A Passion for the Planets: Envisioning Other Worlds, From by William Sheehan

By William Sheehan

Astronomy is via a long way the most well-liked of the actual sciences, engaging sufficient to develop into an important cultural preoccupation for plenty of, and for a few a charming medical job which assuredly principles their lives. what's the nature of that probably unstoppable allure? during this energetic and compelling account, William Sheehan – specialist psychiatrist, famous historian of astronomy, and incurable observer - explores the character of that attract throughout 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 impression on his personal existence, atmosphere the issues of embarkation for the adventure to come back. He travels around the historic panorama looking the earliest origins of man's compulsion to monitor the planets one of the hunter gatherers of the higher palaeolithic, and strains 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 discover performed its half within the perceptual adjustments wrought through the Copernican revolution, in addition to the observational advances completed through such remarkable 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 genuine 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, apparatus and abilities, cosmologies and targets, factors and compulsions to attempt to give an explanation for why we've got saw, and proceed to watch, the planets.

The compelling textual content of A ardour for the Planets is superior by way of the specifically commissioned planetary paintings of Julian Baum, himself son of a famous planetary observer and historian of planetary observers, and Randall Rosenfeld.

A ardour for the Planets should be of curiosity to all beginner astronomers; lively planetary observers; armchair astronomers; these attracted to the historical past of astronomy; the cultural background of technological know-how; and astronomical art.

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Extra info for A Passion for the Planets: Envisioning Other Worlds, From the Pleistocene to the Age of the Telescope

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Of whom Richard Baum has written: Several days ago J. A. Mercury and Venus Section … and spoke about that great meteor observer W. F. Denning. Since Hedley … lived in the vicinity (Bristol), I wondered if he had ever met the man. ” Apparently Denning lived alone with his man servant – he was an accountant by profession. I was also told, some years ago, and the letter is still in my files, that the late Dr. W. H. Steavenson, a very well known English amateur, once visited Denning, to discover a lonely old man sitting by his fireside.

Burnham’s fate underscores another thing about our ilk. Many of us aren’t well suited to anything practical or useful. We’re harmless creatures; but we’re not really good for anything – except to sit in rocking chairs on pine needles and hoard curiosities (artifactual or informational) that to most people will seem mere bric-a-brac – cast-offs – debris. We are beachcombers along unfamiliar seas who love to peer, whenever we can, at shining planets and spangled multitudes rolling through the vast universe of which we, the meek, are the true inheritors.

Before the spacecraft era, planetary astronomy was entirely groundbased. That meant trying to capture a column of light from a distant world by means of a lens or mirror then studying it with the eye, the photographic plate, or the spectroscope. Practically speaking, this meant a team collaboration among artisans – craftsmen in glass and mechanical engineers – who produced the instruments and the artists, trained in the methods of observation, who used them. At one level, the classic pose was set in 1910 by Percival Lowell, hiding his bald pate under a golf cap turned with the visor backward peering intently at another world (in this case, Venus against the daylight sky).

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