WASHINGTON — A Naval Observatory astronomer has come up with a surprisingly simple explanation for the inclination of a descending passageway in the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt.
In the early 19th Century, English astronomer John Herschel suggested the 377-foot long passageway was built at its angle of 26.5230 degrees to point at the North Star, allowing the pyramid to serve as an astronomical observatory as well as a tomb for Cheops.
Richard Walker, a Navy Observatory astronomer based at Flagstaff, Ariz., checked Herschel's idea and found that, because of the wobble of Earth's axis in its orbit around the sun, no prominent star could have been seen from the base of the passageway in 2800 BC when the pyramid was built.
Then why was the passageway inclined at an angle of 26.5 degrees?
According to a Naval Observatory report released last week, the angle was merely the result of the construction technique.
By placing three stones of equal length horizontally and then placing a fourth stone of equal size on the top of the third horizontal stone, Walker determined that the angle from the top stone to the bottom stone at the other end was 26.5 degrees.