Jim Turner -The Ahau Chronicles Volume 13

After focusing the last several newsletters on the Apocalypse Island 2010
Eclipse Expedition I would like to return now to the ancient Mayan city of Palenque and
the astronomy of Chan Bahlum, whose observations of the retrograde motions of Jupiter
are recorded in his hieroglyphic inscriptions. Retrograde motion is an optical illusion
produced by two bodies moving through space at different speeds, such as the Earth and
Jupiter. As the faster moving Earth in its smaller orbit passes by Jupiter, the larger planet
seems to slow to a stop (called “First Stationary Position”) relative to the background
stars and then appears to move backwards before again slowing to a stop (called “Second
Stationary Position”) after which it goes “direct” and appears to resume its proper motion
through the sky.
The zig-zag retrograde motion occurs to some degree for each of the visible
planets and caused no end of difficulties for early astronomers using an Earth-based, or
geocentric, model of the cosmos. The astronomy of Aristotle and Ptolemy depicted the
Earth at the center of everything with the planets and the Sun orbiting in perfect circles
around the Earth. They used “epicycles” to account for retrograde motion. However, as
astronomical observations became more exacting, epicycles within epicycles were needed
and eventually the system became too cumbersome to be useful. Only after the work of
Copernicus and Galileo, among others, did the Sun-centered, or heliocentric, model of
the Solar System begin to gain acceptance.
Returning now to Chan Bahlum and the retrograde motion of Jupiter, we can
notice that, based on the hieroglyphic dates recorded in his inscriptions, Chan Bahlum
favored ceremonial dates that corresponded to just after the second stationary position of
Jupiter, after it had ceased its retrograde movement and had returned to direct motion.
The backwards movement of the planets may have been seen as a time of ill omens. In
fact, the word “disaster” means “ill-starred” (dis-astro) and originally described a
calamity based on an unfavorable position of a planet. The heir-designation of Chan
Bahlum in AD 641 and his accession to the throne in AD 684 both occurred shortly after
Jupiter had moved past its second stationary position and began moving direct again.
While Saturn has its beautiful ring system, one of the most interesting aspects of
Jupiter is its many moons. Four of these moons, Calisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io, are
collectively known as the Galilean moons, named after Galileo who ostensibly
“discovered” the moons during one of his first observation sessions with the newly
invented telescope. However, the current October issue of Astronomy magazine
discusses the possibility of naked eye observation of the Galilean moons. Could Chan
Bahlum and the Maya have known about these moons almost 1,000 years before Galileo?
The ceremonial “backrack” depicted behind the newly crowned Chan Bahlum in his
Temple of the Cross shows a zoomorphic head with a strange appendage hanging down.
The dotted braid appears to mimic the movement of the Galilean moons as they orbit
Jupiter, a planet we know Chan Bahlum was intently observing. Furthermore, since we
know that his accession to the throne occurred soon after the second stationary position of
retrograde Jupiter, the resemblance becomes more apparent if we imagine the diagram at
right truncated and then doubled back upon itself. [The positions of Jupiter’s moons
shown below are those for the beginning of September, 2010, surrounding the publication
date of this newsletter.]
As Dava Sobel points out in her book Longitude, the moons of Jupiter can be
used as a type of cosmic clock. If one has sufficiently accurate enough information and
understanding of the orbits of these moons they can display the passage of time which
was a critical component for navigation at sea. One can imagine Chan Bahlum sailing
southwards, studiously watching the moons of Jupiter orbiting around the giant planet
and guiding him safely to the mystical Underworld Island of the Jaguar Sun.
Currently we are in the midst of a retrograde period of Jupiter. On July 23rd, one
week after I returned from the Apocalypse Island 2010 Eclipse Expedition, Jupiter
reached First Stationary Position and began its backwards slide through the heavens. It
will reach its Second Stationary Position on November 18th and will afterwards begin
moving direct. Previously, Jupiter had gone through its last retrograde period in 2009
from June 15th to October 13th. Having been attuned to this information I was
particularly encouraged when we departed for Chile on October 14th, after Secondary
Stationary Position, to begin filming the History Channel movie. The opening scenes in
JFK airport are from this day and proved to be an auspicious beginning for what turned
out to be a fantastic expedition.
The First Point of Aries is the point in the
sky where the Celestial Meridian, the
Celestial Equator and the Ecliptic all meet.
It is presently in the southwest of Pisces,
moving slowly towards its neighbouring
constellation, Aquarius. At First Stationary
Position, Jupiter recently stopped near this
important point and began its retrograde
movement near the “Circlet” of Pisces.
While it may seem rash to presume that Chan Bahlum is referencing
our present day it should be remembered that the Maya saw time in a
cyclical fashion with certain events and celestial occurrences seen as
echoes of previous similar events. As he holds Pisces, Chan Bahlum
could be said to have a “fish-in-hand”, which is known in the glyphs
to represent the act of “conjuring”. Perhaps the true import of his
great work was to conjure the astronomical events of the end of the
Mayan calendar and in this way demonstrate his cosmic right to rule

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