Ptolemy lived in Alexandria, Egypt, from approximately 87-150 AD. He was an astronomer, mathematician and geographer and codified the Greek geocentric view of the universe. He believed the planets and sun orbited the Earth, this was known as the Ptolemaic system.
Nicolaus Copernicus, 1473-1543, was born in Torun, Poland and was a proponent of the theory that the Sun, and not the Earth, is at rest in the centre of the Universe. In about 1513 he first wrote a short account of his heliocentric (sun centred) cosmology. His system states that the Sun is the centre of the Universe with the other planets and stars revolving around it in circular orbits. His theory was thought implausible by the vast majority of his contemporaries and by most astronomers and natural philosophers until the middle of the seventeenth century.
The most notable people to defend his view were Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). It wasn’t until Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation (1687) that there was strong theoretical evidence to prove Copernicus’ system. Galileo was the first person to use the telescope to study the heavens systematically, he used his telescope to observe the Sun and discovered that it had dark patches on it now known as ‘sunspots’, through observing the ‘sunspots’ he realised that the sun was rotating on an axis.
1. All you need to get started in astronomy is your eyes and a map of the stars (a good one is a Planisphere which you can get from any good bookshop for around £10)
2. NEVER look directly at the sun with your naked eyes or with a pair of binoculars or telescope.
3. Next stage is getting a pair of binoculars. It’s important to use a sensible pair of binoculars - most people think you ones with large magnification but you don’t. You need low magnification but large object glass. You can get a decent pair for as little as £50.
4. Some people never move on from binoculars so don’t feel you have to.
Society for Popular Astronomy
21 Peterscroft Avenue
The Association for Astronomy Education
c/o The Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: 0207 734 4582
Astronomical Association of Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 556 4365
Federation of Astronomical Societies
British Interplanetary Society
27-29 South Lambeth Road
British National Space Centre
88/89 Eccleston Square
Tel: 0207 215 0960
British Astronomical Association
Tel: 0207 734 4145
Herschel House & Museum
19 New King Street
Tel: 01225 311342
National Maritime Museum
Tel: 0131 668 8100
Tel: 0131 556 4365
Joddrell Bank Science Centre & Arboretum
Tel: 01477 571321
Fax: 01477 571618
The London Planetarium
Tel: 0207 935 6861
Fax: 0207 465 9862
Sky & Telescope
First broadcast: Thursday 8 Oct 1998 on BBC TWO