Monday, April 7, 2014


Possible total solar eclipse with Coronal Mass Ejection.
City of Albuquerque, Parks and Recreation Department.

I have maintained in the past my conviction that many of our conventional signs for sun symbols necessarily represent the sun as seen during a total eclipse.  On February 9, 2013, I published “A Possible Total Eclipse of the Sun in Rock Art?” and then on February 23, 2013, I published “Another Possible Solar Eclipse Symbol in Rock Art?” Now a remarkable paper by Dr. Paul Rodriguez in Archaeoastronomy has brought to light an example of a possible solar eclipse portrayal in rock art which may include a coronal mass ejection.

Dr. Rodriguez is a physicist recently retired from the US Naval Research Laboratory, where his fields of study were in space and plasma physics. He conducted experiments with satellites, rockets, and high power radio wave transmitters. In recent years, his research is in low frequency radio wave astronomy, conducting experiments with lunar and solar radar echoes. Dr. Rodriguez is continuing these research investigations in addition to his studies of archaeoastronomy in the American Southwest.” (Rodriguez 2010:132)

Possible total solar eclipse with Coronal Mass Ejection,
Albuquerque, NM. Phtotgraph Dr. Paul Rodriguez.

In Rodriguez’s words “Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are a large-scale disruption of the corona that results in a significant amount of the mass (electrons and ions) being ejected and often leaving behind a void or depletion in the corona. The apparent size of a CME is comparable to or larger than the angular diameter of the Sun (about .5° as seen from Earth). On a time scale of hours, a CME can move a distance of several times the diameter of the Sun. As the CME moves radially outward, it expands and develops a distinct elongated structure. CMEs, like the corona itself, cannot be seen by the casual daytime observer because the light of the Sun is too intense to permit visual observation. Only during a total solar eclipse is it possible to see directly the faint light scattered from the solar corona structures. However, total solar eclipses are sufficiently infrequent and of short duration that natural solar eclipses do not permit a sustained program of scientific observations of the corona.”  (Rodriguez 2010:133) Today such scientific observations are carried out using the coronagraph which allows observation of the sun’s corona with the solar disc blocked out so long-term and continuous study of the solar corona can be maintained. Before the development of such instruments the observation of a CME would have been possible only on an accidental basis during a total eclipse.

Guglielmo Tempel drawing of AD 1860 solar eclipse 
including CME. High Altitude Observatory.

Rodriguez also points to a report by J. A. Eddy (1974) that points out that a drawing was produced during a solar eclipse in AD 1860 by Guglielmo Tempel which appears to illustrate a CME, “now often referred to as the first observation of a coronal mass ejection.” (Rodriguez 2010:134)

The petroglyph illustrated in this report is near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Petroglyphs in this area date to no earlier than AD 1300 for the most part. “The petroglyph shows what may be a variant of the Sun symbol. – This part of the petroglyph has some resemblance to the Zia sun symbol.” (Rodriguez 2010:134)  In my February 9, 2013, column I suggested that the Zia sun symbol represented the sun seen during a total solar eclipse.

Rodriguez listed four prehistoric solar eclipses that postdated AD 1300 and that would have been seen from the location of the petroglyph in question near Albuquerque (in other words the path of totality would have passed over the location of the petroglyph). These occurred in AD 1379, AD 1397, AD 1557, and in AD 1806. He concluded “that any one of these eclipses could have been the event recorded in the petroglyph. If so, then this petroglyph may also be one of the first historical records of a coronal mass ejection.” (Rodriguez 2010:139)

How exciting that a petroglyph in New Mexico might illustrate an observation of a phenomenon by a Native American sun-watcher that predates any record of this phenomenon by Western science. Maybe we should think twice before discounting “primitive” knowledge and beliefs. In any case thank you to Dr. Paul Rodriguez for passing this discovery on.


Eddy, J. A.
1974    A Nineteenth-Century Coronal Transient, Astronomy and Astrophysics, (34:235-240). Great Moments in Solar Physics. High Altitude Observatory (HAO) website on historical material,

Rodriguez, Paul
2010    Petroglyph Record of a Solar Eclipse?, in Archaeoastronomy, Volume XXIII, University of Texas Press, Austin, p. 132-140.

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