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Astronomy as a Science.docx

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PHYS 183
Tracy Webb

Astronomy as a Science Goals and key points: Understand the development of Astronomy as a science through an overview of the Copernican Revolution +Astronomy as a science -Ancient civilizations have always used astronomy. Ex. marking the seasons, navigation etc. -Astronomy as a science has roots in many ancient cultures. Familiar example: Greece -Measuring the circumference of the Earth in 240 BC: - Measurement: Syene to Alexandria: distance = 5000 stadia angle = 7 degrees - Calculation: 7/360 × (Earth circum.) = 5000 stadia Earth circum. = 5000 stadia × 360/7 = 250 000 stadia 1 stadia ~ 1/6 kilometers Earth circum. = 42 000 kilometers (actual value is 40 075 kilometers) +Early Astronomy -The Greeks were among the first to make mathematical models of nature. They attempted to explain patterns without the use of supernatural intervention. -The Greek model of the Universe underpinning of the model: • Earth is at the center (geocentric) • Heavens must be perfect (spheres etc) This was driven by evidence and philosophy Evidence: • The Sun, stars and planets appear to move around the Earth • No perceptible movement of the Earth Philosophy: • They insisted on mathematical perfection (whole numbers, perfect spheres, musical scales etc.). • This insistence eventually lead to stagnant models and a refusal to change in the face of new evidence. -Ptolemy’s model (150 A.D.) The complex motions of the planets are difficult to explain within the geocentric model. Retrograde motion: Planets usually appear to move E to W but occasionally reverse direction (W to E). (Chapter 2, section 2.4) Ptolemy intro
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