Questions regarding the history of astronomy, including discoveries and scientists.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

1
vote
2answers
70 views

Was the radiant of the Perseid meteor shower ever near Vega thousands of years ago?

The ancient Chinese story of the Weaver Girl (Altair) and the Cowherd (Vega) tell of starcrossed lovers who are only allowed to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th (Chinese) lunar month, ...
1
vote
1answer
107 views

Why was the size of the solar system not defined by Mercury Transits?

The first measurements of the (absolute) size of the solar system was made using the Transit of Venus, an event that arguably will only happen twice in a lifetime. Transits of Mercury occur far more ...
0
votes
1answer
87 views

When was the nearest star discovered? [closed]

When historically did we realize that the Sun is a star, like all the others? An answer was posted, then the question was put on hold. I would like to answer: If indeed someone asserted that the Sun ...
1
vote
1answer
181 views

What is the first recorded reference to the Moon being a satellite of the Earth?

I saw a list recently of the moons of the various planets and the discoverer(s) and date of discovery. Earth's Moon was listed as Unknown. I know you don't 'discover' a huge disc in the sky. But ...
0
votes
2answers
35 views

How was precision astrometry done before digital imaging?

Did they just put a ruler on the photographic plate? Quite some precision must have been required to discover Neptune from its influence on Uranus for example.
1
vote
1answer
33 views

Could the Sun's bending of light be measured on photographic plates before Einstein's prediction?

It was predicted from Newtonian physics already in the 18th century that gravity should bend light, but not by as much as general relativity predicts. This was first confirmed during a solar eclipse ...
3
votes
1answer
81 views

Discovery in Astronomy vs one in Physics - do they differ in required burden of evidence?

Discovery in Astronomy/Astrophysics (of astronomical objects) vs discovery of physical phenomena in experimental Physics (as such) - do they differ in required burden of evidence (with the notion, ...
2
votes
4answers
131 views

What planet is better than earth to infer solar system configuration?

The mankind had to work some centuries to infer the real configuration of solar system, starting from greeks, Ptolemeus, until Copernicus, Galilei, Kepler, Newton etc. Is there any planet where we ...
1
vote
1answer
31 views

When did the Scutum constellation receive its current name?

While cleaning my desk, I found an out of date star map (puts the cleaning into perspective, huh?) where the Scutum constellation is still referred to as Scutum Sobiescianum). This is the original ...
2
votes
1answer
132 views

Do all planets rotate in the same direction in relation to each other?

In other words, does everything spin counterclockwise according to their axes (in relation to each other)? I suppose my question goes for stars, moons and other objects too. But then again, all you ...
5
votes
1answer
114 views

How were the orbits of planets first mapped out?

I'd like to know how the orbits of planets were first 'mapped out' and to understand the maths behind it. e.g. How do we know what position in space a planet will be at certain time so that spacecraft ...
6
votes
2answers
757 views

When was the term “orbit” (in the modern sense) first used and by whom?

Wikipedia coyly suggests that some notions and views kept circulating (apparently since Adam and Eve) until finally Kepler, of all people, ... etc. I find this hard to believe. Please elucidate.
6
votes
2answers
143 views

Acquirable Raw Data in Amateur Astrophotography

What raw data can I possibly acquire from an 8" Classical Dobsonian Telescope, and a DSLR? Could anything eye-opening to amateur astronomers be computed or calculated first-hand with such equipment? I'...
7
votes
2answers
283 views

Why does the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram's x-axis go from large temperatures to lower?

In my textbook, the H–R diagram’s y-axis is $\log(L/L_{\odot})$ and values are higher as we go higher on the scale, but the x-axis is $\log(T_\text{eff})$ and gets smaller as we proceed to the right. ...
1
vote
2answers
45 views

Which stars have been named after astronomers?

Most apparent stars have ancient names. But some of the newer (since 200 or so years) discoveries have been given the name of some prominent astronomer. Kapteyn's star is one example, and there are ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

How many constellations in the Zodiac?

The astronomical zodiac contains a bunch of constellations along the ecliptic. Some sources say there are 13 constellations in the astronomical zodiac. Other sources claim there are 12. According ...
1
vote
0answers
26 views

I'm making a presentation for a planetarium, any topic ideas? [closed]

As part of a project I'm making a presentation that will be displayed on my university planetarium dome, using the Nightshade software. I'm looking for topic ideas... The subject I thought about ...
3
votes
0answers
49 views

Before Voyager 2, what were the highest quality photos of Uranus and Neptune?

I'm in search of historical knowledge of the outer ice giants, which seems so hard to come by. Right now I would be happy with just a photo of each, the best photo we had of them before Voyager 2. ...
1
vote
1answer
91 views

Are lunar occultations visible to the naked eye?

The Moon occults a lot of stars. But are these events visible to the naked eye? Won't it be blinded out by the crescent even at its thinnest just before sunrise? Did ancient astronomers actually ...
5
votes
3answers
687 views

How did our ancestors discover the Solar System?

