An Interview with Duncan Lunan - Part Two - Unabridged Version

By Michael S. Collins

and the Winterwind staff

What happened in the Epsilon Boötis affair?

That’s a big change in topic – but then, it was a big change of direction in my writing life. One of the early participants in the “Man and the Stars” discussions was the late John Macvey, author of “Journey to Alpha Centauri” and a string of later books. He drew attention to the suggestion by Prof. Ron Bracewell, of Stanford University, that a probe from another civilisation had tried to contact us, using long-delayed radio 'echoes' (LDE's), first reported in the 1920's.

Actually, the 'echoes' were much too powerful to be simple reflections of signals from Earth. Experimenters studying round-the-world propagation of radio waves found their outgoing pulses were being returned to them with a delay of three seconds, as if they were being amplified and returned by something at the distance of the Moon - but definitely not the Moon itself. In later experiments the delay times began to vary upwards from three seconds, in increasingly complicated sequences, but with no variation in intensity - still indicating a single source amplifying and returning the pulses.

Prof. Bracewell suggested in 1960 that the 'echoes' might have been rebroadcast by an unmanned probe from another civilisation, trying to attract our attention, and in 1972 I worked out a 'translation' of the 1920's echo patterns. The variations of delay times appeared random; but Prof. Bracewell himself had suggested the first signal from such a probe might be a star map, and the stars are spaced at random in the sky. I tried plotting the delay times against the order in which the echoes were received, and at only the second attempt I found what looked like a star map - in which it appeared that the probe had come from the double star Epsilon Boötis, in the constellation Boötes, the Herdsman. Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation, seemed to be out of place in the map; but on checking, was shown at its place about 13,000 years ago. I was on the train from Glasgow to Troon when I roughed out the graph and recognised what it appeared to be: it was as fast as, “That looks more like an intelligent signal, in fact it looks familiar, and I know what that is.” That was the moment when my writing career swung from fiction to nonfiction.

Other parts of the supposed message seemed to give the scale of their planetary system, orbiting Epsilon Boötis A, and seemed at first to make sense. Epsilon Boötis A is an orange giant star, and the translation indicated that the probe makers had evolved on its second planet, emigrating later to the sixth when their sun began to expand. But there was a problem: the companion star (Epsilon B) was bright blue, apparently a short-lived sun of spectral type A2. The distance given for the star in most reference books was too low, and at the true distance of 203 light-years, Epsilon B really was an A2 star and the orange giant Epsilon A had been an AO, like Sirius - too massive and with too high a radiation output to sustain habitable planets, too short-lived for life to have evolved there. At the same time, more accurate 1920's records were located, and most of the 'star map' translations were ruled out - not the 'Epsilon Boötis' one, but it too had to be treated as suspect. I withdrew the entire translation, but now it seems I may have gone too far.

Dropping it didn't rule out the space probe suggested by Prof. Bracewell (though he later abandoned the idea). James Strong of the British Interplanetary Society suggested that the probe could be located in either the 'Lagrange 4' or 'L5' point, also called 'Trojan' or 'Equilateral' points, equidistant from the Earth and Moon. The dates and times of the 1920's LDE's showed that the L5 point was at least one source of the effect. Anthony Lawton of the BIS suggested that in ideal conditions the Trojan points could form temporary, stable ionospheres of their own which would generate LDE's; it was reported that I accepted that, but scientists I consulted replied that such clouds would be disrupted by currents in the Earth's magnetosphere, or at other times of the month by the Solar Wind, the constant outflow of charged particles from the Sun. In any case, as the Lagrange points have no gravitational fields of their own, a cloud of charged particles would be scattered by their mutual electrostatic repulsion - unless there was a powerful magnetic or electrostatic field to hold them in place. If this was produced by a spacecraft, I suggested, Lawton might have hit upon the method by which the Bracewell probe generated LDE's - by accident!

Many books and articles said that Lawton conducted an active radio search for LDE's, but in reality he stopped after getting an initial 'reply', on the grounds that further transmissions "would constitute a biased experiment". Optical searches of the Lagrange points failed to find anything as large as the Skylab space station, or, in a later search, as large as the Pioneer 10 space probe. Meanwhile, however, Epsilon Boötis just would not lie down.

There are several real or suggested Zodiacal star maps, laid out on the ground, which centre on Boötes. That's just because the constellation lies near the pole of the Ecliptic, perpendicular to the Earth's orbital plane around the sun, so any Zodiacal map will be centred near it. But also, we are in Boötes as viewed from Tau Ceti, one of the nearest stars like our Sun, and at relativistic speeds, Epsilon Boötis would be a prime navigational reference on the journey here. And there was an even stranger development.

