5000 years of astronomy

The astronomy is the oldest of all natural sciences. About 5000 years ago, the mysterious movements of the sun, moon and stars ignited the human urge to explore.

The systematic observation of the sky began about 3000 years before our era simultaneously in Babylonia, Egypt, India and China when the first civilizations settled. The beginning of agriculture gave rise to the necessity of looking at the longer periods between sowing and harvesting. Soon the regular movements of the stars were used for timing.

In 2772 B. C. the Egyptian calendar was introduced with 365 days.
At that time, only priests and kings were authorized to practice astronomy. During long, clear nights they not only researched the slow movements of the stars, they also looked for their sense and meaning for mankind. Likewise, they pursued astronomy - the science of the laws of star motion, and astrology - the doctrine of the message of stars.

The Sumerians in Babylon already knew that the sun wanders through the 12 constellations of the zodiac in the course of a year and that the planets move on their own paths. In 2620 B. C. Sumerian astrology developed from this, the knowledge of which has essentially been adopted to this day.

When, 2000 years later in Greece, observing the heavens began, astronomy was no longer limited to kings and priests - everyone who felt called to do so was allowed to do research. At first, the earth was thought to be a flat, round disk, surrounded by water and vaulted by a sky dome, to which the stars adhere solely for the joy of mankind.

Then in 560 B. C. the philosopher Anaximandras came to the thought that all forms in space had to be perfect - and since the sphere was considered the most perfect form, the earth could not be anything other than a sphere that was floating freely in the centre of the world.

Some 200 years later, Aristotle, the most influential philosopher of antiquity, developed the following world view: larger crystal balls surround the earth like onion shells. Sun, moon and stars are attached to them. The motion of the stars is created by the harmonious rotation of these many crystal balls; their friction with each other makes music of the spheres sound.

This world view was also taught at the Academy of Alexandria, which was founded around 300 B. C. by the Egyptian king Ptolemaios I. The world view was also taught at the Academy of Alexandria. He himself was an important astronomer and a friend of Alexander the Great. Soon Alexandria was the center of astronomy research and a meeting place for all the leading scholars of that time.

Around 140, Claudius Ptolemy, the most famous astronomer of antiquity, taught there, after whom the crystal ball system was given the name "World Picture of Ptolemy";. He owed his fame not only to the "Almagest", a directory of all the fixed stars and constellations known at that time, including descriptions of the situation - his astrological masterpiece "Tetrabiblos" was no less respected, in which he depicted the specific meanings and influences of the stars on human life.

His contemporary was Hipparch, who lived on the island of Rhodes. Like all astronauts of the past, he broke his head over five very specific stars, wandering through the constellations in such a strange way that they could not be attached to crystal balls. They were called hikers: Planets. He found a very simple solution to the problem by taking the earth out of the center of the universe and replacing it with the sun. But who would want to believe an island scholar something so banal as long as the great Claudius Ptolemy in Alexandria spoke of crystal balls and sphere music? Hipparch was quickly forgotten, and since the movement of the planets could not be explained, they were thought to be divine beings guiding human destiny.

In the next 160 years there is not much happening in astronomy. But then a comet drew attention to a stable in Bethlehem, where a child saw the light of day: Jesus Christ. It became so important that a new era began this year, zero. From then on, history was divided into a time before and after the birth of Christ.

It was not until 1500 years after this event that a scholar stumbled upon the planets again: Nicolaus Copernicus, professor in Cracow. Without Hipparch's knowledge, he came to the same conclusion that Kepler, Galilei and Newton proved beyond doubt over the course of another 200 years. Galileo used a telescope for the first time in 1609 - and this new invention brought astronomy forward with giant strides.

In 1814, spectral analysis was developed to examine the chemical components of celestial bodies. Through the invention of photography in 1834, new observation methods were developed. The astronomy began to branch out into complicated disciplines.

In 1969 the first humans entered the moon and the age of space travel had begun.

The idea of the people of times gone by of being the crown of creation and being at the centre of the universe may have been simpler and more satisfying. But the possibilities of today's world - and tomorrow - can be more than just a substitute for the loss of being no longer the hub of the world.

Astronomy over time: