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

By William Sheehan

Astronomy is via a ways the preferred of the actual sciences, engaging sufficient to turn into an incredible cultural preoccupation for lots of, and for a few a captivating clinical task which assuredly ideas their lives. what's the nature of that likely unstoppable appeal? during this full of life 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 starts off with observational astronomy’s profound and lasting impression on his personal lifestyles, environment the issues of embarkation for the adventure to come back. He travels around the ancient panorama looking the earliest origins of man's compulsion to watch 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 completed by way of such awesome characters as Tycho together with his sharpest of eyes, and his sumptuous perform of overall astronomy. the 2 epochal advances released in 1609, either born via planetary commentary, 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, gear and talents, cosmologies and pursuits, factors and compulsions to attempt to give an explanation for why now we have saw, and proceed to monitor, the planets.

The compelling textual content of A ardour for the Planets is greater through the especially 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 can be of curiosity to all beginner astronomers; lively planetary observers; armchair astronomers; these drawn to the historical past of astronomy; the cultural historical past of technological know-how; and astronomical art.

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

Sample text

As for a place to house the body, a Thoreau-like cabin on some Walden Pond will do. 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.

One either needs to learn these things for oneself, or find others who are meticulously, obsessively attentive to detail, who are pedantic students of technique. Robert Graves, the poet and novelist, took up mountain climbing after the First World War, and found such a one in Geoffrey Young, I assume that means I have the seven-repeat (7R) allele of the human dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene which has been associated with both attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the personality trait of novelty-seeking which, though proximally I can trace it to inheritance from my alcoholic and vagabonding maternal grandfather, William Robinson, is a mutation that seems to have occurred quite recently during human evolution (during the late Pleistocene) and been strongly selected for as conferring some evolutionary advantage during those climatically unstable and wild times.

One of the challenges of mountain-climbing is that, though the mountain stands quite still, it is ever-changing, subject to the constant vicissitudes (and perils) of weather. ” No telescope can ultimately perform better than the limit set by diffraction, which is a consequence of the wave nature of light. Owing to diffraction, a telescope can never form the image of a star as a perfect point; instead, the image consists of a small disk (called the Airy disk) surrounded by a series of bright and dark rings.

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