Subject details

At the completion of this subject students will be able to:

  1. Identify and describe the social reasons which lead to the development of astronomical knowledge in ancient times
  2. Discuss and explain the development of astronomical concepts and techniques throughout the ages in world societies
  3. Recognise the major influences on and key players in the development of astronomy as it emerged as a science in western societies
  4. Appraise the interplay of Newtonian and post-Newtonian physics with astronomy, and the influence of the rise of scientific instrumentation in astronomy
  5. Judge the social implications of the historical development of astronomy, plus the status of astronomy as an international science in the 21st century
  6. Design and create an essay on an astronomy topic, assessing and critiquing current knowledge, using credible sources of astronomical information and research articles.
  • Topics
    • Naked eye astronomy; archaeoastronomy; the influence of mythology
    • The development of astronomy in Mesopotamia and Egypt; constellations, the zodiac, eclipses, astrology, concepts of time
    • Natural philosophy and science in ancient Greece, Greek and Roman astronomy
    • Islamic astronomy; astronomy in Asia: Chinese and Indian astronomy
    • Medieval astronomy: the influence of Islamic science, pre-Copernicans, medieval astronomy, Copernican revolution: Brahe, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo
    • The Newtonian revolution: Descartes, Newtonian cosmology, Halley; Kant and galaxies, Herschel and Uranus, physics and astronomy after Newton
    • 19th century: discovery of Neptune, large telescopes & observatories, nebulae to galaxies, spectroscopy & astrophysics, astrophotography & photometry
    • New wavelengths: the electromagnetic spectrum, infrared radiation, the dawn of radio astronomy
    • 20th century: relativity, cosmology and the Big Bang; the shift from imaging to imagination; modern cosmology
    • Issues in history of astronomy: philosophy science & scientific method; women in astronomy; astronomical instrumentation & technological developments
  • Study resources
    • Instructional Methods
      • Disscusion forum/Discussion Board
      • Embedded Multimedia
      • Online Quizzes/Tests
      • Online assignment submission
      • Standard Media
      • Web links

No eligibility requirements

Special requirements

No special requirements

This subject investigates the development and impact of astronomy from ancient times to the present day, from the viewpoint of practising astronomers. No background knowledge of astronomy or physics is assumed.

  • Assignment 1 - Test (20%)
  • Assignment 2 - Essay (50%)
  • Assignment 3 - Newsgroups (30%)

Textbooks are subject to change within the academic year. Students are advised to purchase their books no earlier than one to two months before the start of a subject.

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