365daysDate: August 12, 2009

Title: Ancient Astronomy; The Mayans


Podcaster: Augusto Valdés

Organization: Instituto de Astronomía UNAM

Description: A brief introduction on how the Mayans took advantage of their geographical location in order to study Venus, how they knew about other objects and the significance of their calendar. (and, briefly, how the world is not going to end)

Bio: Augusto Valdés is not an astronomer, but is a Drama major at UNAM who just happens to love astronomy.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by Valcato Hosting. To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, Valcato Hosting is offering one year of free web hosting for any and all astronomy web sites! All accounts come with tools to make it easy to set up blogs, forums, photo galleries, and more. Sign up now, and start sharing your astronomy experiences with the rest of the world! For more information, please visit” [spell out url].


CAV: Good Day Everyone, this is the 365 days of Astronomy podcast for Wednesday, August 12th 2009, This is C. Augusto Valdés. I am not an astronomer, just a big fan of science. I live in Mexico City, and we also make astronomy here, in fact Mexicans have made astronomy since the very beginning. The Mayas, from the southernmost part of my country created a calendar based on their observations of the skies.

I had the privilege to speak with Victor Torres Roldán, he is an Earth Scientist educated at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Star Cities; Ciudades Estelares, Cosmología y Simbolismo de las Pirámídes, Published in Spanish by Random House/Mondadori.

We spent the day together at the Museo Nacional de Antropología, where he explained how these observations were made without any instruments.

VTR: Everybody agrees that the Mayans were great mathematicians and they also were great astronomers, what they have failed to tell us is how exactly they were great, and one of the things that have hindered the understanding of the Mayas’ astronomy is the belief that they were, somehow people that — they were great but couldn’t really understand the heavens , that’s the interpretation of the Spanish friars thousands of years after the classic Mayan culture flourished, and they have this description that is really naive and dumb descriptions of the constellations, of the stars and it seems that this greatness is almost like a myth, instead of a fact, y’know.

CAV: To follow the stars was essential, not only to get scientific knowledge, it was the foundation to understand it all.

To know, for example, that the moon is in conjunction with Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn every twelve katunes (86400 days) was useful to calculate the original blueprint of the sky, where the planets were at the moment of creation; so we can speak of the very birth of the gods themselves, that is, the planets on specific days thousands of years in the past.

VTR: August 13th is the day that traditionally has been identified with the Day of the Creation for the Maya World, the last creation, and many places are oriented like Teotihuacán. The whole great city of Teotihuacán is oriented towards the setting sun on August 13th, so tomorrow is a very special day for the Maya and it is a very auspicious day to tell the world why the Maya were so great in understanding the heavens.

CAV: The secret of the Mayan Calendar lies in its simplicity, its numbers describe cycles of stars moving through the solar path. Its logic tracks the fastest and brightest bodies first, then the slower and less bright.

The system followed the Sun, then the Moon and Venus, then Mars, and finally Jupiter and Saturn.

VTR: And they say: “When will these two beings come and make love?” That’s what they see, they make love in that location in the sky, we will have to wait, and we will probably die, and these guys will not come back to that location, and my son or my daughter won’t see that either, but my grandson, after 79 years, will see the return of the full Moon with Mars in the same stars.

So the sacred calendar is a contrived number that describes precisely the movement of Mars and the movement of the Moon, but the Moon is described below the Sun and the lowest stars and they will combine the sacred calendar; 360 days with the Solar count and we discover the movement of Venus, another Great Star, every 52 years.

CAV: The basic unit of the Mayan calendar was the day or KIN, a UINAL is the second order and it’s 20 days long, TUN is the third order and is 360 days long. 20 TUN, years, equal 1 KATÚN, that is 7200 days, and 20 KATÚN equal 1 BAKTÚN, 144,000 days, and TZOLKIN is a divining calendar of 260 days.

VTR: The long count is the measure of the movement of the outer planets. If we move the counter of the Katún one time we find another joined conjunction in a different location in the sky. If we move it two counts, then we find it in another location. But if we move it three counts, the counter of Katun, we found that Jupiter and Saturn are undergoing retrograde motion in conjunction with the full moon in the same original location, so the three Katún count is the record of the revisit of these two great beings, the two divine beings in the sky at the same location and Mars — as I mentioned before, 111 tzolkin are the same as 4 katuns — so when we move the katún counter 4 units, then we find Mars at the same location. So when Mars should return to Saturn, and they will return to the same location where we have at the recurrence of 3 katuns for Jupiter and Saturn, and the recurrence of 4 katuns for Mars, 4 times three, every twelve katuns, we’ll find a triple conjunction in retrograde motion at the same location of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and the Moon. And that, my friends, is the history of the Mayan calendar, an exact model of the Universe, by the Mayas solved one thousand years before Kepler solved it in the West.

CAV: Extracts were read from the article “The Great Lords of the Sky” by Victor Torres Roldán taken from the magazine Mexicanísimo. You can find out more about him in his book (Star Cities) “Ciudades Estelares, Cosmología y Simbología de las Pirámides” published in Spanish by Random House/Mondadori. He is currently looking for a publisher for the English version.

More information is available at my blog
I want to thank Instituto de Astronomía UNAM and Museo Nacional de Antropología. This podcast was edited and produced by Octavio valdés.

From Mexico City this was C. Augusto Valdés, wishing you a happy and uneventful 2012.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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