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Galileo's "The Phases of the Moon". You can see some of the Moon's craters drawn in the pictures.
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Image courtesy of Biblioteca Nazionale - Florence, Italy

Astronomy throughout History

The study of all sorts of celestial objects, such as planets, stars, galaxies, intergalactic and interstellar space, falls under the field of astronomy. Thousands of years ago, the earliest civilizations observed the heavens.

Because astronomers of the past set the foundation for today's astronomy, it is an interesting journey to take a look through the history of astronomy. How did they figure out how big around the Earth is? Who was the first astronomer to recognize galaxies outside our own? How did they know the Earth wasn't the center of the solar system? What must've it been like to look through Galileo's first telescope to see the craters on the Moon? Were people stunned when Halley correctly predicted the return of a comet?

Archeoastronomy has been called the 'anthropology of astronomy' to distinguish it from the history of astronomy. It sets to find out just how astronomy fit into a certain culture's life.

Were women ever allowed or encouraged to be astronomers in ancient times? Did the builders of Stonehenge incorporate into its structure an eclipse prediction system? How did the Sun play into thoughts on death and the afterlife for civilizations of long ago? How did the Mayan calculate the length of a year with such accuracy without a computer or a calculator?

This section will take you on a journey through time, across the continents and into the lives of people from all times and places. It will touch on the history of astronomy, archeoastronomy and more. Please choose which way you would like to begin your journey:

Journey through Time
Journey by Region
Meet the People Involved

Last modified September 10, 2000 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA