The beginnings of astronomy

Astronomy has been called the oldest of the sciences, and rightly so. since the dawn of civilization, humans have struggled to make sense of the complex motions of celestial objects, and countless ancient monuments and artifacts reflect their fascination.

THE BABYLoNIAN TRADITioN

stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Egypt, both dating from around 2500 bc, embody astronomically significant alignments based on knowledge of the skies, but the true birthplace of astronomy was in the Middle East.

Two baked clay tablets produced around 700 bc by the Babylonians of present-day Iraq summarize information on the motions of stars and planets. The list of stars and constellations known to the

Mul Apin Tablets

MuL.ApiN TABLET

One of a pair, this Babylonian tablet is inscribed with lists of constellations in cuneiform script. Just 3.3 in (8.4 cm) high, it is a masterpiece of miniature writing.

Babylonians is clear evidence of a long-standing tradition of celestial observation. some constellations, such as Leo and scorpius, have come down to us virtually unchanged. The Babylonians made another lasting contribution to astronomy: having measured the length of the year as approximately 360 days, they divided the circle of the sky into 360 degrees, subdivided each degree into 60 parts, and introduced the 24-hour day, with each hour also divided into 60 parts.

the greek view of the heavens

Knowledge of Babylonian astronomy spread to Greece around 500 bc. Unlike the Babylonians, who were mainly concerned with divining celestial omens—what we would term astrology—the Greeks sought to understand the physical principles on which the universe worked, thus initiating the separation of science from superstition. Eudoxus, a Greek astronomer of the 4th century bc, developed a scheme of 27

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