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A Brief History of Astronomical Theory and Western Cosmology

Monday, 18 October 2010 / Published in Articles / 5,264 views


Planets move from west to east, right to left, or counterclockwise from above. This figure shows the geocentric paths of the planets Mercury thru Saturn. The double yellow lines represent two revolutions (years) of Jupiter around the sun in 24 earth years. The eleven smaller loops represent the retrograde movement Jupiter makes 11 times each 12 earth years. Trace the larger outermost curves counterclockwise and you will see that the smaller innermost portion (perigee) will take a clockwise direction (retrograde) and then again move outward to the larger counterclockwise loop (apogee). Except for the sun and moon, all planets appear to move in this fashion.

By Brian Lee Petersen a/k/a Bibhatsu das (HDG)

Because of the scientific community’s departure from scriptural accounts, I have written this article to instill in the reader a healthy skepticism and reveal the speculative nature of modern cosmology, parallax, and astral spectroscopy. With the advent of the renaissance period, astronomers and philosophers began a new method of practice which did not hold to the established rules of procedure. Hypothesis became a practical necessity, since we are unable to run a tape measure from here to the moon and other planets; neither can we stick a thermometer in the sun, nor scoop a sample from its fiery surface.
Physical limitations did not deter European ancestors from speculating as to planetary distances, composition of stars, planets and the sun, and the forces which move them. Men then began to further hypothesize based upon the previously inconclusive theories of their predecessors.
For acquiring knowledge, there are two basic methods; ascending and descending. The descending method requires faith in God and scripture, and then applying scientific research and experimentation to that foundation of parameters that God has given us. The ascending method of education starts at zero and works upward, through speculative trial and error, relying upon imperfect senses, instruments and motives. But, by the ascending path, we can experience the mistakes of history, and thereby work at correcting them.
Champions of Astronomy
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish astronomer, clergyman, and the favorite nephew of a Catholic bishop. In De Revolutionibus Orbium Celestium, he presented a method of predicting the positions of the planets based upon a stationary sun and a revolving earth (heliocentric). Copernicus devised this model as an alternate means of predicting planetary movement which included the phenomenon of retrograde motion. Previously, retrograde movement could only be demonstrated by the geocentric solar system. As a devoted catholic, he never promoted the heliocentric model except as an alternate means of predicting planetary movement. That would be left to Johannes Kepler and Galileo, who both believed heliocentric to be the actual reality. Now, there are two models, and both of them work!

At regular intervals during the orbital course a planet makes around the sun, it will appear to slow down, stop, move backwards (retrograde), slow, stop, and move forward again. This phenomenon occurs when the planet being observed is moving, in its circle, at a different speed than we are moving (or not moving), at the point of perception. The phenomenon is most easily visualized with the model of a stationary earth and revolving sun (geocentric); the ancient conception according to scripture. Copernicus was able to show that retrograde motion will also exist with a stationary sun and revolving earth (heliocentric).
For those of you who wish to understand this process, I recommend you first get familiar with the geocentric system as Copernicus would have. As an astrologer, that was the order in which I learned these systems.
2. Insert diagram geocentric motion Jupiter and (2. text)

With reference to an ephemeris (daily positions of sun, moon and planets), visually plot out the heliocentric movement of a planet in diagram form through the retrograde process. (Until I patiently plotted it on paper, or using a model, I could not conceive how the heliocentric system could produce retrograde motion.) I was amazed at the complexity of convoluted movement this system appeared to produce! Only God could create something so elaborate that opposing systems would yield the same result!
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Born 3 years after Copernicus passed away, Danish nobleman and astronomer, Tyco Brahe (1546-1601) created instruments for measuring and plotting the movement of the stars and planets. He is celebrated for his precisely documented naked eye observations. Brahe devised a model of the solar system with the sun and moon orbiting the earth, and the other planets orbiting the sun. A firm believer in the geocentric system, his model is consistent with the Bhagavata Purana and Old Testament scriptures.
Srila Tiruvenkata Ramanujacharya Swami, over two hundred years later, produced a model identical with Brahe’s, except for the addition of the sun’s chariot, Mount Sumeru, and the terraced islands of bhu-mandala.
(See models Brahe and Ramanujacharya in “Challenges to the Astronomical Paradigm”