I wonder, how did our ancestors discover the Solar System? They did not have any telescopes to see distant objects, right? Even a planet looks like a star from a distance. They discovered the ...
1
vote
1answer
72 views

Who invented the blink comparator?

The Wikipedia page for the blink comparator fails to mention who invented it. Many other pages extol the importance of the device, but we cannot find any mention of an inventor. Wikipedia does ...
3
votes
1answer
88 views

Why was Pluto's resonance not discovered until 1965?

Over here, I was shocked to learn: The Neptune–Pluto system lies in a 3:2 orbital resonance. C.J. Cohen and E.C. Hubbard at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division discovered this in ...
3
votes
0answers
37 views

Available data on the Milky way around 1920

In a book by Alexander Moszkowski, there is an Einstein quote about a hypothetical size of the universe (100 million Light years). Moszkowski claims that Einstein had deduced that from the ...
2
votes
1answer
99 views

How well do planetary orbits fit with Johannes Kepler's in- & circumscribed Platonic solids?

In Mysterium Cosmographicum (1596) Johannes Kepler proposed that the relative distances between the orbits of the six ancient planets (six because heliocentrism had recently added Earth as one of the ...
4
votes
2answers
207 views

Where to obtain Tycho Brahe's data?

I would like to obtain Tycho Brahe's data on Mars. What would be an authoritative source? One source I could find is this page (the data is given as an Excel file) but I have no idea can that be ...
2
votes
1answer
91 views

What were the challenges for the ancients to observe the orbit of the Moon (instead of Mars)?

Astrophysics can be said to have been founded by Johannes Kepler around the year 1600. He based his break-through science on data of the position of Mars in the sky and disproved the ancient ideas ...
0
votes
2answers
376 views

Naming of the planets of the solar system

Planets of the solar system have been named with Roman mythology gods names. I have a few questions on my mind concerning that subject for a while: Who decided to name them like this? When did the ...
1
vote
0answers
71 views

Who discovered what set of factors is responsible for visibility of celestial bodies on Earth's daytime sky?

Visibility of a celestial body on the sky during the day depends on a number of factors - if I recall correctly: the body's magnitude, Seeing, Sky brightness, and probably some others I have missed. ...
0
votes
0answers
63 views

How was Henrietta Leavitt's discovery important for star measurement? [duplicate]

Henrietta Leavitt discovered a relation between luminosity and period of variable stars, so it was possible to measure distance between two variable stars. I am curious to know how that was important ...
15
votes
2answers
3k views

How did Kepler “guess” his third law from data?

It is amazing that Kepler determined his three laws by looking at data, without a calculator and using only pen and paper. It is conceivable how he proved his laws described the data after he had ...
4
votes
2answers
131 views

Are there stars in the first photo from space?

Wikipedia has this photo (see below) labelled "First photo from space" which was taken in 1946 from a U.S. launched German V-2 rocket. Approximately two thirds of the image is a section of the Earth ...
5
votes
1answer
118 views

Why didn't Johannes Kepler use data about more planets?

In Astronomia Nova (1609) Johannes Kepler used observations of Mars in order to refute circular orbits. Throughout Astronomia Nova he hardly even mentions other planets than Mars, Earth and the Sun (...
3
votes
1answer
124 views

Is there a general term for epicycles, deferents, and eccentrics in Ptolemaic astronomy?

According to Ptolemy's (c. 150 CE) account of the motions of planets, planets moved in circular paths ("epicycles") around center points that in turn moved around the center of the earth along a path ...
5
votes
1answer
3k views

How was the Earth-Sun distance originally calculated?

AFAIK it was possible long before the first interplanetary probes. Who did it?
2
votes
1answer
71 views

Original Hubble diagram units incorrect?

Figure 1 from Hubble 1929 has velocity with units of km. Is this just a typo or was there a reason the plot is printed this way?
4
votes
2answers
710 views

How did Kepler determine the orbital period of Mars?

As I understand it, Kepler used the orbital period of Mars, along with observational data of Mars' and the sun's position in the sky to derive the orbits of Earth and Mars. (As described, here: https:...
2
votes
1answer
141 views

How might Thales have predicted a solar eclipse?

Thales of Miletus purportedly predicted a solar eclipse (most likely the solar eclipse of May 28, 585 BCE). The historicity of Thales' prediction can't be verified with any certainty given the ...
9
votes
1answer
532 views

Was the progress of astronomy in the 1800s surprisingly slow, and if so why? [closed]

The 1800's was a century of fantastic scientific discoveries in chemistry, geology, biology, engineering and so on. Is it correct to say that astronomy did not keep up with this development? And if ...
4
votes
1answer
290 views

How did Copernicus get the idea of heliocentric model?

The heliocentric model marked the beginning of modern astronomy. But what were the reasons which led Copernicus to think that the earth orbited the sun. I've read that his model was based on ...
3
votes
2answers
153 views

What's the origin and culture of funny astronomical terminology?

I'm not in the industry myself, but as an interested member of the public the terminology of astronomy seems a bit funny. Astronomers who today talk publicly about the interstellar medium say that the ...