Chinese astronomy celebrated


Chinese astronomy endeavours, from the ancient to the new, are celebrated by Outback Astronomy this Chinese New Year’s Eve, 18 February 2015.

In this sky show, it becomes clear how brilliant ancient Chinese astronomers were without devices like calculators.

In 2015, we are untroubled by not knowing where great strands of knowledge came from. So long as the power and Wi-Fi stay connected, all is good.

But to get to where we are now, there had to be intelligent roots back in time, right?

Take the simple concept of Pi or π as it is written in its Greek form.

It’s the numerical representation of the relationship between a circle’s circumference and diametre and it’s used daily around the world.

We’d find it difficult to compute mathematical equations to the accuracy of nine decimal places without our gadgets.

Yet, around 2,000 years ago, about the same time when Claudius Ptolemy walked the Earth, and before most humans even understood what numbers were, a Chinese astronomer and mathematician was doing just this. He calculated the value of Pi (π) to near accuracy without gadgets.

He was also the inventor of the world’s first seismometer –  good news for the home of Outback Astronomy, Broken Hill, where the safety of underground miners depends on them!

He also constructed a celestial globe, believing the world was round. This was almost 1,400 years earlier than when the first ship circumnavigated the globe.

Going back to Pi, or 3.1415.

The Greek mathematician Archimedes is known for the first calculation of Pi before he died in 212 BC. So to have a similar calculation emerge in China during times when the Greeks and Chinese did not know each other existed is a fine example of how irrepressible knowledge emerges due to brilliant human minds, no matter where they reside.