Questions tagged [history]

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

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5
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2answers
244 views

“Table of Astronomy's” depiction of the solar system models

This is going to be a follow up question to my question about the "Table of Astronomy" from yesterday, What is this “Table of astronomy” about?. I wanted to take a close look at the three depiction ...
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73 views

The size of Copernicus’ and Ptolemy’s corrections

I understand that both Copernicus and Ptolemy needed epicycles, but one might assume that a heliocentric system would need much smaller corrections to account for the non-circular motion of the ...
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What's the origin of Clyde Tombaugh's 9-inch Newtonian telescope?

Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh is shown in a now-famous photograph at the age of 24 with his "homemade" 9-inch Newtonian telescope in this image also shown in Elva R. O'Hara's Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy ...
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When was it realised that most major moons orbit in the equatorial plane of their parent planets?

Inspired by the discussion of the moons of Uranus providing a clue to the planet's axis of rotation in this question, I'm wondering when it was realised that the major satellites are typically located ...
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1answer
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Uranus' axis of rotation-when discovered?

Who discovered it, and how was that accomplished. I had assumed it was known before Voyager 2 arrived at the planet since it isn't mentioned in JPL voyager 2 Uranus Approach
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1answer
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Tycho Brahe's model

Tycho Brahe made a model of universe where earth is at the centre and motionless whereas all other planet orbited around the sun. I am interested to know how he came to this model? If it is because ...
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3answers
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Nicolas Copernicus discovery

As I was reading about the heliocentric model, a question came up: How was Nicolaus Copernicus able to figure out that the sun is at the center of the solar system, and that all planets orbit around ...
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Did Edmund Scientific 4¼ inch Newtonians have 90° prisms as secondary mirrors in the 1970's?

I mentioned my old telescope's secondary mirror in this answer (stiffness) but I'm not certain I am remembering correctly. My first telescope was a Edmund Scientific 4¼ inch Newtonian reflector. This ...
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When did the first annular eclipse happen?

A few hundreds of millions of years ago, the moon was closer to the Earth than it is today and hence was of a bigger apparent size. This made every solar eclipse either total or partial. Over the ...
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1answer
73 views

Sorting out Julian Day, Julian Date, Julian Day number, Julian Day Calendar, and Julian Day Table

In this answer I mention day number which is 1 on the first day of each calendar year (January 1) and increments to 365 or 366 on December 31 of that year. There was an edit proposed, which included ...
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How was the astrometry of the famous 1919 solar eclipse confirmation of General Relativity calibrated and verified?

The new New York Times article The Eclipse That Made Einstein Famous describes several events and discussions on the hundred year anniversary of the the 1919 solar eclipse and verification of the ...
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1answer
59 views

Reference: First spectrographic observations by Fraunhofer

In several books I find reported that the first scientist to perform spectrographic observations of celestial objects was Fraunhofer with the spectrographs he himself produced. I do not find though a ...
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143 views

What is the origin of the term “plane of the spirit level”?

I have heard the term "plane of the spirit level" e.g. the sun's shadows is X degrees to the plane of the spirit level to signify the surface of the earth and I see it is a common term used in ...
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Tycho Brahe Danish Astronomer Religious?

Does anyone know if Tycho Brahe was religious?
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1answer
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Are there recommendations to use “Hubble-Lemaître constant” instead of “Hubble constant”?

The IAU recommends renaming the Hubble law as the Hubble-Lemaître law, as discussed at its General Assembly in 2018 (see this press release and the links therein). I have now stumbled upon an ...
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What was the first astronomical measurement which demonstrated that “the Earth is surrounded by vacuum”?

The question Who was the first to realize that the Earth is surrounded by vacuum? was closed because some users felt it was answered by answers to a different question in an different SE site: Who was ...
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Has stellar evolution ever been modeled analytically?

I'll still remember the handout my astronomy professor gave us more than several decades ago; Our Friends the Polytropes. We spent a lot of time learning how polytropes, simple analytical power-law ...
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First observation that the Sun and Jupiter (and friends) move around a common barycenter?

Answers to the question How did Kepler determine the orbital period of Mars? describing careful observations centuries ago got me thinking. What was the first analysis of observations that directly ...
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1answer
93 views

First observation that the movement of a planet or asteroid in its orbit was affected by another planet?

Answers to the question How did Kepler determine the orbital period of Mars? describing careful observations centuries ago got me thinking. Question: What was the first analysis of observations that ...
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1answer
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What's the reason that we have a different number of days each month?

It always was interesting for me to understand the answer for the question: What's the reason that we have a different number of days each month? If the month is fixed on the time that the moon ...
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1answer
266 views

How does making a refracting telescope very long reduce the chromatic aberration of an uncorrected lens?

Below are two cropped views of "Johannes Hevelius's 8 inch telescope with an open work wood and wire "tube" that had a focal length of 150 feet to limit chromatic aberration." from Harvard University, ...
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Scientifically important discoveries with the help of amateurs

I am looking for examples where amateur astronomers in these days contributed sigificantly to important scientifically discoveries. I am aware of one example: Victor Buso from Argentina was lucky ...
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How did Johannes Hevelius' long telescope work? Why all the round holes?

The drawing below, found in Wikimedia and at lib.harvard.edu is of a very long tubed aerial telescope. I believe it is taken from his 1673 work Machinae coelestis. I've always wondered about the ...
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From CMB anisotropy data observed in 1992, did astronomers figure out that the universe should be accelerating before its discovery in 1998?

CMB anisotropy was measured in 1992. I assume that astronomers, then, like now, would have been able to deduce the cosmological constant and things like that from the CMB anisotropy data. Then, from ...
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What are Kepler's laws (as he wrote them)?

