24 May 2015

Astronomers show ancient Rome's sun

12:27 pm on 24 May 2015

New Zealand astronomers have helped re-create the skies above Rome for simulations showing how ancient emperors built structures to align with the movements of the sun.

A ray of sunlight illuminates the central door of the Pantheon through the dome in April 2015.

A ray of sunlight illuminates the central door of the real-life Pantheon in April 2015. Photo: AFP

Waikato University researchers calculated the alignment of the sun and stars from thousands of years ago for the project, for the History Channel.

Ball State's IDIA Lab developed animations to show how the Pantheon was used to track the sun.

An animation of the ancient Pantheon Photo: Ball State IDIA Lab

The university's dean of arts and social science, Robert Hannah, said he was astounded to see how US artists and designers used New Zealand's archaeo-astronomy to create 3D animations.

He said animation used in video games was being adapted to show how modern-day ruins such as the Pantheon were used to track the sun.

"I've seen my son play games like 'Halo', so I knew what was possible but I'd never seen it adapted to ancient world buildings."

Ball State University's IDIA Lab drew on the astronomers' research to help it simulate the Pantheon, the Temple of Antinous and the Meridian of Augustus, which centred on an obelisk used as a giant sundial and calendar.

A screenshot from the middle of the process to create the final simulations - this one, of the Meridian of Augustus.

A screenshot from the middle of the process to create the final simulations - this one, of the Meridian of Augustus. Photo: SUPPLIED

The final simulations adjust light and shadow as a viewer moves through the day.

The final simulations adjust light and shadow as a viewer moves through the day. Photo: SUPPLIED

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