Copernicus and Brahe believed the orbits of the planets to be perfect circles despite observing apparent distortions in those orbits. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), was a talented mathematician who believed the planetary orbits are elliptical. Desiring access to Brahe’s precise records, Kepler became an assistant to Brahe. Unlike Brahe, Kepler believed in a stationary sun (heliocentric). Because he developed his formula of elliptic motion which made mathematical sense out of the apparently distorted path of the planets, most of the world took it on face value.
An alternative view of elliptical motion
The phenomenon of a circle which appears to be an oval, or ellipse, can be demonstrated by looking at a plate or frisbee (the hollowed out ring frisbees work best), from the dead reckoning center position. You can tell that it is obviously a perfect circle. When you begin to tilt the plate angle up, it begins to take the shape of an oval or ellipse. This is the trick of depth perception. The inverse is also effected by viewing an oval plate centered and perpendicular to the eye. Turn the vertically oblong plate slowly toward the ceiling. At some point, before it becomes flat, it will appear to be a circle.
Our earth is not the center of the solar system. The planetary orbits, from our earth perspective, are two dimensional. The true picture of orbital motion can only be revealed through a three dimensional, centered perspective of our solar system.
Please take note that satellites orbit the earth in a circle following the curvature of our planet. Their orbits are not elliptical!

A brilliant philosopher and educator
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is considered by many to be the father of modern philosophy. From him, the phase was coined, “I think, therefore I am”. Indeed, Descartes was a brilliant thinker, which no doubt contributed to the popularity of his theory. He developed his theory by the ascending method: He imagined what the solar system would look like seen from a great distance; the planets would disappear and the sun would be a point of light, like a star. The next logical step was concluding that the sun was a star too! Well, maybe the stars are like the sun! Of course, if the stars are like the sun, then they must be very far away! Descartes’ idea caught on, and his bandwagon rolled right into a much, much larger universe than previously believed.

Spinning at 1000 miles per hour
Around 500CE, the Indian astronomer, Aryabhata, was the first to introduce the theory of the earth rotating on its axis, once every 24 hours. In 1612, Galileo looked upon the planets through his telescope and saw that they were rotating, and also their rotational axis was shifting over the course of time. This observation greatly strengthened Aryabhata’s theory. Galileo’s discovery of the shifting axis of other planets was then theoretically applied to our earth to explain our change of seasons. Of course this is a very good and viable theory, however the rotational evidence of other planets should not be arbitrarily applied to our earth planet.
Incidentally, Venus is seen to rotate clockwise, the reverse direction of the other planets, except for Uranus, which rotates on its side.

