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Heritage ancient and modern
The Eise Eisinga Planetarium, a model solar system
Image Credit: Jean Housen

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Astronomy is part of our heritage; now it is part of World heritage too, with sitesincurding Jodrell Bank on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Astronomy has been part of human heritage for as long as there have been humans, as far as we can tell. Stonehenge is just one of the ancient sites that demonstrate that our ancestors were familiar with the patterns of the night sky. But now – after some hard work by astronomers – astronomically significant sites are being added to the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), starting with Jodrell Bank in the UK and the Risco Caído and Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria in Spain. 

Clive Ruggles explains the significance of both these new World Heritage sites, and the potential for more sites of special astronomical significance taking their place on the world stage. Jodrell Bank is a marker for twentieth century astronomy, in the iconic Lovell Telescope, but also in the development of radio astronomy and the astonishing universe it has opened up to human research and reasoning. And the Risco Caído is a large-scale example of early human interaction with land and the skies. Their listing came about through a joint project between UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union, together seeking sites that meet the World Heritage criteria, of "outstanding universal value". With the rich tradition of astronomical heritage, we can expect more listings in the future. 


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