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

By William Sheehan

Astronomy is by way of a ways the preferred of the actual sciences, engaging adequate to turn into an important cultural preoccupation for lots of, and for a few a charming medical job which assuredly ideas their lives. what's the nature of that likely unstoppable appeal? during this energetic and compelling account, William Sheehan – specialist 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 impression on his personal existence, surroundings the issues of embarkation for the adventure to return. He travels around the old panorama looking the earliest origins of man's compulsion to monitor the planets one of the hunter gatherers of the higher palaeolithic, and lines the evolving tale from the planetary files of the earliest towns, to Pharonic Egypt via to Hellenistic Greek astronomy culminating in Ptolemy. the need to detect performed its half within the perceptual alterations wrought by way of the Copernican revolution, in addition to the observational advances accomplished by means of such amazing 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 statement, particularly 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 pursuits, reasons and compulsions to aim 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 improved by way of 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 might be of curiosity to all beginner astronomers; energetic planetary observers; armchair astronomers; these attracted to the background of astronomy; the cultural background of technology; and astronomical art.

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

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For all that, when I see it I am unaccountably stirred with some of the same nostalgia I felt for it as a child of nine when I wished with all my might on it as the Evening Star and it was like a spirit from fairyland. For me, Venus is not a world of fact as much as a state of mind – it thrills me as it ever did and casts its shadow not only from above but from within. Chapter 3 Nomads Their wandring course now high, now low, then hid, Progressive, retrograde, or standing still. Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII, 126–127 No one can say just when human beings first noted five bright “stars” moving among the other stars, the planets, so-called from the Greek word for wanderers.

He was one of a small pantheon of Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli. William Sheehan collection Richard Baum to William Sheehan; personal correspondence, November 24, 1989. 27 28 2 By Passion Driven astronomical deities I worshipped as a youngster (which is to say I took them as role models, aspired to be like them). He was, apparently, absent-minded in a degree that threw even Isaac Newton into the shade. As his niece Else Schiaparelli, the famous fashion designer, recalled in her autobiography: He was appallingly absent-minded.

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. We need some place like Ogilvy’s observatory in the opening chapter of The War of the Worlds: the black and silent observatory, the shadowed lantern throwing a feeble glow upon the floor in the corner, the steady ticking of the clockwork of the telescope, the little slit in the roof – an oblong profundity with the star-dust streaked across it.

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