Astronomy in Ancient China: Observations, Instruments, and Religious Significance

Astronomy in China

The Chinese had a long tradition of astronomical observation and prediction. They used a comprehensive system of star names and interpreted celestial events. For example, when a new dynasty took power, it was important for portent astronomers to understand the reason for the change.

In the seventeenth century, Jesuit priest astronomers introduced early-modern European science into China. This included Euclid’s Elements of Geometry and astronomical tables.


In ancient China, astronomy was intertwined with worship of heaven. Early Chinese astronomy was based on observational data but was not a scientific system in the modern sense of the word. It was a shamanistic practice that allowed humans to communicate with the heavens.

The earliest detailed records of astronomical observations began in the Warring States period (fourth century BC). This was an era of shamanistic beliefs in which the universe was divided into the realms of heaven and earth. In order to communicate with the divine, astronomers used tools such as gnomons, which were posts that cast shadows to record solar movements.

A number of astronomers contributed to the development of Chinese astronomy. These include Wu Xian, who is often mentioned in the same breath as Gan and Shi. Wu Xian is thought to be the author of the Star Manual, although this work is actually much older and its authenticity is still under debate.

Astronomical observations

The Chinese made a long series of observations, recording everything they could about the stars, moon, sun, wind and weather. They also made divinations and studied omens. The government set clepsydras and observatories in the palaces, and every night astronomers recorded the omens, clouds, and meteorological phenomena. These reports were compared with the records of other observatories to avoid errors.

Astronomers made some of the earliest discoveries of events beyond our solar system. For example, in 48 BCE, Chinese sky-watchers noticed a bright glow in a certain part of the sky. Scientists now know this was a nova – an explosive release of hydrogen from the surface of a star.

Although East Asian Archaeoastronomy provides a wealth of information, it is important to remember that these reports were based on observational data only. Therefore, they do not represent a definitive record of the cosmological theories of ancient China. In addition, it is difficult to compare the omens and predictions of Chinese astronomers with those of modern scientists.

Astronomical instruments

The ancient Chinese astronomers made great achievements in observation. They were able to predict eclipses. They also used a lunisolar calendar. They also created a system of star names. They organized the stars into twenty-eight mansions, the Chinese equivalent of Western constellations. They were also able to accurately record the appearance of Halley’s comet and fireballs.

The Chinese astronomers developed a variety of astronomical instruments, including the Abridged Armillary Sphere, which was designed by Guo Shoujing in 1276 C.E. This instrument solved many problems found in the earlier armillary spheres. The primary structure of this device is a double ring perpendicular to the center of the equatorial ring and revolving around a metallic shaft. This ring is known as the right ascension double ring, and it contains dials that can be read by astronomers.

The Purple Mountain Observatory in China constructed a multifunctional celestial globe, which is used for teaching, navigation, and astronomy. It looks like a terrestrial globe, but depicts more than 1,000 stars on its surface. It can be used in both northern and southern hemispheres.

Astronomical research

The ancient Chinese maintained accurate records of eclipses, novae, meteors and sunspots for longer than any other civilization. They also developed sophisticated mathematical methods for describing celestial motions and made use of them in almanacs. These are still used in modern astronomy (Needham 1959).

Early Chinese astronomy was not only scientific but also religious. In this shamanistic culture, the relationship between heaven and earth was a sacred one. Only those who had a way of communicating with the gods could know the secrets of the universe. This is why astronomical research was a highly regarded science in ancient China.

Astronomical research in China has made tremendous progress in recent years. The number of astronomers in the country has doubled in the past ten years, and the budget for astronomical research has grown significantly. In addition to the new Xuntian telescope, there are several other ground-based and space-based observatories that are helping scientists discover the universe.

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The Mysterious Death of Tycho Brahe: Exploding Bladder Theory

An Astronomer Died of Burst Bladder

Astronomers conduct observational and theoretical research of celestial objects such as stars, galaxies, planets, comets, nebulae, and other cosmic phenomena. They use sophisticated telescopes and other instruments to collect and analyze data on the cosmos.

Renaissance astronomer Tycho Brahe was an irascible figure who lost his nose in a duel and feuded with two royal courts, but his work led to enormous contributions to science, including Johannes Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. He died a mysterious death, though, and it wasn’t a burst bladder.


