Questions tagged [history]

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

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1answer
51 views

How did the measured diameter of Ceres evolve over time?

Based on the Wikipedia page of Ceres, Herschel measured a diameter of 260 kilometers for Ceres, and Schröter measured 2613 kilometers. I do remember seeing at least a half-dozen estimates of the ...
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Did the night sky ever change in recorded history?

I wonder whether there has ever been a major change of the firmament in recorded history, like changes in the positions of stars, changes in constellations, or stars disappearing after going supernova....
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Venera 13/14 Design specifications [migrated]

Does anyone know where I could find design specifications, plan sets, or other documentation for the Venera 13 or Venera 14 spacecraft? These are Russian spacecrafts from the 1980s. I suppose if ...
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Why aren't Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor credited as the discoverers of gravitational waves in 1974? [closed]

Why weren't Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor credited as the discoverers of gravitational waves in 1974? Currently LIGO is credited as the first discovery of Gravitational Waves, 40 after ...
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Why did the famous Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT) get rid of them and become the Massive Monolithic Telescope?

Popular Science's 2016 article The silliest names scientists have given very serious telescopes... Ranked! says: Arizona’s MMT Observatory used to house the Multiple Mirror Telescope. In 1998, ...
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When was H-alpha first used to observe the universe?

The H-alpha line is used by astronomers to trace the presence of hydrogen in galaxies or to view protuberances on the Sun. When was the H-alpha emission of astronomical objects such as galaxies first ...
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How long was the HST initially supposed to work?

For space missions, there is typically a minimum time that is defined for the mission to fulfill all of its science objectives, then an extended mission with extra objectives. And after that, the ...
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Why is the FLRW universe (general relativity solution(s)) sometimes called the 'FRW universe'?

Why is the letter L for Georges LeMaîtres often, or even usually, left out? Does he, or does he not, deserve some credit for this cosmological solution to Einstein's general relativity?
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Why was there a gap in the number of asteroid detections between 1807 and 1845?

The first asteroid, Ceres, was discovered in 1801, although it wasn't called an asteroid yet. Pallas, Juno and Vesta were discovered shortly after. Then no new asteroids were discovered for 38 years, ...
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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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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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Did Cassini return a photo of Saturn's rings shown from closer to Saturn?

A quote from a book, Perelandra by C.S. Lewis: "no eye looked up from beneath on the Ring of Lurga"; now Lurga is Saturn, and no human eye has been to Saturn, let alone at a lower altitude ...
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How did Astronomers mostly(?) agree to publish arXiv preprints along with peer-reviewed Journals? Was there pushback?

This excellent, thorough and well-sourced answer to Has a gravitational microlensing event ever been predicted? If so, has it been observed? includes four links to papers on adsabs.harvard.edu pages, ...
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Explanation of an imaginary transformation occurring in the determination of trigonometric series for the elliptical equation of the center

One of the oldest problems in astronomy, which dates back to to the time of Kepler, is the problem of development in infinite trigonometric series of the "equation of the center" - to ...
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What is the mnemonic reason behind b being galactic latitude? (in the Galactic Coordinates frame)

I'm not sure if this is a question that has been posted before, and I'm also not sure if the answer is really mnemonic. If that's the case, I'd like to understand why we assigned $b$ to latitude ...
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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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Who discovered Wolf 359?

I always assumed that Wolf 359's discoverer had been Max Wolf, but I just found out that he simply measured its high proper movement and included it in his star catalog. Since Wolf 359 is a very ...
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Was Newton the first to mention the orbital barycenter?

A barycenter is the common center of mass of an orbiting system. Here is a illustrative gif from wikipedia: The first mention of something like a barycenter that I could find is in a translation of ...
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Equivalence of minor epicycle and eccentric

In epicycle-deferent astronomy, adding a second ”minor” epicycle to account for observational discrepancies is observationally equivalent to shifting the deferent into a so-called eccentric, or a ...
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1answer
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On Augustus' Actual Prescription to Restore the Julian Calendar to Accuracy

I hope that I may ask this question here as I have seen some favorably received questions related to the Julian calendar on this site. From James Evans' book, ``The History and Practice of Ancient ...
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4answers
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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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Statistics of the purposes of archeoastronomical sites?

Archeoastronomy is not the most prominent tag used here at astronomy SE. It can be defined as the interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary study of how people in the past "have understood the ...
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Has great eyesight been necessary for astronomers?

