caused a world-wide media sensation with their theory on the use of prehistoric tombs as ‘telescopes’. 

After examining 6,000 year old passage graves in Portugal, Silva concluded they functioned like telescopes without a lens.

Viewers within the tunnels would have had a chance to spot the first appearance of Aldebaran, the red star that is the brightest object in the constellation of Taurus before those outside. This was crucial for the rituals which timed seasonal migrations, such as taking sheep to higher pastures. The annual event, Silva argues, could have coincided with the star’s first appearance in the morning twilight each year. “This first rising of Aldebaran occurred at the end of April or beginning of May 6,000 years ago, so it would be a very good, very precise calendrical marker for the move to higher ground,” he said.

“The key thing is that a passage grave with its long corridor acts like a telescope that does not have a lens – it is similar to a long tube that restricts views to the sky close to the horizon.” Dr Daniel Brown added: “Seeing only a small portion of the sky while in a dark environment could help the eye fixate and prolong dark adaptation.”

These astronomical observations could have been linked to ancient rituals in which individuals were left on their own in the tomb with the remains of their ancestors. “There is a wealth of evidence now that these passage graves were not only used as tombs for burials, but they could also be used for rites of passage,” said Dr Silva. Such rituals, he adds, often involve the revelation of an astronomical secret to the initiate. “Could the secret be that the initiate could see the star rising days, if not a full week, before everybody else that was outside the passage grave could see it?” he said.

Dr Silva and the team are currently testing these ideas by simulating the conditions of celestial visibility from within the passage graves in the laboratory.

Dr Silva and the team‘s work was presented at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting 2016 at a dedicated cultural astronomy session coordinated by Dr Brown. It was reported in the UK in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist and Astronomy Now, and around the world on the BBC World Service; Der Spiegel (Germany); Archaeology magazine, WIRED magazine, CBS News, FOX News and The Washington Post (USA); New Zealand Herald (NZ); The Hindu (India); Jibada (China); and Globo (Brazil).

Dr Silva teaches the course on Skyscapes, Cosmology and Archaeology in the University’s Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture.

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New Quay RNLI lifeboat crew trains with lifeguards

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NEW QUAY lifeboat station hosted a special training evening with the lifeboat crew and Ceredigion’s RNLI lifeguards last week.

Pete Yates, one of New Quay RNLI’s inshore lifeboat helms, worked closely with Ceredigion lifeguard supervisor, Tirion Dowsett, to plan scenarios for the teams to practice working together in casualty care situations.

A large scale scenario included four casualties to be dealt with by the inshore lifeboat crew and two lifeguard teams on a nearby beach, whilst a third lifeguard team and lifeboat crew members dealt with a separate scenario at the lifeboat station.

Pete said: “It was a great evening of training. We had 9 lifeguards and 13 lifeboat crew in attendance.

“The main scenario included casualties suffering from hypothermia and propeller injuries. A second scenario involved a mechanic suffering head injuries in the forepeak of the all-weather lifeboat and requiring extraction on a stretcher.

“On completion of these scenarios we all gathered back at the station where one of our senior crew members sprung a great act at being a diabetic having a hypo, and being suitably angry and aggressive.”

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, added: “It was great for our lifeboat crew members to work with the lifeguards as it builds a deeper understanding of each other’s roles and encourages teamwork between us. This is of great benefit when dealing with real life casualty care situations.”

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Coastguard rescues dog stuck on cliffs

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LAST TUESDAY (Aug 27), New Quay RNLI’s inshore D-class lifeboat, Audrey LJ, was tasked by Milford Haven Coastguard to assist the Coastguard with a dog stuck on the cliffs near New Quay.

The volunteer crew launched the inshore lifeboat at 1.50pm with four crew members on board and made their way south down the coast.

Brett Stones, New Quay RNLI’s helm said: “We located the dog on the cliffs by Castell Bach, near Cwmtydu. We stood by while the Coastguard team caught the animal. The dog was unharmed and safe with the Coastguard so we were stood down.

“However, while returning to station we were then tasked to a small vessel with engine failure. We towed the stricken boat with three people on board back to New Quay. We rehoused the inshore lifeboat and it was ready for service by 2.40pm.”

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New maintenance Lorries cut carbon emissions

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The Ground Maintenance Team has purchased three new lorries to support ground maintenance services in Ceredigion.

The new lorries will move Ceredigion County Council’s Ground Maintenance Service’s equipment to and from the grounds that they look after. The lorries will also take cut grass away for composting. This provides the most efficient way of maintaining the areas that the team is responsible for.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards is the Cabinet member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services together with Housing. He said: “The new vehicles replace ones which had provided excellent service for almost 20 years. They are fitted with Euro 6 engines which are considerably more efficient and better for the environment.”

The Grounds Maintenance Team is also incrementally introducing electric-powered mowers, blowers, hedge cutters and strimmers into its fleet. This equipment is better for the environment, is easier to use and causes less noise and vibration.

The new lorries support Ceredigion County Council’s commitment to be a net-zero carbon council by 2030.

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