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Paper: Historical Astronomical Measurements with Stellarium
Volume: 531, ASP2020: Embracing the Future: Astronomy Teaching and Public Engagement
Page: 202
Authors: Spathopoulos, V.
Abstract: The development of an online platform is presented that incorporates a set of student activities based on the freeware Stellarium planetarium software. The activities are inspired by observations made by the ancient Greeks, Babylonians, Indians and also the medieval Islamic and Chinese astronomers, whose contribution to the development of astronomy was immense. Although lacking important observational technology such as the telescope, those pioneers performed naked eye measurements and implemented simple but ingenious astronomical calculations. These include for example, estimating the distance to the Moon using a solar eclipse, the size of the Earth by observing the altitude of a star and using lunar eclipses for finding the direction to Mecca. With the aid of the Stellarium software, activity instructions have been designed that enable the user to simulate some of these awe-inspiring scientific achievements. Adding a component of the history of science to the teaching of astronomy enhances student interest and helps to counter misconceptions and prejudices. The use of planetarium software has the advantage of including a visual aspect in the learning procedure thus offering greater realism. Overall, students can closely follow the ingenious methods devised by those sky observers of the past thus obtaining an understanding of the contribution of both western and non-western cultures to the development of science. The set of activities is free to download (from and will hopefully provide astronomy educators with a practical and useful teaching resource.
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