Astronomy

 

 

Since humans discovered the ability to analyse their world they have looked at the stars. The earliest astronomers used the naked eye, albeit looking into much clearer skies, to determine the passing of the seasons. But soon they began to try and understand what the stars and the sky actually were. Slowly we have come to understand more about our universe, such as the motion of planets and the composition of the stars, but there is still much to learn. While historically most astronomy was achieved on the ground, to learn more we are having to travel beyond the Earth.

 

Activities:

 

         Horoscopes - investigate the origins of astrology, or predicting what path, life will take under a particular star sign. Describe the personality types assigned to each sign.

 

         What contribution did Ancient Egyptian astronomy make towards the Western World's concept of time?

 

         The first mathematical formulas to predict the appearances made by the moon originated in Babylonia. What reasons would they have had to try to create such a formula? Use your own diary and observations to predict the next full moon.

 

         The Pythagoreans formulated one of the earliest theories about the cosmos, and built the first firm model of the solar system. Draw the solar system as it has been represented today.

 

         Our solar system is a part of what galaxy? What is the latter comprised of? Indicate by a labelled diagram or with a list of definitions.

 

         How did Plato, Aristotle and Callippus contribute to our understanding of the solar system? Write a brief explanation for each.

 

         List the ways in which humankind has explored our solar system. What has hindered our desire to search space?

 

         On a timeline write the major breakthroughs in our exploration and the country that contributed the most. What reasons can you give for this?

 

         Once the naked eye interpreted all forms of disaster from a 'reading' of the skies, whilst today we realise that the 'stars' don't have quite such impact on the earth, how is it affected by the movement of stars, moons, planets and other objects?

 

         What does 'celestial navigation' mean and what or whom does it assist? What are the significant constellations that are key indicators in this form of navigation?

 

         What impact has organised religion had on the development of astronomy? In what ways has it advanced the science or held it back?

 

 

Websites:

 

Documents of Astronomical History

http://condor.stcloudstate.edu/~physcrse/astr106/doc.html

Excerpts from some of the influential writings of Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Galileo and Copernicus. It also includes the oath that Galileo was forced to swear renouncing his support for the Copernican model of the solar system.

 

Catholic Encyclopaedia

www.newadvent.org/cathen/02025a.htm

A brief look at the history of astronomy and astronomy today from what seems an unlikely source, but the Catholic Church has a long history of keeping the study of astronomy alive, if occasionally interfering in the results of that study.

 

History of Astronomy

http://www.astro.uni-bonn.de/~pbrosche/hist_astr/ha_items.html

Links to sites and articles on the history of astronomy. Some of the information is basic others are more detailed, but there are plenty of things here to look at.

 

Academic Info- History of Astronomy

http://www.academicinfo.net/astrohist.html

Links to some well-illustrated and well-researched articles on many aspects of astronomy and space exploration.

 

Books:

 

The History of Astronomy- A Very Short Introduction.

By Michael Hoskin

A fabulous concise, yet detailed, introduction to humanity's fascination with space. Looks at the history of the science from ancient times to the 19th century (Oxford University Press).

 

On The Shoulders of Giants

Edited by Stephen Hawking

A more challenging read for those who want to look further. This book has extracts from the original writings of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein. Each section is introduced by a brief biog, and discussion of their respective importance, written by none other than the illustrious Stephen Hawking (Running Press - distributed in Australia by Bookwise).

 

Milestones of Science

By Curt Suplee

Looks at some of the leaps and bounds in science over the centuries including several chapters on advances in astronomy (National Geographic).

 

E=Mc2- The Great Ideas that Shaped our World

By Pete Moore

Focuses on the people but looks into the ideas they generated and the way they inspired others, for instance in astronomy (ABC Books).

 

Usborne Understanding Science- Astronomy

By Stuart Atkinson

A look at all aspects of astronomy with a special section on the history of telescopes and more generally on the history of astronomy (Usborne).