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Thus, the Chinese employed an equatorial celestial coordinate system centuries before it was used in the West which preferred an ecliptic-oriented system until the 18th Century. For this reason, many of their astronomical instruments used a mounting oriented to the equator and were the forerunners of our modern telescopic equatorial mounts. The earliest existing book to systematically describe the Chinese constellations in the sky was the Tianguan Shu by Sima Qian ca. Some 90 constellations were mentioned, including the 28 lunar mansions.

The Central or Purple Palace was the area surrounding the north celestial pole and has been alluded to earlier. The rest of the sky was divided into four equal segments that were called the palaces of the North or Somber Warrior, represented by an entwined turtle and snake , East or Azure Dragon , South or Red Bird , and West or White Tiger. Each of these palaces represented one of the four seasons, and each consisted of seven lunar mansions. Stars in these areas represented and were named for more mundane aspects of Chinese society, such as temples, philosophical concepts, shops and markets, farmers, soldiers, etc.

The result was a star map and catalog of 1, stars grouped into constellations. Early in the 4th Century ad, the imperial astronomer Qian Luozhi cast a bronze celestial globe with stars colored on it to distinguish the listings of these earlier astronomers. As the Chinese had more contact with Indian and then Islamic astronomers, they became exposed to the Greek system of constellation development, and some of these ideas were incorporated into Chinese thought. This continued when the Jesuits entered China in the 16th Century, as we shall see below. For example, despite being forced to use the Chinese calendar system, Korean calendars were independently calculated after the early 11th Century, and the two systems were not successfully resolved until the early 15th Century.

In Japan some of the mythology associated with the Sun goddess Amaterasu and with Subaru the Pleiades , as well as the appearance of the three belt stars of Orion to govern times for the cultivation of rice and millet at the latitude of Japan, needed to be integrated with Chinese models. But, in essence, the Koreans and Japanese used Chinese methods to 24 Non-European cosmology and constellation development [Ch.

They also adopted the Chinese constellations. For sure, there were some similarities: both cultures developed star catalogs, both were interested in the calendar, and both tracked the movement of the planets in the heavens. The Greeks, by contrast, developed a new way of speculative thinking, where they created geometrical models to explain heavenly phenomena and applied methods of geometry and spherical trigonometry to these models to calculate the location of objects in the sky.

In addition, the Chinese were interested in the celestial equator and the circumpolar region, whereas the Greeks were interested in the ecliptic, the location of the Sun, Moon, and planets. But Needham has pointed out a number of factors that suggest there was contact between China and the West later on. For example, by the 1st Century ad, there were numerous trade routes from China to other places, such as India, the Middle East, and the scholarly city of Alexandria, Egypt. These included both land and sea routes, and Chinese navigators were adept at using the stars to guide them through the water of the Indian Ocean.

We also know that paper, which was invented in China around ad, and the printing of books, which was developed in western China around ad, both made their way to Europe during the Middle Ages, along with other technologies. However, the exchange between China and Islam was rich.

For example, Needham points out that after al-Tusi's famous observatory and library were built at Maragha in the late 13th Century ad, astronomers were sent from China to collaborate. Buddhism was introduced into China in the 1st Century ad, and this opened the door to Indian science and medicine. In subsequent centuries many Indian astronomers served at national observatories in China and had an impact, especially in the area of calendrical reform.

By the 8th Century, astronomers from Persia also worked in China, and together with later Islamic astronomers they added additional input from the West. Francis Xavier's successful mission to Japan Sec. In addition to gifts, such as clocks, maps, armillary spheres, and sundials, Ricci also brought knowledge of Western mathematics and astronomy to China, and he translated several books in these areas into Chinese. After Ricci's death in , other Jesuit missionaries followed, including Johann Adam Schall von Bell, whose knowledge of astronomy greatly impressed the Chinese, and his successor, Ferdinand Verbiest.

Planet Mars: Story of Another World Springer Praxis Books Popular Astronomy

Although some of the concepts were adopted, they were changed to suit Chinese sensibilities. Although relations between the Chinese court and the Pope soured in the early 18th Century, with the result that all missionaries were expelled from China by the end of the century, a few Jesuits employed in the astronomy bureau were allowed to remain. Thus, a brief review of the history and peoples of this area is in order. They developed cuneiform writing on clay tablets, and existing samples place their civilization as existing earlier than bc.

