osmic and Heliospheric Learning
, brought to you by the cosmic ray group at NASA GSFC,is designed to increase your interest in cosmic and heliospheric science. (The heliosphereis the HUGE area in space affected by the Sun.) It's an exciting subject to learn about andis a robust area of study.
About 260 BCAristarchus of Samos proposed aheliocentricUniverse.
Aristarchus was certainly both a mathematician and astronomer and he ismost celebrated as the first to propose a sun-centred universe.Aristarchus
figured out how tomeasure the distances to and sizes of the Sun and the Moon.
ecause he deduced that the Sun was so much bigger than themoon, he concluded that the Earth must therefore revolve around the Sun.
He figured out how to measure the relativedistances from the Earth (E) of the Sun (S) and the Moon (M). When the Moon is exactly half full, the angle E-M-Smust be exactly 90 degrees. Therefore, a measurement of the angle M-E-S when the Moon is half full will give the ratioof the Earth-Moon distance to the Earth-Sun
distanceAristarchus measured the angle M-E-S to be 87 degrees,giving the ratio to be 1/19. Actually, the angle is 89 degrees, 51 minutes, giving an actual value of 1/400,that is, the Sun is 400 times further away from the Earth than the Moon is. Aristarchus' measurement was probably off because first, it is hard to determine the exact centers of the Sun and the Moon and second, itis hard to know exactly when the Moon is half full. On the other hand, his estimate showed that the Sun ismuch further away from us than the Moon is. Aristarchus also figured out how to measure the size of theMoon. During a lunar eclipse, he measured the duration of time between the moment when the edge of theMoon first entered the umbra and the moment when the Moon was first totally obscured. He also measuredthe duration of totality. Because he found the two times to be the same, he concluded that the width of theEarth's shadow at the distance where the Moon crosses it must be twice the diameter of the MoonTherefore, the Moon must be about half as big as the Earth. Note that he already knew the approximate sizeof the Earth. Actually, the Moon is about 1/4 as big as the Earth. Aristarchus also reasoned that since theSun and the Moon have the same angular size, but the Sun is 19 times further (or so he thought), then theSun must be 19 times bigger than the Moon. While his measurements were not very precise, theynonetheless demonstratea
simple understanding of the sizes and distances
of the Earth, Moon and Sun.
He is also famed for his pioneering attempt to determine the sizes and distances of thesun and moon«. Aristarchus was a student of Strato of Lampsacus, who was head of
's Lyceum. However, it is not thought that Aristarchus studied with Strato inAthens but rather that he studied with him in Alexandria. Strato became head of theLyceum at Alexandria in 287 BC and it is thought that Aristarchus studied with him therestarting his studies shortly after that date. « Of course there is the immediate question of what Aristarchus invented, and Vitruvius explains that he invented a sundial in the shapeof a hemispherical bowl with a pointer to cast shadows placed in the middle of the bowl«. (transitory : Super Bowl XL Steelers vrs. Seattle Seahawks)Chess: ³K´ ³Aristarchus:ángulo´ ³up´ :setting up the chessmen : ³The acquaintancesshe had already formed were unworthy of her´ [(³Canis Major´) Jane Austen]³upholster´