The history of astronomy in Mexico extends thousands of years. Pre-Hispanic civilizations, developed what today is called “archaeoastronomy,” planning their cities, as well as much of their social, economic and political activities based on the movements of the stars. That said, such information was not considered of value to the Spanish conquistadors. In 1878 the National Astronomical Observatory was established in Chapultepec Castle, then on the outskirts of Mexico City.
In the 20th century, Mexico’s National Autonomous University’s (UNAM) Institute of Astronomy and the National Institute of Astrophysics have educated thousands of professional astronomers. The national university now operates two observatories, the larger being in the Sierra of San Pedro Mártir, Baja California. You’ll find the directions to the observatory online, 188.8.131.52/Opciones/texto1.html#oanspm, as well as celestial maps, academic work and beginner’s guides.
MEXICO CITY SKY
This feature is courtesy of the “Your Sky” website, www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky, and provides a skywatcher’s guide for residents of Mexico City-if the skies are clear and the smog isn’t too thick above the megalopolis! The site is not limited to Mexico City. You can produce maps for any time and date, viewpoint and observing location.
MAYA ASTRONOMY PAGE
This reader-friendly guide introduces basic details about Mayan astronomy, including their unique math system. Astronomical observations take center stage with explanations of the importance of Venus, the sun, moon and Milky Way Galaxy. The author also includes a brief summary of political aspects of Mayan cosmology www.michielb.nl/maya/politics.html.
INSTITUTO DE ASTRONOMIA
Mexico’s Institute of Astronomy is housed within the UNAM. This frequently updated site offers news of upcoming events and scientific colloquia as well as related Web links, including the observatories in Ensenada, Morelia, San Pedro Mártir and Tonanzintla. For the serious astronomer, this is a must-visit site.
CARL SAGAN OBSERVATORY AT CERRO AZUL
Located in northwestern Mexico, this observatory is part of a larger project run by the University of Sonora Physics Department, cosmos.cifus.uson.mx/index.htm. The site has not been updated for two years, but it documents the conceptualization and construction of the observatory. The website also provides helpful links in Spanish and English for budding astronomers.
OTHERS ASTRONOMY WEBSITES:
Astronomy In Latin America-Lanic
A regional index compiled by the University of Texas at Austin
This Week’s Sky At A Glance
A regularly updated feature courtesy of Sky and Telescope magazine
World Beat – Mexico
This 1995 article by Marco Arturo Moreno-Corral and Mars A. Rodríguez traces the history of astronomy in Mexico.