Most people outside the field probably know a few A-list astronomers by name: Copernicus, Galileo and maybe Hubble, although these might be mostly recognizable for their roles in Back to the Future, Bohemian Rhapsody or being big-ass telescopes. Few, however, might recognize Tycho Brahe, the 16th century Danish astronomer who catalogued some 1,000 new stars and helped bring about the Scientific Revolution by noticing that some previously assumed unshiftable celestial objects actually shift, among other things. Brahe was also a bit of a character; it’s said that he kept a pet moose that got drunk at a dinner party, fell down some stairs and died, for example, and that he once lost his nose in a student fencing duel and wore a metal prosthetic the rest of his life.

But he might have been even more renowned if he hadn’t died at the age of 54. According to the team of scientists behind a new study, he did so because his bladder exploded. They say they’ve proved that the rumor is true with the help of a modern test and some 400-year-old accounts from Kepler, Brahe’s personal physician and other sources at the time. They note that the astronomer was invited to a banquet by Baron Peter von Rosenberg along with his mentor and student, Johannes Kepler. The men drank heavily and Tycho allegedly held his urine due to etiquette in the presence of his host, which ultimately led to bladder inflammation, a fever, delirium and – as the most popular account goes – a tiny, fatal bladder explosion.

If he had answered nature’s call, who knows what Brahe might have accomplished; he might have renounced his erroneous planetary model, done more crucial research or invented new measuring instruments, for instance. He certainly wouldn’t have been quite the same person without his nose, though; he was a flamboyant character who liked throwing elaborate parties and favored wearing wigs.

Despite the fact that he was such an important astronomer, many suspect that somebody wanted him dead, possibly even Kepler himself who would have been in a good position to do so given his distrust of Brahe based on their professional rivalry (and maybe because he had a competing theory about how the planets orbited the sun). No formal postmortem examination ever took place but the researchers believe that they’ve found a smoking gun: traces of gold in the astronomer’s hair, beard and eyebrows. That’s what the team interpreted as proof that he had a brass catheter, which was considered more effective than other types at preventing bladder infections. But even that doesn’t prove a murder conspiracy; a healthy bladder can only burst involuntarily, not because the muscles holding it shut give way. That only happens when something like a blockage or pelvic trauma occurs. For more on this fascinating story, check out this video from Durham University and the National Museum in Prague. (As a side note, it’s pretty easy to tell if someone has a broken bladder by examining their crotch area.)

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The Different Roles in Astronomy

What is an Astronomer?

When you hear the word astronomer, you probably think of someone using a telescope to study the stars and planets. While that is true for some astronomers, there are other branches of this science that explore different questions about our universe.

Astronomy falls under two main categories, observational and theoretical. Observational astronomers observe celestial objects and analyze the data, while theoretical astronomers create models and simulations of things that cannot be observed.


Astronomer is a scientist who specializes in studying the universe beyond Earth. They can focus on either observational (by using telescopes and other instruments to observe astronomical objects) or theoretical astronomy, which seeks to explain those observations via physical laws. Related subjects include physical cosmology, which studies the Universe as a whole. Astronomers study stars, planets, comets, galaxies, gamma-ray bursts, and other cosmic phenomena.

A professional astronomer spends the majority of his or her time conducting research. Many work at observatories, although the modern astronomer often uses charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras rather than photographic plates to take long exposures of celestial bodies. The astronomer’s job is to analyze these images and make predictions about what they have observed. Historically, astronomy focused on classifying and describing celestial phenomena, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena using physical laws. Today, that distinction has mostly disappeared and the terms astronomer and astrophysicist are often used interchangeably. Amateur astronomers can be found in all corners of the world, from those with a passion for the sky to those who own science-grade telescopes and can assist professionals with their observations.


Astronomy is a scientific discipline that studies celestial objects such as stars, planets and galaxies. It can be broken down into two categories – observational astronomy and theoretical astronomy.

Observational astronomers collect and analyze data from telescopes to determine the properties of heavenly bodies. They can work in a variety of fields including planetary science, solar astronomy or galactic astronomy. Theoretical astronomers use the laws of physics to explain observations and develop new theories about the universe.

