By William Sheehan
Astronomy is by way of a long way the most well-liked of the actual sciences, engaging adequate to turn into a massive cultural preoccupation for plenty of, and for a few a captivating clinical job which usually ideas their lives. what's the nature of that possible unstoppable appeal? during this energetic and compelling account, William Sheehan – expert psychiatrist, famous historian of astronomy, and incurable observer - explores the character of that attract during the tale of man's visible exploration of the planets.
In this quantity, the 1st of a trilogy, Sheehan begins with observational astronomy’s profound and lasting impact on his personal lifestyles, surroundings the issues of embarkation for the adventure to come back. He travels around the ancient panorama looking the earliest origins of man's compulsion to watch the planets one of the hunter gatherers of the higher palaeolithic, and lines the evolving tale from the planetary documents of the earliest towns, to Pharonic Egypt via to Hellenistic Greek astronomy culminating in Ptolemy. the need to realize performed its half within the perceptual alterations wrought by way of the Copernican revolution, in addition to the observational advances accomplished via such awesome characters as Tycho along with his sharpest of eyes, and his sumptuous perform of overall astronomy. the 2 epochal advances released in 1609, either born via planetary remark, specifically Kepler's discovery of the real nature of the orbit of Mars and Harriot and Galileo’s observations of the Moon, have a pivotal position during this account.
Sheehan weaves a wealthy tapestry of social and technological settings, patronage and personalities, gear and abilities, cosmologies and pursuits, factors and compulsions to attempt to provide an explanation for why we've got saw, and proceed to monitor, the planets.
The compelling textual content of A ardour for the Planets is better via the specifically commissioned planetary art of Julian Baum, himself son of a famous planetary observer and historian of planetary observers, and Randall Rosenfeld.
A ardour for the Planets may be of curiosity to all beginner astronomers; lively planetary observers; armchair astronomers; these drawn to the background of astronomy; the cultural historical past of technological know-how; and astronomical art.
Read or Download A Passion for the Planets: Envisioning Other Worlds, From the Pleistocene to the Age of the Telescope PDF
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Additional resources for A Passion for the Planets: Envisioning Other Worlds, From the Pleistocene to the Age of the Telescope
It never – or hardly ever – stands completely still. There is an actual dancing around of the orb from its mean position in the field of view so that, as some amateur once quipped, in good seeing the images seems to be doing a waltz, in bad seeing a jitterbug. There is also a slower pulsating of the image that causes it to appear more or less blurred and “soft” until suddenly and without warning there occurs a flash of seeing in which the image turns sharp as a steel-engraving. These effects constitute “seeing” in the technical astronomical sense: the condition of the atmosphere that causes the planetary observer to be witness to something kindred to a dance of the seven veils.
That basic formula – a close secure (and usually crowded and disorderly) space all my own from which to launch far-flung adventures has remained with me throughout my life. I prefer the cottage to the palace; care to have no mansion other than that of my own restless and vagabondish mind. As for a place to house the body, a Thoreau-like cabin on some Walden Pond will do. In my case – as for Thoreau and for many an amateur astronomer else – Walden Pond is the universe, no less. We need nothing more than a spot from which to look out with wonder, some place from which to throw our gaze at a picture-window-view far grander than that from the most extravagant Great House or Palace, with lawns and woods and territory so vast that imagination cannot compass it.
It was, to all practical intents and purposes, mine and mine alone. I tended to regard it so. The Moon and the planets and the stars never seemed to have other company; I was the only one present in the throne-room of these divinities, bearing the names of the classical gods and goddesses, when they granted their audiences with me – sometimes shrouding their majesty in incense and enhancing their mystery by playing hide and seek with me behind the clouds; now and then – sometimes best when the sky was hazy rather than brazenly clear, more often at twilight than in the deep night – the air grew steady and the markings sharpened like a steel engraving and confided to me and me alone a new revelation, an irregular twist to the Jovian bands, a dusky marking or polar cap on Venus, that made me wish for all the world for a larger telescope.