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THE SCIENCE OF ASTRONOMY IN HISTORY AND LITERATURE John C. Mannone McMinn County Historical Society January 4, 2004.

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Presentation on theme: "THE SCIENCE OF ASTRONOMY IN HISTORY AND LITERATURE John C. Mannone McMinn County Historical Society January 4, 2004."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE SCIENCE OF ASTRONOMY IN HISTORY AND LITERATURE John C. Mannone McMinn County Historical Society January 4, 2004

2 There has been a fascination with stars since the dawn of man and looking to the heavens for at least 6000 years to find clues to answer questions about our existence. Our concept of the universe has radically changed in last 100 years. But questions like: How did we come to be? and What is our purpose in life? still remain unanswered for many.

3 As we walk through history, the impact that Astronomy has had on our culture, our literature, our art, and our faith, becomes apparent.

4 In fact, we can rediscover History and Literature through Astronomy. A cameo of this will be the subject of this presentation.


6 ANCIENT SOLAR OBSERVATORIES NABTA, EGYPT Nubian Desert 5000 BC STONEHENGE Wiltshire, England 3100 BC Big Horn Medicine Wheel Wyoming 1300 AD

7 How the Ancient Observatories Operate When the Sun, Moon, or other stars rise or set, certain times of the year, say the solstices or equinoxes, their location on the horizon marked by a combination of rocks which are sculptured stones, natural formations, or architectural design. Additional rocks may be positioned for sighting.

8 The Importance of Knowing Solstices and Equinoxes (and Other Celestial Phenomena) Ancient Writings Provide Some Clues Calendar Establishing the New Year SubsistenceHunting, Farming ProtectionPrediction of Natural Phenomena Religion Religious Festivals, Islamic Prayer Times False ReligionDeity Worship, Fertility Rituals, Human Sacrifice to Appease the gods Sorcery/OmensPrediction of Disasters AstrologyPrediction of Birth and Death of Nobility Military Strategy/Celestial Influence on Events Notice the trend: Cultures taking advantage of natural creation for the good of mankind (applied astronomy) to fear, reverence and worship of the celestial objects as deities (astrology)

9 Red Supergiant Betelguese “the coming branch” Blue Supergiant Rigel “the foot that crushes” Ancient Zodiacs fromall cultures show a serpent or similar creature, not a rabbit! 1835 Star Atlas of Orion: The Greek Hunter “the Glorious One Who Comes Swiftly” Arabic translations in quotations

10 The Sepphoris Synagogue Mosaic 400 - 600 AD Ancient Metropolis in Galilee Zodiac with Helios the Sun god

11 2 Kings 17: 16 “And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove (Asherah), and worshipped all the hosts of heaven, and served Baal.” 2 Kings 23: 5 “And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places around Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the hosts of heaven.” also see 2 Kings 21: 3; Jeremiah 19: 13; Deuteronomy 4: 19 Stern Warnings Against the Worship of the Sun, Moon, and Stars


13 1. Scriptures are Replete with Astronomical References Literal and Metaphorical Meanings Some are apparent Gen 1: 16Creation Gen 37: 9Connection of stars with tribes of Israel Job 9: 7, 9Creator of the universe Job 38: 31-33Creator of universe; laws of physics Psa 8: 3Wondrous works Psa 19Gospel in the stars Psa 147: 4Names the stars Amos 5: 8Creator of the universe

14 2. Scriptures are Replete with Astronomical References Literal and Metaphorical Meanings Some are not so apparent Num 2Encampment of tribes by their standards with their ensigns Psa 74: 13,14 Breakest the heads of dragons (HSN 8577); of leviathan (HSN 3882): serpent; constellation of the dragon (Draco) Acts 17: 28Paul’s disicourse on Aerogapus Phaenomena work of Aratus, Cilician poet Acts 27: 20Celestial navigation Acts 28: 11Alexandrian ship under Castor and Pollux

15 Classical Literature A rich forum for Astronomical allusions in Traditions, Mythology, Navigation, Agriculture, Religious Festivals, Christianity Shakespeare, Chaucer, Hesiod, Eudoxus, Aratus, St. Paul

16 “He made the earth upon it, and the sky, and the sea's water, and the tireless sun, and the moon waxing into her fullness, and on it all the constellations that festoon the heavens, the Pleiades and the Hyades and the strength of Orion and the Bear, whom men give also the name of the Wagon, who turns about in a fixed place and looks at Orion and she alone is never plunged in the wash of the Ocean.” Iliad 18. 483-89 (translated by R. Lattimore) Homer 8th Century B.C. Greek Poet The Constellations on Achilles’ Shield

