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35

Anaxagoras (500 BCE–428 BCE): Anaxagoras brought philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry from Ionia to Athens. His observations of the celestial bodies and the fall of meteorites led him to form new theories of the universal order. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows, and the sun, which he described as a mass ...


29

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. Really, all stars can be seen between the tropics, and the Northern Tropic was reached even earlier. In 1471, they crossed the Equator and began to be guided by ...


28

TL; DR: Landing on the moon was covered in the Soviet press, and was well known in the Soviet Union. It received much less attention than Soviet space missions, though. Just to add something factual to previous answers. NASA on U.S.S.R. reaction NASA's Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1969 (15 MB PDF file) contains some useful information on press coverage ...


23

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 until the birth and proliferation of the telescope (starting in the 1600s) and then modern telescopes and space probes (1900s). The planets known to the ...


19

(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 association of governmental legitimacy with astronomical/geophysical omens, ancient China was rather obsessed with predicting eclipses. Attempts to do so seemed ...


15

Well, the USSR did not conceal the event from the public. The official position can be described as follows: The landing once more time confirms the materialistic worldview. The American consmonauts did not see angels or devils there, neither the God. The landing shows the extent which a human can reach with labor and technological progress, it shows that ...


12

Latitude can be calculated from observations of stellar objects (typically using something like an astrolabe) and a bit of math. The Greeks could do this as early as 150BC, but only on dry land. The mariner's astrolabe wasn't invented until around 1300 CE. Nobody had a good way to determinte longitude in real-time aboard a ship before the invention of the ...


12

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 characteristically Chinese, however, was the insistence that the heavens were circular and that the earth was square, an idea which would arise naturally enough from the ...


11

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 to its maximum brightness of between apparent magnitude −7 and −4.5 (brighter than everything in the night sky except the Moon) by July. The supernova was ...


10

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 answer) by Al Hazen in Mizan al-Hikmah (Balance of Wisdom) around the turn of the Millenium but I could not find reputable sources for this claim. In fact, the ...


10

The solstice was determined by observing the shade of the gnomon (a vertical stick on a level ground). Indeed, this is difficult to observe with a good precision. However, if you do this for many years, you obtain a better and better result. For example, suppose that your error is E, and you observe for N years. This gives you the length of the year (the ...


10

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 Pluto. If we don't include Pluto, 1989 when Voyager 2 flew by Neptune. For many of the outer planets the Voyager Grand Tour missions were the first really good ...


9

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 this imperfect sphere). They were embedded in clear solid domes at varying distances. But in general, the idea that the heavens were made for us on Earth to ...


8

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 moon is not always visible, the sky can be covered by clouds for example, so the Synedrion decided when to start the new month, based on all available evidence, ...


7

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 got a vague idea of what they looked like up-close with the invention of the telescope in the early 1600s -- Galileo saw bands on Jupiter and the rings of ...


6

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 widespread European reports of the A.D. 1054 event was offered by Zaleman⁷ and by Thomas⁸, who ascribe it to the Great Schism, which split Christianity into the ...


6

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 recording the eclipses which describe the cycle in the sixth century BC. Apparently Hipparchus (second century BC), Pliny (first century AD) and Ptolemy (second ...


6

According to the main authoritiy on ancient astronomy and astrology, Otto Neugebauer, astrology was introduced to Hellenistic world from Babylon. (If you not know who he is, look at this Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Neugebauer). Here is what he writes on Egypt in general: Egypt provides us with the exceptional case of a highly ...


6

Latitude To find the latitude of a point on the land, one would simply have to measure the elevation of Polaris above the horizon. Therefore the question of the precision of (land-based) latitude determinations in this period reduces to the question of how accurately people could measure angles in the sky. The Almagest was the state of the art during this ...


6

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 scientific measurement of Moon's parallax that we know is recorded in Ptolemy (II cent AD). Parallax gives you the distance to the Moon in terms of the size of the ...


5

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 Ptolemy, it reads "The fourth parallel is distant one hour [from the equator] and is 16°25'. This is parallel [latitude] through Meroe. Actually Meroe lies between ...


5

Aristarchus is the first to measure the relative size of Earth and the Moon in the third century B.C., at a ratio of 8:3. This is a bit lower than the modern calculation at 3.7:1 due to ignorance of the penumbra shadow's narrowing. Likewise Aristarchus calculates that the Sun's diameter is between 18 and 20 times that of the Moon. We now know that an ...


4

First, a spot of background science. The Longitude Problem is exactly identical to the problem of establishing simultaneity on widely separated locations on the Earth's surface, and both prerequisite the existence of a reliable estimate of the Earth's diameter. Certainly Eratosthenes calculated the Earth's diameter in the 3rd Century BC, and other ...


4

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 eclipses. Ptolemy knew, for example, the details of the orbit of the Moon including its nodal points, and that the Sun must be within 20d 41' of the Node point, and ...


4

Propaganda It was indeed reported, but as a non-event, buried in the middle of the newspaper. One had to pay close attention to learn about it and realize the importance of the event. Just like in this joke: Napoleon is reading "Pravda", while, say, Ney is watching the TV report from the November 7th military parade in Moscow. Ney: "Look, Your Majesty - ...


4

All our system of exact dating of events of ancient history is based on Babylonian astronomical observations. There is a large number of astronomical cuneiform tables found in Mesopotamia. Only in British Museum there are 20,000 of them. They are dated and contain various astronomical data (positions of the Moon, planets, eclipses etc.) which can be ...


4

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 is not known when precisely it was written, but it was commented by Chinese authors in 3d, 6th and 7th century AD. The book is full of problems like this: ...


4

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, such as whether the Earth was flat and there could be spherical celestial bodies in the heavens. Yu Xi seems to be one of the closest astronomers of Ancient ...


4

Other people have given some of the history on discovering distances to planets, so I'll focus on the issue of "how did people learn the sizes of planets"? Though I will point out that accurate distances to planets -- required if you want to estimate their sizes -- didn't come until the late 17th Century. Kepler's Laws provided distances to planets relative ...


3

There is no singular event, or main type of event, that aligns ancient with modern calendars. Ancient calendars tended to be somewhat arbitrary, numbering by years of the current king's reign, or similarly unpredictable things. The Babylonian records of eclipses, planetary conjunctions, and the like allow their calendar to be aligned with certainty because ...


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