Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Astronomy (Microcosm and macrocosm)

Isabella Panero, Nicole Brazill, Fletcher Ramsey, Jacob Brendler


Space Exploration
Our exhibit piece discusses the events that led to the evolution of space exploration. The time period ranges from before the Renaissance, during, after, all the way up to modern day. The information in the time line covers each of those time periods in great detail. All of the events on the timeline were significant to development of technology in space.
The first section of the time line is before the Renaissance. Around 1700 B.C a collection of clay tablets called, “prayer to the gods of the night” are the oldest record of constellations known. The writings are from old Babylon and include four constellations, including “the wagon”, which was the Babylonian notation for Ursa Major (the big dipper). The first known record of a Geometric Planetary model is expressed by Greek astronomer and mathematician Eudoxus of Cnidus in 350 B.C. Determining a geometric model to attempt to explain the planets and suns movement was a large branch of the study of astronomy for the Greeks. Occurring from the 1300's to about 1700, Timbuktu, now a desolate town was once rich city, filled with a wealth of knowledge of various sciences. Until recently Africa's involvement in astronomy was unknown. However scientists recently uncovered thousands of manuscripts detailing the flow of knowledge into the city. One of the topics covered was astronomy, which at the time was hundreds of years ahead of European knowledge.
The next and potentially most important time period was the Renaissance. In April of 1611, Galileo demonstrated his new telescope to prominent observers in a villa outside of Rome. Observers were impressed by Galileo’s ability to use his optic tube to read inscriptions carved on a distant building. Julius Caesar Lagalla disputed the ability of the telescope accurately to show objects on the moon. The telescope became a perfect figure for reading because it, like reading, was understood as a technology of mediated knowledge. This time period is characterized by a new attention to the visual texture of the world as observers learn to see with a precision that made things both more minute and greatly magnified. Galileo and Cavendish adapted the visual technology of the telescope into a model of reading. Galileo introduced distortions into his engraving as a way of underlining the necessary distortion of the telescope. Galileo is one of the first astronomers to publish accounts of his work with the telescope. In 1608, the telescope was invented. The telescope occupies a position of historic preeminence, rivaled only by the microscope. The telescope can be considered the prototype of modern scientific instruments and learned men in the seventeenth century; the first century of its existence. News about the telescope spread quickly through Europe. Galileo states that he was not the first inventor of the telescope. Before the telescope could be invented, lenses had to exist. Lenses were precious stones grounded to lens-like shapes and used as magnifiers or as visual aids for people with defective sight to see better. Lenses were invented around 1450. For the telescope to work, there has to be two lenses of suitable focal lengths. With a Concave lens you can see small things afar off, very clearly and with Convex you can see things nearer to be greater. If you put both lenses together you can see things afar off and things near hand, both greater and clearly. In 1611-1687, Johannes Hevelius reflected on the difference between his own work and that of Galileo. Hevelius believed Galileo lacked a sufficiently good telescope, or he could not be sufficiently attentive to those observations of his, or most likely, he was ignorant of the art of picturing and drawing, which art serves this work greatly and no less than acute vision, patience, and toil. What separated Hevelius’s engravings of the moon from Galileo’s renditions was not so much technology or talent as a difference in the status of pictorial information in the science of astronomy. In 1564-1642, Galileo showed a number of pictures of the moon as seen through the telescope. The possibilities for transmitting pictorial statements changed in the Renaissance. Three interrelated factors contributed to a new approach to scientific illustrations: naturalism, perspective, and printing.
Many different types of telescopes continued to develop after the period of the Renaissance. The Keplerian Telescope was invented in 1611 by a German mathematician-astronomer, Johannes Kepler. This telescope differs from the Galilean telescope because it has a negative lens. This type of telescope actually, “appeared less than a year after Galileo's initial announcement of his astronomical discoveries” (Optics of the Galilean Telescope). Along with the telescope came lenses. “In 1733 a wealthy amateur astronomer, Chester Moor Hall, constructed the first achromatic or compound objective, with one component made of flint glass and the other of crown glass” (Refracting Telescopes). On March 13th, 1781 William Herschel discover Uranus and determined that it was, “1.787 million miles from the Sun and it takes 84 years to complete a revolution about the Sun” (Dunkerson). “By the time Herschel got the credit for discovery, it was in the constellation Gemini” (Dunkerson). The planet was actually spotted many times before its discovery, years later. Some other details about Uranus that were observed were that, “It is so small because it is so far from us though it is 32,500 miles in diameter. Its mass is 14.6 times as much as that of the Earth. Uranus rotates in 17.3 hours” (Dunkerson). There are 11 rings around Uranus and it has 22 moons.
The time line also discusses noteworthy events that have recently occurred. Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched into space by the United States of America. It was launched into space January 31st 1958, where it was put into orbit around the earth. The Mars Pathfinder Mission was a series of rovers that were sent to Mars (launched on December 4th 1996) that arrived on July 4th 1997. They were sent to Mars to roam the surface so that we could learn more about the planet that we didn’t know. NASA sent a new rover to Mars in 2003 where it is still roaming. Apollo 11 was the mission that landed the first man on the moon who was Neil Armstrong. It launched from Earth on July 16th 1969 and landed on the moon on July 20th 1969. The Voyager program was a NASA operation that sent two unmanned probes into space to take detailed photographs of the solar system that will give Earth detailed information about the solar system. Voyager 1 was launched on September 5th 1977. Voyager 2 was launched August 20th 1977. Gliese 581g is a planet that was recently discovered about 20 light years away. The planet discovered is believed to be earth-like with the potential for life. This provides a plausible answer to the argument of whether life exists somewhere other than Earth. The Hubble Telescope is a telescope that orbits the earth in space. The Hubble was launched into orbit on April 22nd 1990. This telescope is the largest telescope with a variety of purposes. It just recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in orbit.
It is obvious that technology has progressed immensely over the years. The research that went into the time line in our exhibit piece shows just how much technology has progressed. We went from studying constellations and planets to actually traveling into space. As the time line of space technology continues, we will see many more advancements in space.

Works Consulted

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1 comment:

  1. Exploration of space is such a fascinating topic. To think that we once knew absolutely nothing about to space to now knowing as much as we do really shows you how far along we as a society have come. It seems as though through your research that the US space program has had a lot of slow and steady progression. Progression that in the near future doesn’t seem like it is going to slow down any time soon. Overall a very interesting post and presentation.