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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Curtiosity about astronomy

Reminder: I am mining my old epigraphs file. This is a miscellany. Do with it what you will — so long as it isn't commercial.

If anything as whacky as this has planets going round it, then surely ordinary stars stand a much better chance these days.
— Heather Couper, British astronomer, 1991, on a pulsar with possible planets (New Scientist??)

We are no other than a magic row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
  Round with the Sun-illumin'd Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show . . .
— Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

It is possible to see that the sun, moon and stars do not rise and set at the same time for every observer, but always rise earlier in the east and later in the west. Eclipses, especially those of the moon, are not always recorded at the same time after noon, being at a later hour in the east than in the west. And as this difference in times is proportional to the distances between places, we can see that the surface of the earth is spherical.
— Claudius Ptolemy (?75 - 150?? AD), Almagest, written about 150 A.D.

The brightness of the sun, which lights up the world, the brightness of the moon and of fire — these are my glory.
Bhagavad Gita, 15:12, in the translation of Eknath Easwaran, Arkana Books, 1985.

Howbeit, we cannot choose but confess, that the true reason and knowledge of agriculture, dependeth principally upon the observation of the order in heavenly bodies
— Pliny the Elder (AD 23 - 79), The Natural History, translated by Philemon Holland (1552 - 1637)

Observatory, altar, temple, tomb,
Erected none knows when by none knows whom,
To serve strange gods or watch familiar stars,
We drive to see you in our motor-cars
And carry picture postcards back to town
While still the unsleeping stars look coldly down.
— Sir John Squire (1884 - 1958), 'Stonehenge', Collected Poems, Macmillan, 1959, p. 209.

Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere.
— William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 1, V, iv, 65

who knows if the moon's
a balloon, coming out of a keen city
in the sky - filled with pretty people?
— e. e. cummings (1894-1962

Fool:  The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
Lear:  Because they are not eight?
Fool:  Yes, indeed; thou wouldst make a good fool.
— William Shakespeare, King Lear, I, v.

Yet we have but to make a few lines on a chart
And the distance of the furthest stars
In the sky can be measured.
— The Sixth Dalai Lama, (1682 - 1705).

When fishes flew and forests walked
 And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
 Then surely I was born;
— G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936), The Donkey

The Milky Way, our galaxy (a word derived from the Greek gala, meaning milk), has great depth. Its distances are most conveniently measured in terms of travelling times at the speed of light.
— Bart J. Bok, 'The Milky Way', Scientific American Reader (1953), page 13.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius begin by acknowledging his indebtedness to his grandfather, father, adopted father, various teachers, and the gods . . . He owes it to the gods . . . that when he took to philosophy he did not waste time on history, syllogism or astronomy.
— Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970) A History of Western Philosophy, chapter XXVIII, p. 271.

Who were they, what lonely men,
Imposed on the fact of night
The fiction of constellations
And made commensurable
The distances between
Themselves, their loves, and their doubt
Of governments and nations?
— Patric Dickinson (1914-  ), 'Jodrell Bank' in The World I See (London 1960

May I not be seen to have lived in vain.
— Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601), long-time astronomer on the island of Ven. He actually died in Prague.

On the 7th day of January in the present year, 1610, the first hour of the following night, as I was viewing the constellations of the heavens through a telescope, the planet Jupiter presented itself to my view, and . . . I noticed that three little stars, small but very bright, were near the planet, and although I believed them to belong to the number of the fixed stars, yet they made me somewhat wonder, because they seemed to be arranged exactly in a straight line, parallel to the ecliptic, and to be brighter than the rest of the stars.
— Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642), The Sidereal Messenger.

The mathematical professor at Padua hath discovered four new planets rolling about the sphere of Jupiter, besides many other unknown fixed stars [and] that the moon is not spherical but endowed with many prominences [he shall either be] exceeding famous or exceeding ridiculous.
— Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639), English ambassador to Venice, letter to England, 1610, in Reliquiae Wottoniae, quoted by Jacob Bronowski in The Ascent of Man.

They have likewise discovered two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve about Mars, whereof the innermost is distant from the centre of the primary planet exactly three of his diameters, and the outermost five; the former revolves in the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty-one and a half; so that the squares of their periodical times are very near in the same proportion with the cubes of their distance from the centre of Mars, which evidently shows them to be governed by the same law of gravitation that influences the other heavenly bodies.
— Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745), 'A Voyage to Laputa' in Gulliver's Travels.

Alas . . . Galileo, your devoted friend and servant, has been for a month totally and incurably blind; so that this heaven, this earth, this universe, which by my remarkable observations and clear demonstrations I have enlarged a hundred, nay a thousand fold beyond the limits universally accepted by learned men of all previous ages, are now shrivelled up for me into such a narrow compass as is filled by my own bodily sensations.
— Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), writing in about 1638.

When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.

— William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Julius Caesar, II, ii, 30-31

O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse,
Without all hope of day!
— John Milton, (1608-1674), Samson Agonistes, l. 80 (Milton visited Galileo after Galileo lost his sight.

Caroline Herschel
in her 98 years to discover
8 comets
she whom the moon ruled
like us
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses
Birr Castle, Ireland
— Adrienne Rich (1929 - ).

CAROLINE, sister of William, was trained by him as a singer in the Bath days and had considerable success in Handel's oratorios under her brother's conductorship. (The method of training adopted was for her to sing the violin parts of concertos with a gag in her mouth.) It was with great reluctance that she dropped music to be trained as an assistant astronomer, yet she made discoveries — eight minor planets, one of them named after her.
— Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music, 9th edition, 1955, page 470.

Of Human Bondage
— W. Somerset Maugham, novel title.

Of Herman Bondiage
— Subtitle to Duncan Bain's Herschel Bars and Other Sweet Astronomers, Saccharistella Press, 1985.

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