Local Newspaper Report

written by Mike Lewis

General Information

These reports appear in the last Thursday of the month (before our monthly meeting held on the first Thursday of the month) editions of the 'Clacton and Frinton Gazette' and the 'Harwich and Manningtree Standard' in their 'Neighbourhood News' sections

The Origin of Modern Astronomy

by David Peachey

2nd March 2017

Ancient astronomers interest in astronomy eg Babylonian, were largely based on geometry. Pythagorus gave a view of the universe based on maths, numbers and shapes which were very important. Plato's view was that everything on Earth was imperfect but in the Heavens perfection. Aristotle, a pupil of Plato, did not agree with Plato's ideas but Aristotle's own science knowledge was not very good and Plato's ideas seemed to work on what was seen with the Earth at the centre and the Moon, Sun, Planets and Stars going round the Earth.

Around the time of the Crusades ideas from the Middle East were brought back to the West which lead to conflict with the Church over these new ideas which continued into later Centuries.

Copernicus in the 15th century sat down and looked at all these ideas and thought that if the Sun was in the centre everything was much simpler and worked better with easier maths, though again the Church still did not like some of these ideas. Tycho Brahe, a Danish Astronomer, with a flamboyant lifestyle made the most accurate celestial observations of his time and channeled many ideas of how the Universe worked. Kepler put forward ideas that were quickly taken on that the planets moved in elipses which was a much better fit with observations.

In 1608 the Dutch eyeglass maker Hans Lippershey applied for a patent for an eyeglass (telescope) although at the time there were other claims for this invention. Galileo used one of these early telescopes and used it to look at the sky making many new discoveries with it although the telescope was very crude. However again Church politics of the era put limitations on his work.

In England in the reign of Charles II lots of scientific work was going on in many branches including astronomy. One very famous scientist of the time, namely Isaac Newton, managed to split sunlight into a spectrum which would eventually lead much later to finding out what Stars are made of. Inspired by an apple falling from the tree and, interaction with other scientists, eventually led him to writing Principia Mathematica which helped explain why Planets orbit the Sun and was the same force which caused the apple to fall.