Stonehenge sun warms hopes for 2012

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The omens are good that 2012 will be an excellent year, a druid said yesterday, after the sun shone on Stonehenge during a dawn ceremony to mark the winter solstice.

Organisers of next year’s London Olympics could perhaps take heart from the positive pronouncement by Rollo Maughfling, the arch druid of the standing stones in Wiltshire, after yesterday morning’s ceremony.

He said that the sun rising over the horizon at the end of the religious service, bathing more than 1,000 people who attended in pale light, meant good things for the next 12 months.

The mild temperatures and sunshine at the pre-historic site were a marked contrast to last year’s solstice, when the giant stones were surrounded by a thick blanket of snow and the winter morning mist obscured the actual sunrise.

“Just as the ceremony came to an end the sun came over the horizon, it was excellent,” Mr Maughfling said.

“It has been a very jolly occasion. It’s a good omen for the year ahead.”

The shortest day of the year often falls on December 21, but this year the druid and pagan community marked the first day of winter yesterday because the modern calendar of 365 days a year – with an extra day every four years – does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days.

Meanwhile people who want to experience the winter solstice but could not get to the stone circle yesterday are now being offered the chance to experience it “virtually”.

A trio of computer scientists at the University of Huddersfield have teamed up with software company Ribui to produce an iPhone and iPad app for “armchair druids”.

The Stonehenge Experience uses 3D digital modelling techniques to allow people to see what the site would have looked like in its prehistoric heyday.

Users of the app can navigate interactively around Stonehenge and explore it without seeing any latter-day fences or paths – or crowds of tourists.