In a different (but somewhat related) field, some baseball stars have been known to have "baseball eyes." That is, an exceptional ability to visually follow the trajectory of a 90+ mph baseball to a ...
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Historical estimates of the density parameter

From the reference in this answer I learned that our current estimate for the density parameter (i.e., the density of the universe divided by the critical density, which determines the shape of the ...
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114 views

Since when do astronomers have the notion that space is void? [duplicate]

Since when do astronomers have conjectured that space is void, and not full of air like our immediate environment? I am more interested about how long the notion has been around and how influential ...
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Mercury's spin-orbit resonance

When was it confirmed that Mercury has a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance and by whom (research group/radio observations...)? The first suggestion was made by Giuseppe Colombo in 1965. Its proximity to the ...
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Ptolemy’s understanding of the planet’s whereabouts

I imagine that Ptolemy’s epicycles were performed as real circles - around equants - in two dimensions, e.g that he was able not only to give the angles to planets and the Sun as seen from the Earth, ...
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What happened to the 2017 proposal on redefining planethood? Is this information available?

In 2017, Alan Stern et al. submitted a geophysical planet definition to the IAU for review which states “A planet is a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has ...
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Researching mechanics without “fixed stars”

In the history of humanity, easily observable extra-(Solar System) objects greatly helped understanding certain phenomena inside the Solar System. Importantly, the “precession of the equinox”, and ...
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Why do astrologers use the “wrong” sign?

I realize this may be the wrong site for this question... I apologize if you consider it inappropriate but hope this community knows the answer. We just experienced the spectacular conjunction of ...
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Mystery CCD camera

What I know: this is a Meade-brand CCD camera. I believe it to be relatively old (2004?). It does not have a model number, and the only pictures I can find on the internet call it a "USB PC-...
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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 ...
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When was it first determined that the Sun is a star?

Just looking at the sky, it is not at all obvious that the Sun is a star: stars are fixed on the celestial sphere, they are point-like and not very bright, whereas the sun is a big (compared to a star)...
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Why have brown dwarf classes been dubbed L, T and Y?

The classes used to categorize stars (O, B, A, F, G, K, M) are in a bizarre order for historical reasons. Stars were labeled based on the spectral lines that were visible, then the categories were put ...
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What was the definition of a planet before August 24, 2006?

In 2006, the IAU produced a definition of what it is to be a planet. This definition famously excludes Pluto, to the disarray of this small body's fans. Before this decision, what was the definition ...
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What other definitions for a planet were proposed?

This article from the IAU states The first draft proposal for the definition of a planet was debated vigorously by astronomers at the 2006 IAU General Assembly in Prague and a new version slowly took ...
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Angles in Ptolemaic Model

I am about to work with Ptolemy's Model for the motion of an upper Planet (Mars). I use a epicycle rolling on the deferent. As a first step, I am just interested in the shape of the trajectory, which ...
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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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When was the distance to a star measured for the first time without using parallax?

This is somewhat of a follow-up to When was the parallax of a star first measured? Once the distance to the nearest stars was determined, it was possible to discover physical properties of stars (such ...
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1answer
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How were the distances to stars measure before parallax?

A comment under When was the distance to a star measured for the first time without using parallax? mentions that the distance to stars was measured before parallax was possible. How was this done?
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What comet's tail did Earth pass through before Halley's?

This answer to Any record of the Earth passing through the tail (not trail) of a comet? mentions Earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet in 1910. It caused a bit of a panic due to claims that ...
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What were they expecting to see when Halley's comet appeared in 1910?

This answer to Any record of the Earth passing through the tail (not trail) of a comet? mentions Earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet in 1910. It caused a bit of a panic due to claims that ...
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Any record of the Earth passing through the tail (not trail) of a comet?

Discussion below the Space SE question How hard is it to fly through the tail of a comet? Has it been done? has led me to ask if there is any record of the Earth passing through the tail of a comet. ...
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What exactly is a Hamiltonian telescope? Is this one?

This comment on the current answer to Why is this telescope so short? How hard is it to make such a fast primary? says In this forum topic Borisov appears to call it an f/1.5 Hamiltonian. Wikipedia'...
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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 much does the sky change in a few thousand years?

The "fixed stars" are not actually fixed, the earth's tilt changes over time etc., but all that happens slowly on human timescales. Imagine a Babylonian astronomer (or astrologist?) ...
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Why does the Simbad page “A.A. Michelson's Jovian Galilean-satellite interferometer” show data for Betelgeuse?

When searching for things related to How did Michelson measure the diameters of jupiter's moons using optical interferometry? I came across the ui.adsabs.harvard.edu entry A. A. Michelson's Jovian ...
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When was the parallax of a star first measured?

Telescopes like Gaia measure the parallax of stars with a great precision. But for stars that are beyond 11 kpc, their parallax is still too small to be measured. With Earth-bound telescopes, only the ...
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How did Michelson measure the diameters of jupiter's moons using optical interferometry?

In Betelgeuse: How its Diameter was measured (Chant, C. A., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 15, p.133, Bibliographic Code: 1921JRASC..15..133C) the author says: The paper in ...
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Before the 1761 transit, what was our best estimate of the distance to the Sun?

In 1761, many expeditions were launched to determine the distance to the Sun using parallax during the transit of Venus. Prior to the 1761 transit, what was the best estimate for the Earth-Sun ...

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