ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Astronomy, History and Modern astronomy

Updated on October 18, 2019
Mtanzil profile image

Astro science research enthusiast loves to read about astronomy and space exploration. In love with gaining and sharing knowledge.

What is Astronomy?

Astronomy is that branch of science which deals with the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that occur outside Earth’s atmosphere.Astronomy deals with the evolution , physics, chemistry, meteorology and motion of these celestial objects.

The field of modern astronomy is divided into two major branches viz observational and theoretical astronomy.

  • Observational astronomy deals with acquiring and analysing data, mainly using basic principles of physics.

  • Theoretical astronomy deals with designing analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena.

The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain the observational results, and observations being used to confirm theoretical results.

Astronomy is said to be the one of the oldest sciences dating back to antiquity. Researchers have been able to find its roots in religious, mythological, cosmological, calendrical, and astrological beliefs and practices of prehistory. Various artefacts have been found by the researchers so far that help us to understand how early civilizations performed methodical observations of the night sky and used that for social and religious purposes.

History of Astronomy

Early civilizations associated astronomy mostly with religion. They identified these celestial objects with Gods and Spirits. They performed various methodical observations of the sky at night and observed the movement of these celestial objects and associated it with seasons, rain, drought and tides. Earlier astronomers were mostly priests and that they understood celestial objects and events to be manifestations of the sanctified, hence early astronomy's connection to the stars and their movement is now called as Astrology.

Various ancient structures are considered to be built according to the astronomy. The biggest example of which is Stonehenge which supposedly fulfilled astronomical, religious, and social functions.

Calendars of the world have often been set by observations of the Sun and Moon (marking the day, month and year), and were important to agricultural societies, in which the harvest depended on planting at the correct time of year, and for which the nearly full moon was the only lighting for night-time travel into city markets.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, two miles (3 km) west of Amesbury.
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, two miles (3 km) west of Amesbury.

Early civilizations and Astronomy

Early civilizations, like Harappan, Mayans,Greek, Egyptians and Ancient Chinese civilizations used astronomy to keep track of time .

Harappan Astronomy

The Harappan civilisation lasted from about 7,000 BC to 2,000 BC. Harrapans were literate, they used the Dravidian language and were well versed with the astronomy. Various artefacts show how they mapped their cities according to the astronomy. The star-calendar used by the Vedic ritualists was adopted by the Aryans in India,Linkages between ancient Harappan scripts and latter Vedic texts suggest that Harappan priest-astronomers tracked progress of Mercury, Venus and Saturn, and most likely all of the planets. They also appeared to have mapped the sky. Some of the pieces of recovered tablets show what appears to be a discussion of the North Star in one case and the star cluster, Pleides, in another.


Greek Astronomy

Greek astronomy is the astronomy written in Greek language it includes ancient Greek, Hellenistic,Greco-Roman, and late antiquity eras. It is not limited geographically to or Greece to ethnic Greeks. The development of astronomy by Greeks is considered as the major phase in early Astronomy. Most of the constellation of the northern hemisphere have been derived from the Greek astronomy even names of many stars, asteroids and planets have been derived from it. Greek astronomy was influenced by Egyptian and Babylonian astronomy and in turn it influenced Indian, Arabic and Western astronomy.

Greek astronomical scripture
Greek astronomical scripture

Egyptian Astronomy

The Egyptian astronomy is believed to began from 5th melennium BCE. The stone circles of Nabta Playa are believed to be based on the astronomical alignments. Egyptians also made use of 365 day calendar in 3rd melennium BCE and even studied the sky to determine the annual floods in river Nile. The Egyptian pyramids were carefully aligned with the pole star, the temple of Amun-Re is aligned with the rising of the mid-winter sun. Astronomy played a very important role in determining the date of various religious festivals, the priests of the temples studied the sky and movement of the celestial objects to determine the date for the religious festivals.

Amun re temple at karnak
Amun re temple at karnak
pyramids of Giza
pyramids of Giza
A star map with a cylindrical projection. Su Song's star maps represent the oldest existent ones in printed form.
A star map with a cylindrical projection. Su Song's star maps represent the oldest existent ones in printed form. | Source
Arabic astronomy artefacts
Arabic astronomy artefacts

Birth of Modern Astronomy

It was in 1530 when the real rejuvenation of the modern astronomy took place with the Theory of solar system commonly known as the Copernican system given by Nicolaus Copernicus. Nicolaus Copernicus was a cathedral cleric in a small Polish city who played a leading role in the emergence of modern science. Although in his lifetime he was not able to prove that Earth revolves about the Sun, he presented such compelling arguments for this idea that he turned the tide of cosmological thought and laid the foundations upon which Galileo and Kepler so effectively built in the following century.

Many of the modern scientific concepts of observation, experimentation, and the testing of hypotheses through careful quantitative measurements were pioneered by a man Galileo Galilee who lived nearly a century after Copernicus.

The new ideas of Copernicus and Galileo began a revolution in our conception of the cosmos.

The copernican model
The copernican model
Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus


The study of the astronomical practices, celestial lore, mythologies, religions and world-views of all ancient cultures we call archaeoastronomy. It may be discribed as the "anthropology of astronomy", to distinguish it from the "history of astronomy".

Archaeoastronomy uses a lot of methods to get the evidence of past practices including archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, statistics and probability, and history.

Because there are many methods and they use data from different sources, integrating them into a single argument has been a long-term difficulty for archaeoastronomers.

Archaeoastronomy can be applied to all cultures and all time periods. The meanings of the sky vary from culture to culture; nevertheless there are scientific methods which can be applied across cultures when examining ancient beliefs.


There is no one way to do archaeoastronomy. The divisions between archaeoastronomers tend to depend on the location of kind of data available to the researcher. In the Old World, there is little data but the sites themselves; in the New World, the sites were supplemented by ethnographic and historic, there are two major methods of doing archeoastronomy one is Green Archeoastronomy and other is Brown Archeoastronomy. Green is based primarily on statistics and is particularly apt for prehistoric sites where the social evidence is relatively scant compared to the historic period. Where as brown archaeoastronomy has been identified as being closer to the history of astronomy or to cultural history, in so far as it draws on historical and ethnographic records to enrich its understanding of early astronomies and their relations to calendars and rituals.

"The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, or falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries." |source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)