Observational Methods and Problems

In this chapter, we deal with the ways in which the objects described in Chapter 2 can be observed and the conditions affecting those observations.

The light of distant objects is perceived differently by each individual, both physically and intellectually. Moreover, the interpretations given them were (and maybe to a certain extent still are) grounded in the observer's cultural milieu. These facts, well known to students of the humanities, must have influenced what was considered important, and thus recorded, by ancient astronomers. Here, we concentrate on physical and physiological effects on perception, but we must remain aware that physical perceptions are not easily separated from what the mind's eye perceives.

We begin with the effects of the transparency of the atmosphere, first in the context of global climate variation, and later in the specifics of atmospheric extinction and reddening, and refraction. These effects have consequences for research into the stellar alignments of monuments, temples, and pairs or lines of rocks or stones. In between, we describe the intrinsic nature of the light, how we perceive it, and how this changes from person to person. We also briefly discuss other phenomena, such as precession that changes the apparent locations of objects in the sky with respect to the equinoxes and over time alters both the pole star and the visibility of circumpolar objects. Finally, we describe the particular ways in which observations were carried out. A list of bright objects with their modern positions, measures of brightnesses, and colors is also provided for reference.

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