The First Astronomers

Join us this Friday December 10th as we welcome Bill Burnyeat Program Manager from Canadian Planetariums, as he discusses “The First Astronomers”.

“Today’s highly complex and mathematical astronomy, an outcome of modern society, is often seen as distinct from folk tales, star myths and the astronomical notions found in traditional society or historically remote epochs. Although some of these “perspectives” are mentioned, from time to time, the impression is given that only modern western based astronomy has any traction in reality and that the astronomy of other peoples and epochs are “just” fairy tales. 

“What is missing from this simplistic model is the marked continuity that is evident from the earliest notions of the sky, leading, in ever increasing steps, to the current picture of the cosmos based on technical tools and astrophysical insights. The first notion, encountered in the earliest astronomy is a division, both of time and space, which leads to an increasing set of subdivisions, as the sky becomes networked by horizon and then meridian based subunits. The constellations are one example. As divisions become more general, and complex, as in the Astrology of Chaucer’s time, the very units used to make these divisions take on a life of their own and become a set of commonly held values that help organize life in the community. 

“This increase in divisions, of which the telescope, able to section the sky into arc seconds, is yet another step, should not be seen as the linear progress of modern thought from crude error to exact truth. Instead, what it shows is a theme going through all astronomy from the first, and constitutes both a domain of freedom and a set of limitations within which astronomy continues to operate.  In other words, astronomy shows the same root interests all the way through, which are given first as cognitions of the sky but are soon wedded to the desire to explain, predict and generate a nomenclature on sky patterns whose nature must be pieced together both in time and space. It is the successful manipulation of these variables, defined by each culture in its own terms, that is the goal of astronomy and not the achievement of some pan cultural absolute truth.  

And of course, we will also have an installment of The Sky This Month, with Matthew Mannering to guide us through the November sky.  

And as always we will have door prizes to hand out for club members!

This will be an online Zoom meeting and all members are invited to join in and enjoy the presentations. Alternatively you can view it on our YouTube channel here.

We hope to “see” you there!

Photo credit: wikipedia.org