By William Sheehan

Astronomy is by way of a ways the preferred of the actual sciences, engaging sufficient to turn into a big cultural preoccupation for plenty of, and for a few a captivating medical job which usually principles their lives. what's the nature of that possible unstoppable charm? during this vigorous and compelling account, William Sheehan – expert psychiatrist, famous historian of astronomy, and incurable observer - explores the character of that attract throughout the tale of man's visible exploration of the planets.

In this quantity, the 1st of a trilogy, Sheehan begins with observational astronomy’s profound and lasting impression on his personal existence, environment the issues of embarkation for the adventure to come back. He travels around the historic panorama looking the earliest origins of man's compulsion to monitor the planets one of the hunter gatherers of the higher palaeolithic, and lines the evolving tale from the planetary documents of the earliest towns, to Pharonic Egypt via to Hellenistic Greek astronomy culminating in Ptolemy. the need to notice performed its half within the perceptual adjustments wrought via the Copernican revolution, in addition to the observational advances accomplished by means of such remarkable characters as Tycho together with his sharpest of eyes, and his sumptuous perform of overall astronomy. the 2 epochal advances released in 1609, either born via planetary statement, particularly Kepler's discovery of the real nature of the orbit of Mars and Harriot and Galileo’s observations of the Moon, have a pivotal position during this account.

Sheehan weaves a wealthy tapestry of social and technological settings, patronage and personalities, gear and abilities, cosmologies and targets, explanations and compulsions to aim to provide an explanation for why we now have saw, and proceed to monitor, the planets.

The compelling textual content of A ardour for the Planets is superior by means of the especially commissioned planetary paintings of Julian Baum, himself son of a famous planetary observer and historian of planetary observers, and Randall Rosenfeld.

A ardour for the Planets may be of curiosity to all beginner astronomers; energetic planetary observers; armchair astronomers; these attracted to the background of astronomy; the cultural heritage of technology; and astronomical art.

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Extra info for A Passion for the Planets: Envisioning Other Worlds, From the Pleistocene to the Age of the Telescope

Sample text

For me, it was one of the redeeming features of childhood. Though the sky can be discovered from the trenches or the inner city – and is perhaps “counted sweetest” by those who have so little else of natural beauty around them – the Open Sky is only found far from congested human habitations. ” It is the grandeur of this sky, which the nineteenth century first discovered, that makes deserts and plains appealing, that draws some of us to the desolate grasslands of the Dakotas, to the Big Sky Country of Montana, to the deserts of Arizona.

I am not without passion for this work. ”45 When I feel that strongly, I have no choice but to remove the CCD camera, insert an eyepiece, and look with my own eyeball. Then the nostalgia for the way things used to be done returns. I recall again how I used to be entranced by the hour with a lovely planet blazing on the night sky through the slit of a small dome: what it was like to commune, one on one, with these other worlds, how I sometimes experienced during those nocturnal vigils the same state of abstraction from the mundane that the adept in Eastern mysticism accomplished only through painstaking mastery of the lotus position combined with rigorous inculcation through all the stages of abstruse contemplation.

276. 47 Percival Lowell, Mars and Its Canals (New York: Macmillan, 1906), p. 8. 48 To be perfectly correct, it was the character in Lovecraft’s abortive novel, Azaroth, these words describe. The 500 words of the beginning of this novel are quoted in their entirety in a letter from H. P. Lovecraft to Frank Belknap Long, June 9, 1922. 45 46 2 By Passion Driven 41 I assert, however, that it is not even necessary to use a telescope for all the old passion to kindle into flame. On winter evenings, as I am writing this (February 2009), Venus looms high in the western sky, and I follow its motion nightly with my naked-eye.

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