17 Hesiod, 8th century B.C. Greek poet The Work and Days “At the time when the Pleiades, the daughters of Atlas, are rising, begin your harvest, and plow again when they are setting. The Pleiades are hidden for forty nights and forty days, and then, as the turn of the year reaches that point they show again, at the time you first sharpen your iron. Then when Orion and Serios are come to the middle of the sky, and rosy-fingered Dawn confronts Arcturus, (in Boötes) then Perses, cut off all your grapes, and bring them home with you. (609-11) But if the desire for stormy seagoing seizes upon you: why, when the Pleiades, running to escape from Orion's grim bulk, duck themselves under the misty face of the water, at that time the blasts of the winds are blowing from every direction, then is no time to keep your ships on the wine-blue water.” (Richmond Lattimore translation)



20 Saint Paul, the Hebrew scholar from Cilicia, refers to Aratus in his discourse in Aerogapus in Athens, Greece (Acts 17) Aratus, the Cilician poet (315-245 BC) Wrote* the popular Phaenomena, in didactic hexameter Astronomical work of Eudoxus of Cnidus ( 390– 340 BC) (1– 757) and Weather/Farming Theophrastus' De signis tempestatum (758–1154) Describes rising/setting times of 43 known constellations *Commissioned by Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia and Antiochus I of Syria

21 4th missionary journey (Spring 59 AD) aboard an Alexandrian ship under the sign of Castor and Pollux Mythology and Celestial navigation: NE Syracuse, Sicily to Regium, Italy then turning NW Rome, Italy Planetarium Software verifies Gemini rising NE setting NW at about expected travel time through straights to the Aegean Sea

22 Modern History & Literature Astronomy played a significant role in History; e.g., Longfellow, Columbus, Lewis & Clark, Captain James Cook

23 moonlight Wooded trails and a low moon helped shield Dawes from being moonlit and caught (moonrise 9:55 PM) 9:30 PM very dark 12:30 AM 21 o lunar altitude 11:30 PM 13 o 10:30 PM 5 o

24 THEN he said good-night, and with muffled oar Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore, Just as the moon rose over the bay, Where swinging wide at her moorings lay The Somerset, British man-of-war: A phantom ship, with each mast and spar Across the moon, like a prison-bar, And a huge, black hulk, that was magnified By its own reflection in the tide. Stanza 3

25 The Somerset British Man-o-War Military Tactics Bright Moon High Tides?

26 LETTER FROM REVER TO DR JEREMY BELKNAP 1798 …About 10 o'clock, Dr. Warren sent in great haste for me and begged that I immediately set off for Lexington…I then went home, took my boots and surtout, went to the north part of the town, where I had kept a boat; two friends rode me across the Charles River, a little to the eastward where the Somerset man- of-war lay*. It was then young flood, the ship was winding, and the moon was rising. They landed me in the Charlestown side. When I got into town, I met Colonel Conant and several others; they said they had seen our signals…I set off upon a very good horse; it was then about eleven o'clock and very pleasant… *The English grammar and spelling may be poor, but the subject and object is clear. The Somerset lays east of their course and their heading was a little to the eastward (presumably to compensate for the incoming tidal cross-current).

27 Boston Moon April 18, 1775 10:15 PM Local Time Disc Illumination 87% Magnitude -12.1 Disc Size 32’ The Role of this Moon in American History is Profound Astronomy not Astrology

28 Correlation of High tides with Full Moon Charlestown, Charles River, MA Summary of Results April 19, 1775 (assuming no major changes in topography) Historical Inference1:10 AM EST Astronomical Analysis1:21

29 Conclusion: The Regulars would have been challenged with an incoming tide 10:00 PM - 1:00 AM EST (11-13 foot tidal difference). Nonetheless, there is a conceivable military advantage to ‘come by sea’ to effect the element of a surprise attack on Colonial ammunition stores and arrest of the leaders. The nearly full moon to illuminate the countryside could be viewed as a favorable strategy.


31 To find the answers to those questions we started with, as a scientist, I search the bounds of the universe; but what I discover are a few hints, remarkable beauty, and inexplicable order. It seems to me, that when I extend my search to include the bounds of my heart, I find the answers to these questions... …at least the important ones. John C. Mannone November 2001

32 Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealest up the stars. Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. It is written of our Creator KJV Job 9: 7 -10

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