Astronomers must have a strong academic background in physics, mathematics and computer sciences. A PhD is a prerequisite for a career in this field. Research astronomers must be comfortable with long night-time hours in observatories and frequent travel to meet with colleagues and present their results at conferences and international meetings. Excellent written and oral communication skills are essential.

Astronomy Teacher

Astronomy teachers help students understand the complexities of the night sky. In addition to teaching the fundamentals of astronomy, such as planetary motion, stars, galaxies and more, they introduce their students to concepts that require advanced math and chemistry knowledge. They often serve as the lead teacher in a STAR program, which brings professional astronomers into 4th through 9th grade classrooms around the country to provide hands-on observing sessions and educational activities.

An astronomy teacher also makes use of their experience to help students make the connection between scientific principles and culture. Astronomy is not just about complex spatial relations and declarative knowledge, but also incorporates elements of history, myth and imagination. Having a solid understanding of how astronomy has intersected with culture helps students gain a deeper appreciation for the field. As the discipline evolves, it is important for astronomy educators to keep up with the latest developments in science education research. This ensures they are able to effectively translate new discoveries for their students.

Astronomy Researcher

Astronomy researchers focus on studying celestial objects and phenomena that are outside the scope of Earth. They can study subjects such as planetary science, solar astronomy or the formation of galaxies. They can also choose to focus on a specific area of research such as observational or theoretical astronomy.

Graduate students who pursue a PhD in astronomy usually take a number of classes the first 2-3 years and then slowly shift their effort towards conducting research with their academic advisor. It is important to find a department that has faculty with similar research interests and who have time and funding to mentor a graduate student.

Research astronomers spend most of their working hours observing celestial objects using telescopes and other instruments to collect data. They also work on theory and mathematical modeling to understand the nature of these objects and their interactions with each other and the larger universe. They also write proposals to secure grant funding and publish their results in scientific journals.

Studying celestial objects and advancing knowledge of the universe through research and observation.

Astronomer Occupation

Astronomers use scientific research to study celestial objects and advance knowledge of the universe. They often work in observatories, both ground-based and space-based.

Observational astronomers spend much of their time at telescopes, tracking energy emitted by distant stars and movements of planetary bodies. This can require long hours of observation and analysis, which can be difficult for people with a family or other commitments.


Astronomers conduct observational, experimental and theoretical research to broaden knowledge of energy, matter and natural processes in the universe outside Earth. They use a variety of instruments including telescopes, spectrometers, cameras and data analysis software. They also collaborate with fellow scientists, often internationally, to share expertise and resources. This collaboration and sharing of ideas fosters a strong sense of community and camaraderie.

Many astronomers teach at the graduate level and mentor students. They also present their work at professional conferences. They have a wide range of skills and competencies, including coding (in particular Python), mathematical and statistical analysis and clear oral and written communication. They must be comfortable with presenting complex information to both lay and specialist audiences. They must be able to make technical arguments and justify their research in order to receive observing time with telescopes or grant funding for their projects. They also need to keep abreast of published literature in their field and be able to incorporate new developments into their work.


Theoretical astronomers create models of stars, galaxies, black holes and other cosmic phenomena that cannot be observed directly. They also teach others about their discoveries and provide outreach programs to help educate the public about space. They have excellent verbal and written communication skills, along with interpersonal and presentation abilities.

Many astronomers spend the majority of their time behind desks, planning research or studying data, but they also conduct observational and teaching activities. They may travel to observatories or participate in professional conferences and give presentations on their findings.

The most successful astronomers are those with strong undergraduate degrees in physics, math and computer science. Astronomers need significant writing and number crunching skills as they write reports and proposals for funding. They also learn to code, analyze and interpret data using computers. They may also be involved in the preservation of dark skies through work with organizations such as the International Dark-Sky Association. These positions can be extremely competitive.

Public Presentation

Often, astronomers are invited to participate in a public presentation to educate the public about their field of work. They are asked to give lectures and presentations to schools, universities, and science museums. They are also called to provide expert opinions and testify in legal cases related to astronomical matters.

Astronomers are primarily interested in discovering the nature of celestial objects such as the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. They want to know what makes them unique and how they came to be. They study the physical processes of these objects, ranging from the vast scales of space to the infinitesimal scales of subatomic particles.

