In collaboration with the
International Astronomical Union

About this portal

Midwinter sunset along the axis at Stonehenge, Uni

Midwinter sunset along the axis at Stonehenge, United Kingdom. Photograph © Clive Ruggles

The Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy is a dynamic, publicly accessible information source, database and document repository on astronomical heritage throughout the world, whether or not it forms part of properties (sites) on UNESCO’s World Heritage List or national Tentative Lists.

Serving UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative, the portal also provides tools for the definition, identification, and assessment of the significance and, potentially, Outstanding Universal Value of this type of heritage. A wide range of case studies provide examples of different types of astronomical heritage together with information relevant to its protection, conservation, management and promotion.

  Purpose of this portal

Why astronomical heritage?

Some level of interest in celestial objects and events is a feature of nearly all, if not all, human societies throughout the ages. For most of those in the past, the sky formed a prominent and immutable part of the observed world, its repeated cycles helping to regulate human activity as people strove to make sense of their world and keep their actions in harmony with the cosmos as they perceived it. In some cases this was simply in order to maintain seasonal subsistence cycles; in others it helped support dominant ideologies and complex social hierarchies. It is this quest for knowledge and understanding—‘science’ in its broadest sense—that most clearly links people with an active interest in the skies right through from the earliest skywatchers to modern astronomers and cosmologists. Astronomy is a fundamental attribute of humankind, a vital facet of human culture common to every chronological period, geographical situation, and type of human society.

  What is astronomical heritage?

  Why preserve it?