Gathering at Stonehenge on the summer solstice is an age-old tradition that thousands still observe — and it’s on the bucket list of many more around the world.
But as the sun rose on this year’s longest day, a very modern way to visit the 5,000-year-old wonder was unveiled.
Launched June 21, a live stream from the site allows internet users to experience their own “personal Stonehenge sunrise” all year round.
Stonehenge Skyscape, organized by the site’s managers, English Heritage, places a live representation of the sky behind a 360-degree image of the famous stones.
The sky view is accurate to within five minutes, and allows web visitors to watch the rise and fall of the sun and the movements of planets as though they were standing in the middle of the monument.
It also points out the location of Mars, Mercury and Venus — but Neptune, Uranus and Pluto are not included, as they are invisible to the naked eye and were therefore not discovered until well after Stonehenge was built.
“Stonehenge was built to align with the sun, and to Neolithic people, the skies were arguably as important as the surrounding landscape,” Susan Greaney, English Heritage’s senior historian, said in a statement.
“At solstice we remember the changing daylight hours, but the changing seasons, cycles of the moon and movements of the sun are likely to have underpinned many practical and spiritual aspects of Neolithic life,” she said.
“It’s great to see English Heritage putting Stonehenge back on a celestial scale,” space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock added. “Stonehenge Skyscape offers a mesmerising insight into our ancestors’ lives and hopefully — beyond visiting the website — it will inspire people all over the world to go outside, and look up.”
There are numerous theories about the purpose of Stonehenge — but the design of the mysterious ring of standing stones, some of which are 30 feet high, serves as evidence of the dawn of astronomy.
It has been associated with the Northern Hemisphere’s summer and winter solstices since its inception, and 10,000 people flocked to the site on Friday morning to watch this year’s solstice sunrise.
On a clear morning, the sun rose at 4.52 a.m. above Stonehenge’s Heel Stone, which stands on the avenue leading up to the monument’s Stone Circle. The morning rays then shone directly into the center of the site.
Written by Rob Picheta for CNN.
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