After "Man and the Stars" came out, I was contacted by Alan Evans, who was then a Captain in British Military Intelligence. He liked the analysis I'd made of Erich von Däniken’s claims, where I concluded that Earth had not been visited more than four times, at most. Alan suggested we jointly attempt something still more systematic: if the Earth had ever been visited, our aim would be to find proof. He stressed that his was purely a personal interest, which had to remain confidential, but as he's since left the Army that no longer applies.

We tightened up my approach into four categories of possible evidence. Category A would be our objective, an artefact of unquestionably extraterrestrial origin. Category B would be optical or electromagnetic anomalies pinpointing such an object (like the Tycho monolith in 2001); Category D would be the 'von Däniken material' of legends, drawings etc. which were no use except in suggesting areas to search for other types of evidence. But Alan pressed me to include a new category, C, which would be anomalous astronomical alignments in man-made structures - anomalous because they revealed knowledge which the builders should not have had. For example, on high-resolution photographs of Stonehenge, he had identified markings which seemed to indicate galactic alignments.

I wasn't impressed at first. Having studied megalithic astronomy under Archie Roy, I’d seen nothing unusual; there was no correlation even with Category D; and when I did the calculations, the markings Alan had found didn't seem to be galactic. At the time when he put this to me, circa 1975, it was supposed that Stone­henge I was built in 1800 BC, near the end of the Stone Age in Britain (not many people realise that Stonehenge was one of the last megaliths), with Stonehenge III, the inner circle, still later in the Bronze Age. Soon afterwards, however, Archie Roy himself published an article from which we learned that the radiocarbon dating scale had been revised, pushing Stonehenge I back from 1800 BC to 2700 BC. Further revision made it c.2840 BC, and that radically changed the whole position.

To cut to the chase, the photographs show markings in Stonehenge 1 which are lined up with the rising point of the Galactic Centre, and the intersection of the Galactic Equator with the Ecliptic – and you can’t determine galactic coordinates without a radiotelescope. The declination of the North Galactic Pole was equal to the latitude of Stonehenge, so when the Galactic Centre rose, the Galactic Equator coincided with the horizon, the Galactic Pole was overhead, and all the altitudes and azimuths measured from the Pole-to-Centre meridian were equal to galactic coordinates. It looks as if Stonehenge 1 was built round something, and if that something was a starship, or a lander from one, its attitude control platform would be lined up with the sky once a day.

But that’s not the end of it. Alan has an amazing intuitive grasp of spatial relationships, and he’s spotted that the diagonal across two of the lunar stones in Stonehenge 1 is an Ecliptic meridian, activated once a day. It meets the equator at the prime meridian of the great pyramids, built shortly after Stonehenge 1, and when we checked, the same two galactic alignments are built into the Step Pyramid and the Great Pyramid, the first and the last of them. Alan just looks at a globe or a site plan and sees these relationships, I take pages of calculations to check them – but then you can go to a planetarium and see them for yourself. We verified the galactic and ecliptic ones at the planetarium in Jewel and Esk College, twice, then John Braithwaite and I verified them at Armagh Planetarium (more about John below). We also verified something else extraordinary. Because you can’t see the Galactic Pole etc, I looked for a star which could be an optical marker for it, and it turned out that c.2800 BC that star was Epsilon Boötis.

In 1996 I organised an event at the Edinburgh Science Festival called ‘Heresies in Archaeoastronomy’, looking at ideas so controversial that even archaeoastronomers won’t willingly discuss them. By then I was in touch with Robert Bauval, the author of “The Orion Mystery”. I took him to the planetarium at Glasgow Nautical College to see what we had, and when I showed him the galactic alignment at Stonehenge I, he said, “It’s the same at Giza at the First Time, we just didn’t know what it meant.”

The First Time of ancient Egypt, according to Graham Hancock and Robert, was c.10,500 BC, coinciding with the apparent date of the LDE ‘Boötes map’. So we had the planetarium projector reset to Giza at the time of the Pyramids, verified the alignments of “The Orion Mystery”, and then reset the date to the First Time. Sure enough, the Galactic Pole went through the zenith and the Milky Way lined up with the Horizon, just as at Stonehenge 1 eight thousand years later. So on impulse we went back to Stonehenge, which was just on the edge of the ice sheets then, and let the sky wheel on through the day – and Epsilon Boötis went through the zenith. 8000 years later, when they built Stonehenge 1, it was back there.

This isn’t proof that Earth has been visited. If Category A evidence stands for ‘artefact’, Category B for ‘beacon’ and Category D for ‘Däniken’, Category C stands for ‘circumstantial’. But we aren’t talking about one astonishing coincidence here, we’re talking about one astonishing coincidence piled upon another, over and over again, until the only sensible conclusion is that all this has been very carefully planned to signpost the fact that we have indeed been visited, at least once, maybe twice or more. And apparently Epsilon Boötis had some major significance to whoever came here.

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