There are of course many, many sources that quote Kepler's laws of planetary motion. This is preventing me from finding out what I really want to know: which is - what are Kepler's laws as he wrote ...
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How was calculating the celestial latitude using an astrolable of any help to sailors?

I'm sorry if this sounds like a silly question but I don't understand how measuring the location of a star would help in sea navigation.
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Do astronomers have an established, systematic way for saying what does or doesn't orbit what? (e.g. “Mars orbits Earth”)

A recent comment An object far enough away can certainly orbit the Moon and the Earth (and the Sun) -- Mars, for instance does this. An object in the Earth-Moon L2 is also orbiting both the Earth ...
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Has anyone ever tried to make a simple telescope using ice?

I grew up with long cold winters, and saw a lot of remarkably transparent ice formed by refreezing meltwater, both in puddles and ponds, and in large icicles. I'd always thought about making optical ...
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What are the RAs of the boundaries between traditional zodiacal signs?

I'm trying to figure out at what right ascension (RA) — not celestial longitude — the sun enters the various traditional (Western) astrological signs of the Zodiac; but I can't figure out how to ...
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Which telescope's model is being shown to Albert Einstein in this file footage? What event might this be?

In the Economist video Why does time pass? there is some file footage of Albert Einstein attending some event where a model of a large telescope is on display, and being described to Prof. Einstein. ...
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The systematic review of past observations in the hope of finding things that may have been missed

I seem to remember a TV science programme which re-examined the slides that led to the discovery of Pluto and then took a fresh look at earlier slides taken of the space which Pluto was passing ...
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When did the concept of “celestial sphere” fall?

I'm just done reading The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown, and it provided a good timeline of establishing heliocentrism, broad acceptation of Kepler's system, and the initial (failed) Galileo's experiment ...
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Which astronomer set his beard on fire because he left the cap off his telescopes finder?

There is a famous story of an experienced astronomer setting his beard on fire because he left the cap off his telescopes finder. I know it's said to be true of Galileo, but I thing it's relatively ...
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Simple experimental evidence that Earth revolves around Sun

What are the simplest experiments or calculations that give evidence that the earth revolves around the sun? Can you please explain them and reference the history? Many simple explanations such as ...
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We know what a nova is, but how?

I work with astrophysicists and require some basic knowledge of many astronomical sources, however research priorities often demand that most of human knowledge on a subject be taken for granted. I ...
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852 views

How did the authors of Surya Siddhanta find the diameters of other planets in the solar system?

The Surya Siddhanta, "a Sanskrit treatise in Indian astronomy from the late 4th-century or early 5th-century CE" is truly a great work. But how was it possible for the writers to find the exact ...
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1answer
67 views

Mercury mapping attempts before Mariner 10?

Mercury's surface was not mapped up-close until Mariner 10 passed by in 1974. This was followed by MESSENGER in 2008. I have seen several attempts of mapping Mars that came before space exploration, ...
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1answer
564 views

How was the time of equinox measured in ancient times?

In the book "The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy" by Robert Newton, on page 81, it reads as follows: When we measure the time of a solstice, we measure the time when the meridian elevation angle of the ...
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1answer
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How did Ole Christensen Romer measure the speed of light?

How did Ole Christensen Rømer, who in 1676, shortly after Galileo's death, was said to have measured the speed of light as 220,000 km/s by timing the orbits of Io around Jupiter? My only guess is ...
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Could the dinosaurs have seen the asteroid that killed them?

Wikipedia says the Chicxulub impactor is thought to have been a 10-15 km diameter object. Would it have been visible to a (human*) naked eye before impact? And if so, would it have appeared like a ...
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1answer
56 views

Is the American Astronomical Society 230 years old?

The BBC News item Light shed on mystery space radio pulses is interesting enough in its own right. But I noticed that it is reporting on news from the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical ...
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How does Ptolemy prove in the following excerpt that the Earth could not be outside of the axis spanning between the poles of the celestial sphere

I have trouble interpreting the following excerpt: “Against the first of these three positions militate the following arguments. If we imagined [the earth] removed towards the zenith or the nadir ...
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1answer
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How did Ptolemy prove in the following excerpt that the Earth is not cylindrical?

I have trouble interpreting the following excerpt: “Nor could it [the Earth] be cylindrical, with the curved surface in the east-west direction, and the flat sides towards the poles of the ...
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What is a “limited array”?

I'm reading about the history and making of ESO's Very Large Telescope and I've found this article that says the scientific community had a choice between three suggestions: a one-piece 16m-telescope, ...
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1answer
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When did astronomy first discover that the stars are bigger than the moon?

We take it for granted these days that the stars are unimaginably bigger than the planets and the moons. But when you look at the sky, it does not appear this way. The moon looks bigger and brighter ...
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1answer
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What kind of reddish wood is it exactly that was historically used to line the inside of observatory cupolas (domes), in order to absorb moisture?

I was told that it was "cedar", but that is an unclear term botanically.
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What is the oldest known prediction of constellation positions?

Would someone know of a good reference on the oldest known predictions of constellation positions? How far ahead could accurate positions be predicted? For example, could current constellation ...
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Why weren't Lunar meteorites identified until 1982?

According to Wikipedia the first meteorite of Lunar origin wasn't identified until 1982. Today 306 Lunar meteorites have been identified. Why weren't they identified as Lunar already a decade earlier,...
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If you lived on the far side of the Moon, how could you infer the existence of Earth?

Suppose that you deposit an astronomer, armed with our current knowledge of orbital mechanics, on a dome on the far side of the Moon, so that the Earth is perpetually hidden from them. (And, of ...
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1answer
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Why would there be no day/night cycle even though the firmament would still be rotating, according to Copernicus

In chapter 6 of "The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres" where Copernicus maintains that the heavens are immense compared to the size of the Earth, the Edward Rosen translation of the book states ...