NASA HISTORY: Planet Mars 1979 - a look back to our thoughts of Mars

Their city-states dominated the area, the most famous of which was Ur. In the mids bc, semitic Akkadians from the central part of the region invaded and conquered Sumer under their king, Sargon, and tablets were written in both the Sumerian and Akkadian languages. For some years, Babylon was the center of this empire, and it became a rich and powerful city.


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In the 14th Century bc the Assyrians from the mountainous north began to assert themselves in the region, and within a few hundred years they had taken over much of Mesopotamia. By the mid-7th Century bc, they controlled large areas of modern Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt from their capital, Nineveh, although Babylon continued to be viewed as a commercial and intellectual center. But later in this 26 Non-European cosmology and constellation development [Ch.

The 12 Chinese constellations of the zodiac left , from the American edition of Flammarion's Popular Astronomy.

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To the right is a drawing of an ancient Chinese medal with the Big Dipper engraved on it. However, in bc Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, and the region became part of the Persian Empire. Earth itself was created from a primordial unity when En-Lil intervened to separate the heavens from the area below. The Sumerians worshipped these and lesser gods, and each city-state had its favorites. Now the gods are created out of a watery chaos, the sweet sea being the primeval male Apsu, and the salty sea being the primeval female Tiamat.

When Apsu and Tiamet threaten to destroy all of their offspring, Ea succeeds in killing Apsu taking over the sweet water domains for himself.


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  • Marduk subsequently kills the powerful Tiamat only after the other gods agree that by doing so he will become the supreme god. One system describes this system as consisting of three heavenly areas and three earthly areas including the underworld. In either event, the Earth is seen as the center of the universe, with Marduk's temples in Babylon making this city its cosmic capital. Astrological interests led the astronomer-astrologers in Mesopotamia to keep careful records of celestial events for centuries in tablets such as the Enuma Anu Enlil.

    This source consisted of some 70 clay tablets written early in the 1st Millennium bc and later excavated from the ruins of Ashurbanipal's library at Nineveh. Especially during the Chaldean period and in the years thereafter, a number of tables were produced that recorded data, especially from lunar and planetary events. From these records a number of celestial patterns were deduced, such as the orbits of the planets, the periodic appearances of comets, the times of solar and lunar eclipses, and the variable speeds of the heavenly bodies.

    Some of these patterns e. One way, System A, assumed that the velocity was held constant over a period of time say, several days , and then changed suddenly to another value during a second period. Plotted against time over several months, a crenulated pattern emerged, giving average approximations of the changes in velocity.

    The other way, System B, gave the measured positions of the Moon in celestial longitude for each day, thus tracking its actual speed in smaller increments. The second system was more complicated since it took actual incremental values rather than averages for its computations, but it was more accurate as well.

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    Calculations were assisted by the mathematical system originally started by the Sumerians. Rather than using a decimal system based on powers of 10, a sexagesimal system based on powers of 60 was used. These marks were built up like Roman numerals up to a value of But unlike the Roman system, Mesopotamian mathematicians used a place-value notation, whereby numbers larger than 60 were indicated by adding similar marks, but separated from the others by a space. This system allowed for the use of basic mathematical operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. Elements of this sexagesimal system persist today in our degree circle, minute hour, and second minute.

    As far back as bc, the Babylonians were recording the times of moonrise and the date of the new Moon. But in time the calendar became luni-solar in its orientation, where the lunar months were integrated in with the solar year. Since the actual number of lunations in a year is a fraction over 12, and since each lunar cycle averaged about However, these rules were sometimes applied haphazardly.

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    Around bc, astronomers in Babylon began using the Metonic Cycle, proposed by the Athenian astronomer Meton, who realized that the number of days in lunations were equivalent to 19 solar years, provided that the equivalent of seven months were added during this time span. Thereafter, the Babylonians followed a regular pattern of intercalating seven months in every 19 years.

    Based on later Greek sources, we know that the Mesopotamians used water clocks, or clepsydras, to measure time during the day. In these devices, which could have been a simple bowl, time was indicated by marks on the inner wall showing the changing level as the water dripped out of a narrow opening at a constant rate. Some of these names are familiar to us today: the bull Taurus , the lion Leo and the scorpion Scorpius.