Ancient Astronomers and their Achievements

Astronomy is a fascinating subject to most of us. This fascination has brought human race a long way from the time when earth was considered flat and at the center of the solar system to discovering other galaxies outside our own Milky Way.

It is to the credit of these men below that the face and facts about the place of earth in the vast universe was possible. It is to their credit that we recognize constellations. And you may never know, some day some may prove possibility of life outside earth. Let’s not get ahead before we know a little history and historical figures. As promised, here is the first chapter of The Information Series.


The man of many stories, Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.) was the first to coin the fact that stars and Earth are stationary while other planets revolve in a circle.

Logically thinking, it was a widely accepted notion for a long time as the eye could clearly see the sun, moon and other objects rising and setting from horizon to horizon.


It wasn’t until the time of Aristarchus (310 – 230 B.C) that it was proposed that earth is the one revolving while sun and stars remain contact.

Sadly, for him, this notion was laughed upon and unacceptable for a long time until it was scientifically proven.


This of the man who started to observe the position of stars and catalog them in order of their brightness and position in the night sky. He cataloged 850 stars in his lifetime (190 – 120 B.C.) He also explained the equinoxes.

This was triggered when he noticed a 2 degree shift in of of the stars he was observing.

Zhang Heng

A man of Chinese ancestry, Zhang Heng (78 – 139 C.E) successfully explained the moon’s light as sun’s reflection. Thus, he also explained the lunar eclipse. But it wasn’t until 11th century that the waxing and waning of the moon could be explained.

Most of the astronomical discoveries that were happening in western side of the world were simultaneously happening in the eastern side as well.


No astronomy history is complete without Ptolemy (85 – 165 C.E.) who published a catalog of 1022 stars and constellations. This started to be basic for other astronomy observers to build upon.

Today we know some of these cataloged stars to be planets or galaxies that were only visible as stars to the naked eye in those times.


Aryabhatta (476-550 C.E.) is an astronomical hero when it comes to Earth’s rotation. He was the one to accurately calculate this rotational time. He also devised various ways of compiling astronomical table.

Seems like he did more than coining ‘zero (0)’.

Abd Al-Rahman al-Sufi

Al-Sufi (903 – 986 C.E.) was a Persian who used the translated version of Ptolemy’s work and combined it with his own to make a full specs of stars observed around the earth. He was the man who discovered and proved the existence of Andromeda Galaxy and Large Magellanic Cloud.

Knowing about the existence of another galaxy, let alone another planet in that century. Phew!

Guo Shoujing

Guo Shoujing (1237- 1314) is the last name on this list of ancient astronomers and he was the one who established the nearest precise yearly calendar, i, e, he gave an absolute time frame for the revolution of earth.

It was the longest running calendar until modified. It is still referenced by many people for religious purposes.

Philosophical Conclusion

Accepting the truth about earth’s existence and position in the universe in a time earlier than the most earliest centuries must have been a tough and quite open minded task for these astronomers. Needless to say they faced endless challenges for projecting these discovering and were often met with hindrances like social out-casting. This pattern continued for a long time, even Einstein’s theory of relativity was shunned in it’s initial proposal for being preposterous until another scientist proved the same and many more came along to support that.

My imaginative brains cells can’t help but wonder if anyone ever became stars after death, these were most likely IT.

*Dates and data taken from the ‘The Astronomy Book : Big Ideas Simply Explained

Time to get back to earth. Get ready to know about ‘reading landscapes’ and what that is all about in the next chapter.

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