Egyptian Astronomy

What the stars had to say

Did the stars affect Egyptian engineering?

The Great Pyramids were aligned to the cardinal points of the compass through astronomy. In Egypt, the stars appear to move from east to west so in order to find "true north", they would have to divide the angle of the rising star and the setting star by two.

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Ancient Astronomical Findings That Helped Create The Calendar

Early Egyptian calendars

The Egyptians began to notice that every time the star Sirius, known as Sothis to the Egyptians, would appear on the eastern horizon right before sunrise after being "invisible" for a long period of time. This is called the heliacal rising and was used to tell the seasons: Akhet, "Flood"; Peret, "Emergence"; Shomu, "Low Water" or "Harvest". Each season was approximately four months long.

Years later and a new calendar emerges.

The firsts calendar were irregular and short. An unknown man decided to come up with a solution for the irregular calendar. It is believed that he either averaged the lengths of multiple lunar calendars, or he counted the days from one heliacal rising to the next. Either way, the new calendar had a fixed set of 365 days. The new calendar also had three season that were broken up into four months each, with approximately four weeks each month.
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Astronomical Influences in Egyptian Religious Beliefs


The Egyptians believed in many gods and goddess; these deities were usually represented by a human body with an animal head. One god in particular, Ra, was the sun-god. Ra was considered the god of all gods and ruled over everything, including the Nile. He was usually shown with a sun disk on his head. The Egyptians believed that every day he was born and slowly aged until he died and gave rise to the moon. This was how they explained the rising and setting of the sun.


The goddess Tefnut was the goddess of the moisture or rain. She would help her father, Ra, rise every morning and the strain would cause her to cry, creating the morning dew. She is either seen as a woman with the head of a lion and a sun disk.

Geb and Nut

Tefnut's children, Geb and Nut, were separated at birth to create the earth and the sky. It is unclear whether Nut became the Earth or the Sky, but throughout Egyptian artworks she is usually depicted as a long, star filled woman leaning above the people.


The goddess of the home, Isis, was usually depicted having wings and a moon disk on her head as she was considered the goddess of the moon in some Egyptian cultures. She is married to the god of the afterlife, Osiris, who is also viewed in some areas as the god of the Nile.