Historians discuss astronomer Johannes Kepler in this BBC4 radio broadcast.
For King Narai, who enjoyed diplomatic ties with the “Sun King,” Louis XIV of France, the “new astronomy” taught by French Jesuit missionaries had important uses for time-keeping and map-making. (Louis XIV himself, after ordering France to be accurately measured with the latest astronomical techniques, grumbled that his astronomers had lost more of his territory than his generals.)
After hearing from visiting French missionaries about the Observatory at Beijing, which had been refitted by Jesuit astronomers for the emperor of China, Narai ordered an observatory built on the grounds of his palace at Lopburi (the ruins of which can be seen today) … It was equipped with the latest European technology, and in 1685, under the guidance of French astronomers, King Narai watched through a telescope an eclipse of the moon.
On April 30, 1688, King Narai had his first chance to observe an eclipse of the sun at Lopburi, but it would also be his last. A Thai court painting … shows a Thai nobleman named Phetracha watching the eclipse projected on a screen while crouched on his elbows and knees in the style of the court. Phetracha resented the king’s friendships with foreigners, and may have feared that the king might convert to Christianity …
According to legend, a fortune teller had warned Phetracha to watch for a sign from heaven that he would become king, and it seems he took the eclipse as a premonition of his ascension: Just days later, he deposed Narai, crowned himself king, and either executed or ordered foreigners out of the kingdom.
For the solar eclipse on Aug. 18, 1868, King Mongkut invited foreign astronomers and important guests to the village of Wa Ko, near the southern port of Prachuap Khiri Khan, which his astronomical calculations had determined would be the best site for scientific observations of the event. Steamships ferried workers and supplies from the capital to build an observatory and residences for hundreds of guests and dignitaries, including almost the entire Thai court, senior French and British diplomats, and a French-led astronomical team.
Mongkut’s predications of the exact timing of the eclipse would be proof of his efforts to reform the Siamese calendar and astronomy — and his rebuke to his court astronomers. According to a report from a French diplomat who was present, the king proudly reported that the French astronomers had confirmed that his predictions were of greater accuracy than their own, says historian Thongchai Winichakul in his book “Siam Mapped”. But for King Mongkut, as for King Narai, this first solar eclipse would also be his last; like many who journeyed to Wa Ko, Mongkut caught malaria and died in Bangkok a few weeks later.
On 6 June 2012, a transit of Venus occurred. This rare astronomical event, when Venus passes directly in front of the Sun, and appears as a large black dot on its surface slowly moving from one side to the other in about 3 hours, has only happened eight times since the invention of the telescope (ref 1). This post talks about the transit of Venus and why it has been so important to the development of astronomy.
The 2012 transit of Venus – Image from NASA. Venus is the large dot on the top left of the Sun’s surface.
Why transits of Venus are so rare.
The Earth takes slightly longer than 365 days, 365.256 days to be precise, to complete one orbit of the Sun. Venus, which is both closer to Sun and moves faster in its orbit, takes 224.701 days to complete one orbit. The point in time when Venus is closest to the Earth and…
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Duracotus studies with the students of the astronomer Tycho Brahe at the Uraniborg observatory on the island of Hven
After studying at Uraniborg for years, Duracotus returns to Iceland and his mother Fiolxhilde, who thought him dead
Fiolxhilde reveals the occult art of conversing & travelling with certain ‘wise spirits’ encountered in Iceland
by guest contributor Nicholas Bellinson
One Bohemian night in 1608, the Imperial Mathematician gazed up at the moon and the stars. In the seven years since he had received that title, Johannes Kepler had discovered many things about these celestial bodies, some true and some (as Hesiod said) like the truth: that planets moved around the sun, not the earth; that they moved in ellipses, not perfect circles; that they were enormous magnets – to name a few. The following year, he would publish these discoveries as his New Astronomy, a book which would make his name a fixed star in the firmament of science. On this particular night, however, a different book was on Kepler’s mind. His curiosity had been aroused by popular historical comparisons to the current troubles between Emperor Rudolph and his brother, the Archduke Matthias; while investigating Bohemian legends, Kepler had come across the story…
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There is a type of supporter of gnu atheism and/or scientism who takes a very black and white attitude to the definition of science and also to the history of science. For these people, and there are surprisingly many of them, theories are either right, and thus scientific, and help the progress of science or wrong, and thus not scientific, and hinder that progress. Of course from the point of view of the historian this attitude or stand point is one than can only be regarded with incredulity, as our gnu atheist proponent of scientism dismisses geocentrism, the phlogiston theory and Lamarckism as false and thus to be dumped in the trash can of history whilst acclaiming Copernicus, Lavoisier and Darwin as gods of science who led as out the valley of ignorance into the sunshine of rational thought.
I have addressed this situation before on more than one occasion…
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