Solar Eclipse Petroglyph: Rock of the Sun, Chaco Canyon – GB Cornucopia, Cherilynn Morrow

GB Cornucopia, Cherilynn Morrow
In anticipation of April 8th’s total solar eclipse, let’s honor the Skywatchers of old. About 1,000 years ago, the early Pueblo people of Chaco Canyon memorialized their own viewing, carving a telling representation of an eclipse celestial in stone — as a petroglph. Our guests, astronomer Cherilyn Morrow, and GB Cornucopia, retired Chaco interpretive ranger, note “the circle with looping streamers that resemble the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona suggests the Chacoans celebrated, rather than feared, this event, likely witnessing a coronal mass ejection during the eclipse. This petroglyph is grouped with others at Chaco Canyon, etched into a large boulder known as Piedra del Sol. GB and Cherilynn will share a slide show of this and other petroglyphs of note, and compare these to the sun’s corona during total eclipses, and the personal experience viewing the last one. Many petroglyphs at Chaco Canyon are a record on how Ancestral Puebloans studied the Sun.

Cherilynn Morrow is an astronomer, solar astrophysicist, and former NASA Educator. She is the director of the Public Engagement (or Outreach) program embedded in NASA’s PUNCH mission. PUNCH (Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere) is designed to study the Sun’s outer corona and the space weather of the entire inner heliosphere as a unified system.

GB Cornucopia was an interpreter and park ranger at Chaco Canyon for 33 years. “I heard about Chaco Canyon from Carl Sagan’s TV series, Cosmos. Several segments were filmed at Chaco, especially regarding the study of archeoastronomy; and then I found out about all these studies that had been done since 1970 that tried to illuminate the people, their astronomical practices and traditions.” He organized the donation of telescopes to the Chaco Observatory and began the first public astronomy program at a national park. But his interest in Chaco goes beyond astronomy. GB also arranged for a local Puebloan dance group to come and perform traditional dances at Pueblo Bonito for the first time in hundreds of years. He wanted to both help connect people to their past and continue the ancient traditions that are at the core of the Chacoan culture.