Astronomy Through the Ages by Sir Robert Wilson

By Sir Robert Wilson

From an ancient standpoint, this article provides a wholly non- mathematical advent to astronomy from the 1st endeavours of the ancients to the present advancements in examine enabled via leading edge technological advances. freed from arithmetic and intricate graphs, the e-book however explains deep ideas of house and time, of relativity and quantum mechanics, and of foundation and nature of the universe. It conveys not just the intrinsic fascination of the topic, but additionally the human aspect and the medical technique as practised via Kepler, outlined and elucidated through Galileo, after which confirmed via Newton.

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CHAPTER FOUR The Interlude Dark to me is the Earth. Dark to me are the Heavens. ¼Desolate are the streets. Desolate is the city. Blunt After the great Greek period, scientific, and indeed all intellectual activities, declined in Europe and the Middle East. All of the Mediterranean countries and large parts of Europe were under the military domination of Rome for some six centuries and, by the time its empire collapsed in AD 476 (the eastern rump based on Byzantine, modern day Constantinople, lasted another thousand years), intellectual pursuits had effectively vanished in all areas of scholarship.

Using his own data, he attempted to quantify Aristotle’s model, but soon realized, as others had before, that a simple, single sphere could not explain the motions of heavenly bodies, particularly those of the planets. He introduced the concept of secondary circular motion on a sphere rotating around a larger sphere. These “epicycles” were to be adopted, some 300 years later, by the last of the great ancient Greek philosophers, Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria, in his epic quantification of Aristotle’s cosmology using the observations of Hipparchus.

It was a very complex model and it required 55 spheres to carry the different celestial bodies, but he had achieved his life’s aim of quantifying Aristotle’s cosmology, and his model was to be used by astronomers (and astrologers) for a thousand years. It should be stressed that Ptolemy’s system allowed the positions of the heavenly bodies to be predicted; their distances were a quite different matter. Because of the work of Aristarchus, Eratosthenes and Hipparchus, the distance of the Moon was known accurately to Ptolemy, but the distances to the Sun, planets and stars were very uncertain, simply because those distances were unimaginably immense by terrestrial standards.

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