History of Astronomy (Timeline)


750 BC : Babylonian Astronomers 

The rise of astronomy started around 750 BC in ancient Babylon. Babylonian astronomers  first discover an 18.6-year cycle in the rising and setting of the Moon.

From this they created the first almanacs – tables of the movements of the Sun, Moon and planets for the use in astrology.

The Babylonians were able predict the next eclipse. Some of their contributions to astronomy are the discovery of many of today’s constellations.

 In 6th century BC Greece, this knowledge is used to predict eclipses.

585 BC : Thales predicts a solar eclipse

Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer from Miletus in Asia Minor.

Thales is recognized for breaking from the use of mythology to explain the world and the universe, and instead explaining natural objects and phenomena by theories and hypotheses, i.e. science. Almost all the other Pre-Socratic philosophers followed him in explaining nature as deriving from a unity of everything based on the existence of a single ultimate substance, instead of using mythological explanations.

Thales predicted the solar eclipse of May 28, 585 BC. Thales also described the position of Ursa Minor, and thought the constellation might be useful as a guide for navigation at sea. He calculated the duration of the year and the timings of the equinoxes and solstices. He is additionally attributed with the first observation of the Hyades and with calculating the position of the Pleiades. Plutarch indicates that in his day (c. AD 100) there was an extant work, the Astronomy, composed in verse and attributed to Thales.

467 BC : Anaxagoras produced a correct explanation for eclipses and then described the sun

Anaxagoras was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae in the Persian Empire (modern-day Urla, Turkey)

He also gave a number of novel scientific accounts of natural phenomena. He produced a correct explanation for eclipses and described the sun as a fiery mass larger than the Peloponnese, as well as attempting to explain rainbows and meteors.

Anaxagoras did cosmology, explaining meteorites and eclipses.  Plutarch says that Anaxagoras predicted the fall of a meteorite in 467 BCE, by ancient standards proof of his cosmological views but by modern standards impossible.


 He argued that the sun was a mass of heated metal, like that worked by a blacksmith.  He said the Moon reflects the light of the sun (correct), that the moon has mountains (correct) and that they were inhabited (incorrect as far as we know).  The sun and stars are masses of stone kicked off from the earth, ablaze by rapid rotation, in line with the Pythagorean account of the cosmos for the stars but not for the Sun.




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