49 votes
Accepted

Who first called natural satellites "moons"?

Chistiaan Huygens in 1656 is the first documented evidence. The invention of the telescope limits this to after 1610. Since Galileo was the first to observe such objects, it was Kepler who in 1611 ...
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47 votes
Accepted

What is the earliest mention of space travel?

You should define more precisely what do you mean by "space travel" when you are talking about pre-Galileo times. For example, Elijah, the prophet, was taken to heavens in a chariot of fire, ...
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32 votes
Accepted

How did Vasco da Gama know about the Southern Cross?

In 1460, at the time of the death of Prince Henry, the Navigator, the Portuguese had mapped the western coast of Africa down to the 8 N parallel. The Southern Cross is well seen at this latitude. ...
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  • 6,976
27 votes

What is the earliest mention of space travel?

The earliest mention I know of the possibility was the novella A True History by Lucian in the 2nd century AD, where at one point the protagonists are taken to the moon by a whirlwind, meet the ...
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  • 2,997
25 votes
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When did we know the color/appearance of all the planets in our solar system?

Vector site provides a nice summary of what we know about the planets. That will be the source for my answer. Some planets were fairly well known to the ancients, but they could only use their eyes ...
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  • 1,367
24 votes

Who first called natural satellites "moons"?

A publication from 1665, Philosophical Transactions, in an article which tosses about names like Huygens and Cassini, has a discussion concerning a publication by Giuseppe Campani. This article ...
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23 votes

What was the first solar eclipse that was demonstrably predicted in advance?

(This is an incomplete answer since I don't know which eclipse specifically was predicted, nor how it compares to the rest of the world. But it is too long for a comment.) Because of their cultural ...
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19 votes
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Was Uranus a Roman god?

I can find no evidence that Uranus was a Roman god. Note that the article you cited in your question provides no sources. In academic sources, I can find no mention of Uranus as a Roman god. Among the ...
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14 votes

Was Uranus a Roman god?

Of course, Uranos is basically Caelus: a Greek god as seen in the interpretatio Romana a mere translation; that is a god Romans recognised, but themselves did not worship very much, as already in ...
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  • 75.2k
13 votes

Before European influence circa 1600, did any Chinese believe the Earth was spherical, and did they ever try to measure it?

See Joseph Needham's momumental work : Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 3, Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth, Cambridge UP (1959), page 212-213: "Rather ...
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13 votes
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When did scientists first postulate that Earth's atmosphere might have an upper limit?

Contrary to assertions above, the correct computation of the size of the atmosphere predates Kepler by five centuries. It is sometimes claimed that this computation was was performed (with a correct ...
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  • 3,513
12 votes

Did contemporary scholars draw a connection between Great Schism and Crab Nebula Supernova (1054 A.D.)?

There are several points to be considered in this question. Let us start by seeing some hard facts. As quoted by Wikipedia article SN1054: "Crab Nebula probably appeared in April or early May, rising ...
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  • 761
12 votes

When did we know the color/appearance of all the planets in our solar system?

tl;dr If we define "color" as true visible light color and "appearance" as being able to make out surface features, that just leaves "planet". If we include Pluto, 2015 when New Horizons flew by ...
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11 votes

Did anyone predict the death of the Sun before science?

In Norse mythology, the Sun, named Sól, is chased by a wolf, named Sköll or Fenrir. At the end of times (Ragnarök), Fenrir will catch Sól and eat her. This is not great news: High then quotes stanza ...
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  • 5,489
10 votes
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A world in the moon?

The original astronomic concepts were that planets, stars, and the sun were small, close light sources. Being in heaven, they were perfect (aside from the moon, which was smudged due to closeness to ...
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9 votes

In Ancient Cultures - How was a New Moon identified when it can never be seen?

In Jewish custom, all calendar questions were decided by the court (Synedrion). It was a duty of everyone who spotted the new Moon to report to this court as soon as possible. But of course, the new ...
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9 votes

What is the earliest mention of space travel?

Definitely not as old as the other answers, but a classic book about space travel is Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, dating back to 1865. I'm quite surprised you didn't find that one. Of ...
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9 votes
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Did anyone predict the death of the Sun before science?

The Aztecs believed that the sun was the fifth in a line of suns, and that each of the preceding four had been destroyed before its successor was created. Various natural disasters had destroyed the ...
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7 votes

What was the first solar eclipse that was demonstrably predicted in advance?

Wikipedia has an informative article on the Saros cycle, which is used to predict eclipses. According to that page, and by extension apparently the pages to which it references, the Babylonians were ...
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  • 1,904
7 votes

When did we know the color/appearance of all the planets in our solar system?

This depends a lot on exactly what you mean by "color/appearance of all the planets". If you consider just the classical planets (Mercury through Saturn) we knew their color in prehistoric times. We ...
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  • 5,658
7 votes

What is the earliest mention of space travel?

The Epic of Gilgamesh dates from as early as the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100 BC), and mentions travel, e.g., see the Standard Babylonian version tablets II–V, specifically: he spoke to Young Hero ...
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  • 171
6 votes
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Did contemporary scholars draw a connection between Great Schism and Crab Nebula Supernova (1054 A.D.)?

Brecher, K., R. A. Fesen, S. P. Maran, and J. C. Brandt. “Ancient Records and the Crab Nebula Supernova.” The Observatory 103 (June 1, 1983): 106–13. A more likely explanation for the lack of ...
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  • 2,063
6 votes

What was the first solar eclipse that was demonstrably predicted in advance?

From a NASA answer: Ptolemy ( ca 150 BC)[sic] represents the epitome of Greecian astronomy, and surviving records show that he had a sophisticated scheme for predicting both lunar and solar ...
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6 votes

When did people first recognize the estimate sizes/scales and nature of celestial bodies?

This was a very slow and gradual process, which still continues, so the question "when" has no meaning here. Ancient Greeks already knew that "The moon is larger than Peloponnese". But the first ...
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  • 37.3k
6 votes

Who is "Rhadir of Seville"?

Within all probability, the most likely explanation seems to be that this is a mixup. The correct name should be: "Abū Muḥammad Jābir ibn Aflaḥ", a Muslim astronomer also known as latinised ...
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  • 75.2k
5 votes

Before European influence circa 1600, did any Chinese believe the Earth was spherical, and did they ever try to measure it?

I am not sure about 1600, but there is a famous book on astronomy called Zhou bi suan jing, which is usually translated as "The Arithmetic Classic of the Gnomon and the Circular Paths of Heaven". It ...
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5 votes

Why did Galileo decide to flame Fr. Grassi over the latter's theory of comets, making sure to lose the Jesuits’ support?

The short, simple answer is: personal pride and professional disagreement. BACKGROUND In the latter half of 1618, three comets appeared Jesuit mathematicians at the Roman College studied the ...
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5 votes
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How accurately could ancient astronomers find latitude and longitude?

Ben Crowell says 15 minutes of latitude in the Almagest of Ptolemy according to Goldstein. Along these lines I examined some ancient sources and have the following findings: In the Geography of ...
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  • 37.2k
5 votes

Did any Chinese scholars propose a heliocentric model?

Although it doesn't state whether a heliocentric model was proposed, I'd imagine some Chinese scholars entertained the possibility. Foremost, they had to overcome the accepted beliefs of their time, ...
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