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History of Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science which is the study of
celestial objects (such as stars, galaxies, planets,
moons, asteroids, comets and nebulae), the physics,
chemistry, and evolution of such objects, and
phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of
Earth, including supernovae explosions, gamma ray
bursts, and cosmic microwave background radiation
Early civilizations in recorded history, such as the
Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, Egyptians, Nubians,
Iranians, Chinese, The Celts, and Maya.
The Great Pyramids at Giza
The Mayan Civilization
Astronomy is the oldest of the natural sciences,
dating back to antiquity, with its origins in the
religious, mythological, cosmological, calendrical,
and astrological beliefs and practices of pre-history:
vestiges of these are still found in astrology, a
discipline long interwoven with public and
governmental astronomy, and not completely
disentangled from it until a few centuries ago in the
Western World
Early cultures identified celestial objects with gods
and spirits.
first "professional" astronomers were priests
Ancient structures with possibly astronomical
alignments (such as Stonehenge) probably fulfilled
both astronomical and religious functions.
Earliest documentation of a heavenly
phenomenon – Babylonian
observation of the Halley’s Comet
In China, The Star Map
Mesoamerica – Chichen Iza
Maya astronomical codices include detailed tables
for calculating phases of the Moon, the recurrence of
eclipses, and the appearance and disappearance of
Venus as morning and evening star
The Maya based their calendrics in the carefully
calculated cycles of the Pleiades, the Sun, the Moon,
Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and also they had a
precise description of the eclipses as depicted in the
Dresden Codex, as well as the ecliptic or zodiac, and
the Milky Way was crucial in their Cosmology.
Medieval Europe
Pre-medieval - Claudius Ptolemy “Almagest”
The Geocentric Theory
• Heliocentric Theory proponents
Tyco Brahe, Nicolas Copernicus, Johannes Kepler,
Galileo Gallilei – Italian Scientist, scholar of the Medici
The Telescope
Galileo’s invention of
the telescope
Galileo’s sketches of the
Modern Astronomy
Newton publishes his theory of universal gravitation in
the work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
This is seen to be the start of Modern Astronomy. (1687)
Halley correctly predicts the return of a comet (Halley's
comet) in 1758
The discovery of Uranus by Herschel (1781)
Messier discovers galaxies, nebula and star clusters while
looking for comets. He compiles a catalogue of these
objects (Messier objects). (1781)
Piazzi discovers first asteroid, Ceres. (1801)
Discovery of the 'Doppler Effect' by Austrian
physicist and mathematician, Christian Doppler.
Samuel Heinrich Schwabe describes the sunspot
cycle. (1843)
Johann Galle observes and discovers Neptune. His
observations were prompted by mathematical
calculations by French astronomer Joseph Leverrier
and English astronomer John Couch Adams. (1846)
Konstantin Tsiolkovskii – Father of Astraunatics
Many of his proposals concerning rocketry were later
put into use including: use of liquid hydrogen and
liquid oxygen as rocket fuel and multi-stage rocket
design for achieving Earth orbit or interplanetary
The beginning of spectral analysis of stars by Sir
William Huggins (1860)
Jansen and Lockyer observe solar prominences. (1868)
Henry Draper takes a photograph of the stellar spectrum
of Vega. This is the first of its kind. (1872)
Asaph Hall discovers Phobos and Deimos, the moons of
Mars. (1877)
Schiaparelli observes the canals on Mars. (1877)
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter becomes prominent. (1878)
Mount Wilson Observatory was established for study
of the Sun. (1905)
Albert Einstein introduces special Theory of
Relativity in paper Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.
Hertzsprung describes giant and dwarf stars. (1908)
Henrietta Swan Leavitt discovers Cepheid variables,
Hubble shows that galaxies exist outside the Milky
Way galaxy. (1923)
Robert Goddard uses first liquid rocket fuel. (1926)
Oort shows the center of the Milky Way galaxy is in
Sagittarius. (1927)
Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto. (1930)
Karl Jansky discovers cosmic radio waves. (1931)
First radio telescope built by Grote Reber. (1937)
Sputnik, first object to orbit the Earth, launched by the Russians.
Explorer 1 launched. This was the first U.S. satellite to orbit the
Earth. (1957)
The founding of archeoastronomy (1958)
Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space (1961)
John Glenn becomes first American man to orbit Earth. (1962)
Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin walk on the Moon
as part of Apollo 11 mission. (1965)
The Russian Venera 7 becomes first to land softly on
the surface of Venus. (1970)
The U.S. launches Pioneer 10, the first satellite
destined for Jupiter.(1972)
An example of an
Observatory (Australia)
Radio Astronomy
Modern Telescope
The Hubble Telescope placed into
orbit by a space shuttle
The Apollo Command
service module
Apollo 11 mission