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Thread: Noting the stars were blocked by the moon

  1. #1
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    Noting the stars were blocked by the moon

    Which civilization first noted or came up with the idea that the stars were farther away than the moon? Greeks?

    Secondly which group determined that the stars were farther away that the sun?

    This is disregarding the 'wandering stars - the planets'.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    ...
    The stars were dim, and thick the night,
    The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
    From the sails the dew did drip—
    Till clomb above the eastern bar
    The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
    Within the nether tip.
    ...
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798

    Sounds as if the narrator thought that at least one star was closer than the moon!

  3. #3
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    I thought the narrator was letting us know that things were not normal at that time.

  4. #4
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    I'm surprised no one can answer this - it must be far more obscure than I first thought. I feel better now about not being able to find the answer myself!

  5. #5
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    I would guess the ancients supposed the stars were further from us than the Moon because the Moon occulted the stars. Attempts to get more exact answers by parallax are described in the link.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella...y_and_attempts
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hans View Post
    Which civilization first noted or came up with the idea that the stars were farther away than the moon? Greeks?

    Secondly which group determined that the stars were farther away that the sun?

    This is disregarding the 'wandering stars - the planets'.

    Thanks
    I don't know. However the fixed nature of the stars looks like they are further away than the planets in the same way as distant mountains look still while nearer animals move. So even if thought of as a perforated shell, the sun and planets would seen to move within that bowl of stars. So I guess the ancients would naturally assume the stars were further away and the observation of occultation would confirm that for the keener observers.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  7. #7
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    So can I assume that no Greek or earlier observers noted this in writing? If so thanks!

  8. #8
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    Astronomers in ancient times will have seen stars and planets pass behind the Moon many times. I've seen this myself on a number of occasions, so I'd be very surprised if they did not see it happen too. This would have told hem that the Moon was closer than the planets and stars. Similarly the passage of the Moon in front of the Sun would have established that the Sun was further away than the Moon; in fact Aristarchus measured the ratio between the distance of the Sun and the Moon in 250 BC.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hans View Post
    So can I assume that no Greek or earlier observers noted this in writing? If so thanks!
    I've done a fair bit of research into the origins and development of celestial navigation, going as far back as the Minoans, and I haven't seen any mentions or descriptions of lunar occultations. However, there are a lot of other observational details which must have been known in order to navigate, and which don't seem to have been recorded in ancient times either.

    Perhaps the "distance order" of celestial objects was assumed to be common knowledge from prehistory, and nobody thought it worth writing down?
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    Yes very helpful! Thanks

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798

    Sounds as if the narrator thought that at least one star was closer than the moon!
    That was from Carcosa of course, where the moons set in front of towers

  13. #13
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    It’s not only Coleridge that gets it wrong - even Sesame Street does (My childhood is ruined) !

    At 10 minutes in this fun Royal Institution lecture “When maths goes wrong”, he shows the cover of one of the books.
    https://youtu.be/6JwEYamjXpA



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