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Advances in Astronomical Technology

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Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify the significant events in the field of astronomy following the milestones set by Copernicus and Galileo. The milestones here refer to the discovery of earth’s rotation around sun by Copernicus, hardly 500 years ago, and the revolutionary development of optical telescope by Galileo, within last 400 years. Both of these events were responsible for the dramatic change in the long held views about the solar system. This paper would attempt to identify at least 3 subsequent milestones in the field of Astronomy.

Milestone events in the field of Astronomy

Until the time of Galileo, Astronomy was mostly based on the observation and there were not much theoretical work done in terms of mathematically defining the movement of planets and solar system. Johannes Kepler was the first person, who attempted to define celestial motions in terms of mathematics. He assumed that the motion of the heavenly bodies is due to a physical force, which can be analysed through mathematics and hence accurately predicted. Kepler laid down 3 laws of planetary motion, which are named after him. This was the first analysis, which laid down the foundation of tying physics and astronomy together.

Following on Kepler’s analysis, Issac Newton developed the law of universal gravitation, which further highlighted the ties between physics and astronomy. Newton wa able to explain the rotation of moon around the sun in the similar was any heavenly body is attracted to any other, by using a single theoretical framework of law of gravitation. Newton, in his book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, derived the Kepler’s laws from the first principle. The foundation of modern physics is attributed to many of the Newton’s theoretical analysis. The distance between the planets, length of perigee and apogee, mass of planets and moons, were some of the values calculated just by the application of Newton’s laws.

In the later part of the 19th century, Scientists discovered the forms of light, which were not visible to the naked eyes. The understanding of these ‘invisible’ lights e.g. Infra-red, X-rays, radio waves, microwaves, Gamma rays, helped a lot in the progress of Astronomy as some stars were so far off that there ‘visible’ part of the spectrum could not be sensed but the instruments could detect their presence by reading the ‘invisible’ light. Many stars were discovered by using this phenomenon. 

The invention of spectroscopy in the 20th century was another milestone, which helped in analysing the elements found in the Sun. By analysing the spectral line, it could be deciphered that the Sun is composed of Helium and hydrogen, as the major element. The advent of quantum physics took the spectroscopy further as it helped understand many observations, which were not possible without it.  It was proved through spectroscopy that all stars have their composition similar to the Sun. Spectroscopy also helped in measuring the temperatures of the stars, which would have been otherwise impossible.

This essay was written with a purpose to identify the important subsequent events in the field of astronomy, followed by Copernicus’s heliocentric model and Galileo’s optical telescope. The paper identified four subsequent events, which helped the growth of Astronomy in the 19th and 20th Century. These events were Kepler’s and Newton’s laws, which mathematically described the planetary motion and hence united the physics with Astronomy. The next identified event was the development of invisible light detection resulting in discovery of stars, which were not visible through optical telescope. Finally, the paper mentioned the huge advances done in the field of Astronomy though the invention of Spectroscopy, which helped Scientists, measure the temperature of stars and determine the elements they are composed of.

After studying the development of science of Astronomy so far, I believe that at this time the most important challenge in further development of Astronomy is the unavailability of quick movement within the universe. Still, we are not able to tap the vast amount of Solar Energy to move quickly through the Solar system and the galaxies. We must invent a better system to take the human beings to space and planets and make the space travel frequent.

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