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Ancient Observatories-Timeless Knowledge

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Ancient Observatories-Timeless Knowledge
What Can We Learn From Ancient Observatories?
Why do you think Ancient Observatories-Timeless Knowledge is the 2005 Theme for the Sun-Earth Connection Missions?
The following activity will introduce you and your students to our exciting new Sun-Earth Day theme. We have provided basic vocabulary necessary to provide a foundation for additional exploration. With the foundation you will then have the opportunity to explore our new dynamic timeline called, “Sun Watchers Through Time”! Above all, enjoy your journey through time!
Engagement: Sun-Earth Day 2005: Ancient Observatories-Timeless Knowledge
Define the following terms:




For the Educator:

Ancient-of or relating to a remote period, to a time early in history, or to those living in such a period or time; especially : of or relating to the historical period beginning with the earliest known civilizations and extending to the fall of the western Roman Empire in A.D. 476

Observatories-a building or place given over to or equipped for observation of natural phenomena (as in astronomy); also : an institution whose primary purpose is making such observations

Timeless-having no beginning or end : ETERNAL b : not restricted to a particular time or date

Knowledge-acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique b (1) : the fact or condition of being aware of something (2) : the range of one's information or understanding c : the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning

Introducing the Activity:

After defining the above terms your students will have an idea of the meaning behind the theme for this year’s Sun-Earth Day. Allow your students time to review the online “Sun Watchers Across Time” timeline or you may simply wish to print copies of the timeline information provided below. This can be followed with small group discussions on the following topics:

  • Why did people study the Sun for so many years?

  • What discoveries were key points in learning about our relationship to ‘Our Star the Sun’?

  • How can the Sun-Earth Scientists help you as you learn about observing the Sun over time? Enter your research based conclusions to the questions and receive a special recognition from the Sun Earth Connection Education Forum.

Sun Watchers Through Time:

(Many of the timeline entries have been linked to web pages for further research.)

  • 3000 BC: Known in Gaelic as Uaimh na Greine, "the cave of the sun," Newgrange, Ireland was built. It is the oldest known structure with evidence of scientific thought. On winter solstice, the sunlight perfectly aligns with an opening in the structure to illuminate the inner chamber.

( Live link)

  • 2700-1700 BC: Stonehenge, in England, was built in approximately 3000 BC. It was a giant circle of huge stones that were aligned to the position of the sun. (Live link

  • 4th Century BC: Greek philosopher Aristotle invented the camera obscura and became the first known person to use a device to observe the Simi. A camera obscura, a hole punched in a screen, remains a popular way to observe solar eclipses. (Live Link

  • 150 AD: Ptolemy endorsed the Earth-centered view of the universe.(Live Link

  • 800 AD: Chichin Itza

  • 850 AD: Chaco Canyon

  • 1543: Nicolaus Copernicus published his theory that Earth travels around the sun. This contradicted the teachings of the Church. (Live Link

  • 1608: Dutch eyeglass maker Hans Lippershey invented the refracting telescope. Other scientists soon followed suit, making their own instruments.

  • 1609: Johannes Kepler published his work, New Astronomy, in which he announced his three laws of planetary motion. His work described the orbits of the planets as elliptical, rather than circular.

  • 1610: Galileo Galilei published his findings of his observations with his telescope. He described spots on the sun, craters on the moon and four satellites of Jupiter. His findings promoted the idea of a sun-centered universe (like Copernicus). (Live link

  • 1687: Sir Issac Newton published his findings (Principia Mathematica) establishing the theory of gravitation and laws of motion. This allowed astronomers to understand the interacting forces among the sun, the planets and their moons.

  • 1814: Joseph von Fraunhofer built the first accurate spectrometer and used it to study the spectrum of the sun’s light. (Live Link

  • 1843: German amateur astronomer Heinrich Schwabe, who had studied the sun for 17 years, announced his discovery of a regular cycle in sunspot numbers. He discovered that the number and positions of sunspots vary over an 11-year period. (Live Link

  • 1859: Astronomer Richard Carrington (Britain) discovered solar flares. His discovery helped explain that geomagnetic storms on Earth are related to events on the sun.

  • 1868: During an eclipse, astronomers observed a new, bright emission line in the spectrum of the sun's atmosphere. As a result of observations, British astronomer Norman Lockyer identified and named helium.

  • 1908: American astronomer George Ellery Hale showed that sunspots contain magnetic fields that are thousands of times stronger than Earth's magnetic field.

  • 1938: German physicist Hans A. Bethe and American physicist Charles L. Critchfield demonstrated how a sequence of nuclear reactions, called the proton-proton chain, make the sun shine.

  • 1957: Russian satellite Sputnik 1 was launched into orbit. Four months later, the US launched its first satellite, Explorer.

  • 1981: NASA's first reusable space shuttle, Columbia, made its maiden flight.

  • 1983: Launch of manned SpaceLab gave long term high-resolution photographs of the sun's surface.

  • 1990: Ulysses, an interplanetary spacecraft, was launched with the mission to measure the solar wind and magnetic field over the sun's poles during periods of both high and low solar activity. (Live Link

  • 1991: Launch of the YOHKOH spacecraft, photographing the sun in x-ray emission over a full solar cycle (11 years).

  • 1995: The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a joint project of the United States (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). SOHO is at a point in space where the sun's gravitational pull balances Earth's gravitational pull, so the satellite orbits the sun with Earth. SOHO always faces the sun. SOHO returned some of the amazing images of the sun seen in SOLARMAX. (Live Link

  • 1998: Launch of the TRACE satellite, giving unprecedented close-up pictures of the sun and its magnetic field lines. (Live Link

  • 1998: Construction began on a huge new space station, a joint endeavor among many countries.

  • 2000: YOHKOH, SOHO and TRACE images for SOLARMAX.

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