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UNIT ONE

INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY

 Ancient Astronomy

Astronomy is one of the oldest branches of Science. During the pre-historic time, there are
several uses of astronomy: (1) Sun is being used to determine the time of the day, (2) The size
of the moon is used to determine the condition of the sea, (3) The stars are used for direction
and navigation, and (4) The sky is used to determine the weather and season for agricultural
purposes.

The Greeks used basic geometry and trigonometry to measure the sizes and distances of
the largest appearing bodies in the heaven, the sun, and the moon. Here are some Greek
philosophers who contributed ideas and discoveries in astronomy during the ancient times:

Anaxagoras of Clazomanae (circa 500 - 428 BC) stated that the moon is
sphere in shape, thus, it shines by only half reflected sunlight at one time.

Aristotle (circa 384 - 322 BC) made a conclusion that the Earth is
spherical in shape because it always casts a curved shadow when it
eclipses the moon.

Aristarchus of Samos (circa 310 - 230 BC) professed the idea of


heliocentrism. Helio- came the Greek word “helios-”, which means sun,
and -centrism came from the French word “centre + -ism”, which means
center or middle. Heliocentrism is an astronomical model in which the
Earth and the planets revolve around the sun, located at the center of a
celestial system.
Hipparchus of Nicaea (circa 190 - 120 BC) determined the location of
almost 850 stars and classified into six groups according to their brightness.
He also measured the length of the year within minutes of the modern
value and developed a method for predicting the times of lunar eclipses
within a few hours.

Claudius Ptolemy (circa 100 - 170 AD) presented the idea of geocentrism
(also known as Ptolemaic system). Geo- came the the Greek word “gē-”,
which means Earth, and -centrism came from the French word “centre +
-ism”, which means center or middle. Geocentrism is an astronomical
model where in the Earth is located at the center of a celestial system,
and the planets and the sun revolves around the Earth.

The Greeks believed that the Earth is spherical in shape and located at the center of the
universe, wherein the moon, the sun, and the planets are revolving around the Earth.

 Modern Astronomy

Modern astronomers where developed from religious and philosophical ideas to scientific
postulates. The two main events that brought astronomy to the state of modern science
were: (1) the model of the solar system, and (2) the invention of telescope. Here are some
great scientists who contributed ideas in astronomy during the modern times:

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543) adapted the idea of heliocentrism,


stating that the motions of celestial objects can be explained without
putting the Earth at rest in the center of the universe. He gave birth to the
model of the solar system.

Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601) expressed the idea of stellar parallax. The idea
of stellar parallax states that if the Earth does revolve around the sun, the
position of the stars is near to it when observed from extreme points in the
Earth months apart, should shift with respect to the more distant stars.
Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630) established the concept of orbit based on
the observations of Tycho Brahe on Mars. Orbit is an imaginary line where
planets move. He derived the three laws of planetary motion.

1. Law of Ellipses states that the path of the planets around the sun is elliptical in shape,
and not circular, with the center of the sun being located at one focus.
2. Law of Equal Areas states that the radius vector from the sun to the planet sweeps
equal areas at equal intervals of time. This means that the planet moves faster when
closer to the sun.
3. Law of Harmonies states that the ratio of the square of the period of any planet is
equal to the ratio of the cube of the average distance of the planet to the sun. Period
is the number of years of any planet to complete a one revolution. Revolution is the
movement of the planets and other celestial bodies around the sun; while rotation is
the movement of the planets on its axes. The law of harmonies can be expressed in a
mathematical equation: T2 = D3 wherein T refers to the period of the planet and D
refers to the distance of the planet to the sun.

Galileo Galilei (1561 - 1642) constructed a scope consisted of a convex


objective and a concave eyepiece lens. With this instrument, he
contributed the first description of moving objects in the solar system
such as the four brightest satellites of Jupiter, the phases of Venus,
mountains on the moon, spots on the sun, and the rings of Saturn.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727) conceptualized the force of gravity.


Gravity refers to the pull of the body towards the center of the planet
and/or celestial bodies.