They have strong Investigative interests, allowing them to enjoy careers that are mentally challenging and require extensive research. They also have moderate Realistic interests, which allow them to enjoy career fields that involve practical hands-on problem solving and activities that require self-expression. Astronomers also value Achievement, which allows them to find satisfaction in career opportunities that provide them with a sense of accomplishment.


Astronomers must develop and write research proposals to obtain grant funding for their projects. They may also serve on university committees and mentor students.

Astronomy is a highly competitive field, with a limited number of positions and a demanding academic path. Securing a faculty position and tenure requires dedication, perseverance, and a strong record of research accomplishments.

Astronomers work in a variety of environments, including universities, research institutions, observatories, and space agencies. Some astronomers teach in schools or work at planetariums and science museums to help explain their research results to the public. Others travel to observatories for observations, often working at night and enduring irregular sleep schedules. The rest of the time, astronomers spend their days in offices studying data and planning experiments. They typically visit observatories a few times each year for observational work. They can also assist engineers in the development of telescopes and other observation instruments. They may also provide guidance for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in planning space missions.

Barbie Celebrates Women in Science and Astronomy

Astronomer Barbie Celebrates International Women’s Day and British Science Week

In celebration of International Women’s Day and British Science Week, toy maker Mattel released a custom Barbie doll that sports a starry dress with a miniature telescope accessory. The doll honors Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who works with the James Webb space telescope.

Ruth Handler, the founder of Mattel, based Barbie’s physical appearance on Bild Lilli, a risque gag doll sold to men in West German tobacco shops. Multispectral images in visible light and UV fluorescence characterization, along with FT-IR ATR analysis of 15 Barbies, enabled the identification of their constituent materials.


Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects and phenomena. This field of study is primarily concerned with objects that originate outside the Earth’s atmosphere, including planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, comets, meteoroids, asteroids, and interplanetary dust. In addition, astronomers study the structure and evolution of the Universe as a whole. This is different from astrology, which deals with the beliefs that certain constellations influence human events (for example, when you look up your star sign in a magazine).

Professional astronomy can be split into two branches: observational and theoretical. Observational astronomers gather data through the use of telescopes and other instruments. This data is then analyzed using basic principles of physics to create theoretical models. These models can be tested by observing celestial objects, which either confirm or refute them.


Astronomers have been wowed by what’s believed to be the largest and brightest cosmic event ever seen. It’s 10 times brighter than a supernova, the death of a massive star, and three times as powerful as a tidal disruption event, when a black hole rips apart a star. The discovery is so impressive that researchers dubbed it “Scary Barbie” (ZTF20abrbeie).

Leading global toy company Mattel has gifted British astronomer Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock with a one-off doll in her likeness in celebration of International Women’s Day and British Science Week. The custom Barbie wears a starry dress and has a miniature telescope accessory that’s a nod to her work on the James Webb Space Telescope.

Play and explore the night sky with this astronomer Barbie micro-doll. Kids can use her telescope to locate a favorite star or planet, or explore outer space with her globe and star map. Encourage young minds to dream big with this Barbie career set that helps children learn about the world, nature and science.


In celebration of International Women’s Day and British Science Week, Mattel is introducing seven one-of-a-kind Barbie Role Model dolls to honor real-life female trailblazers in STEM. The custom astronomer Barbie, who will not be on sale to the public, features Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a UK space scientist and presenter of BBC’s The Sky at Night. She is dressed in a starry dress and has a telescope accessory that pays homage to her work with the James Webb Space Telescope. Other role models include YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, German marine microbiologist Antje Boetius, Mexican electrical engineer Katya Echazarret, and Chinese founder of ETU Education Yinuo Li.


The new Barbie astronaut comes with a white spacesuit decorated with pockets, wires, and monitors in blue and pink. She also has a white space helmet, gloves, and shoes. The astronaut doll is a nod to the 60th anniversary of Barbie.

Mattel recently partnered with National Geographic to make a series of Barbies based on careers in science occupations where women are underrepresented. The astrophysicist Barbie wears a professional outfit with themed accessories that include a swiveling telescope.

The line also includes polar marine biologist, wildlife conservationist, and entomologist Barbies. The company hopes the dolls will inspire girls to broaden their career aspirations. However, research suggests that dolls like these may actually inhibit girls’ aspirations by promoting unrealistic body image ideals.