History of Astronomy
As long as mankind has looked up at the night sky, he has sought to understand the tiny lights that twinkle back. As far back as the ancient kingdoms of the Sumerians and Babylonians, the stars in the sky were named and catalogued. It was the Egyptians who applied mathematical precision to studying the night sky, aligning the pyramids towards the pole star and their temples towards the rising sun on solstice days.
It was the Greeks that turned astronomy into a separate branch of science, and moved studying the night sky away from the realm of divination. The word for “planet” comes from a Greek word meaning “wanderer,” signifying a degree of observation that recognized fixed movement among the stars along with anomalies that moved seemingly at random.
As a science, astronomy grew in the Renaissance. Galileo invented the telescope and discovered the four moons orbiting Jupiter, while Copernicus and destroyed the notion that the Earth was the center of the universe. Johannes Kepler discovered the three laws of planetary motion, and larger telescopes permitted the discovery of new planets.
By the 20th century, astronomy reached out to the furthest limits of the galaxy. The Hubble Telescope, placed in Earth orbit, allowed for greater observation than mankind had previously known. As a full-fledged science, astronomy still looks up into the night sky and seeks to understand.