Planetary distance can be determined by parallax
Place the outstretched point of your finger in front of you and look past it to some background a few feet or more away. Close one eye and then the other and note the different points in your line of sight against that background. Scientists use this principle to measure the distance of stars they think to be nearby. Grantharaja das Brahmachari (Greg Anderson), of Bhaktivedanta Institute, makes an interesting observation concerning parallax and heliocentricity: These measurements are taken 6 months apart, when the earth is supposed to be on the opposite end of its orbit, as previously measured. The more distant stars are measured by a scale of their magnitude, or brightness. They are measured against the absolute magnitude of specific stars whose distance has been established using parallax. This scale is dependent upon the correctness of the assumed distances of particular stars. The whole system of measurement depends upon the correctness of the heliocentric model.” (Paraphrased from BGT introduction pg. ix-x).
7. Insert parallax diagram “Sacred Universe” and (7. text)
How can we know the composition of heavenly bodies?
Scientists use astral spectroscopy to answer these questions. Spectroscopy is defined as the analytic technique concerned with the interaction (absorption or emission) of radiant energy with matter, the instruments required to make such measurements, and the interpretation of radiant interaction. We are able to analyze anything we can touch, taste, see or smell, and even those substances which cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Every element has a unique, well established, and verifiable spectral signature.
The interpretation of spectral graphs really comes into play when you turn your arms-length spectroscope to objects millions of miles away. To facilitate interpretation, experts have created model atmospheres, calibration graphs, damping constants, allowances for micro turbulence and range of temperatures, all associated with interpretation of astral spectrographs. The resulting interpretation must tally with the current predominating hypothesis.
This science is ever changing. When I was a boy, Jupiter was believed to be 84% methane. Nowadays, Jupiter is commonly accepted to be composed of 90% hydrogen, 10% helium, with trace amounts of water, methane, and ammonia. Be advised that there is much in common between the spectral signatures of Jupiter and that of the sun.
The Big Bang
The theory of the expanding universe, formulated by Edwin Hubble in 1929, relies heavily upon a phenomenon known as redshifts. The redshift of stars was thought to be a product of the Doppler Effect, the same science which gives us weather radar. The principle is based upon the fact that objects moving away from us will have longer wavelength and lower frequency; the red end of the spectrum. Radiating objects coming toward us will exhibit a shorter wavelength and higher frequency; the blue end. Of course, this so called redshift could be an inherent quality of the star itself. For example: Mars is red no matter which way it travels.
While a majority of scientists embrace the ‘big bang’, some are shooting it full of big holes. A few propose that “new principles of gravitation are required… But rather than sacrifice the laws of gravity, astronomers have posited the existence of great quantities of dark matter to account for the missing mass. Some say that 90% of the mass of the universe is missing.” (VCA pg.157)
Geoffrey Burbidge, in “Evidence for non-cosmological Redshifts,” International Astronomical Union Symposium No. 92: Objects of High Red Shift, G.O. Abell, ed. (Boston: Reidel Co., 1980), pg. 103 states: “I believe that however much many astronomers wish to disregard the evidence by insisting the statistical arguments are not very good, or by taking the approach that absence of understanding is an argument against the existence of the effect, it is there and many basic ideas have to be revised. A revolution is upon us whether or not we like it.” (VCA pg.160)
I recommend taking the straight and less troublesome path of descending knowledge. Speculative theory is in continuous development and therefore constantly changing. The scriptural authority was given to us thousands of years ago and remains unchanging; “… a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this worlds misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.” (SB 1.5.11)

Bibliography
VC – Vedic Cosmology – His Holiness Danavir Goswami – Rupanuga Vedic College – www.rvc.edu
BGT – Bhu-Gola Tattva – His Holiness Danavir Goswami – Rupanuga Vedic College – www.rvc.edu
VCA – Vedic Cosmology and Astronomy – BBT – Richard L. Thompson
SB – Shrimad Bhagavatam – BBT – translation and purport by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Illustrations are from BBT “Mysteries of the Sacred Universe”. Text by BLP.
2. Geocentric motion Jupiter
7. Parallax

One Response to “A Brief History of Astronomical Theory and Western Cosmology”

  1. sdmuni108 says :

    Curiously, all of the historical personalities described in this short essay where deeply theistic—not just Copernicus. For instance, Kepler was so enraptured by thoughts of God he could be fairly described as a Protestant mystic. Descartes argued that through logic and reason he had proven both his, and His, existence. In fact, nearly every last father of modern science, such as Galileo and Newton, profoundly expressed similar sentiments.
    .
    Another feature to consider: the scientific paradigm prior to the moderns’ was Aristotelian cosmology and physics. Though during the Middle Ages, Saint Thomas Aquinas successfully synthesized Greek natural philosophy with Catholic thought, Christian philosophy has survived quite well without it, both before and since. Suffice to say, the Aristotelians were never known for their Puranic commentaries.
    .
    Of note: Tycho Brahe’s description is geometrically indistinguishable from a heliocentric model, when viewed from Earth. His preference was largely due to there being no known comprehensive physical science superior to Aristotle’s geocentric dependent theory, in his own time. A new physical science did not to take shape until Galileo, and then mature under Newton. Of course, the classic Newtonian model has in turn proven simplistically incomplete, as per orthodox modern science.
    .
    It is useful to remember that Srila Prabhupada described conditional perception as a relative experience. From our relative fixed position on Earth, celestial motion does, in fact, appear as Brahe described. Even today, for practical purposes navigational and stellar maps remain geocentric. Whether using the Earth, or the Sun, as a cosmic reference, to our blunt senses celestial motion appears relatively identical from Earth.
    .
    I would like to suggest what we have before us is a phenomena that defies neat and clean analyses—if at least on the human level. Even in the 5th Canto, Sukadeva Goswami describes how even the greatest of celestial overlords, Lord Brahma, lacks the necessary faculties for perceiving the cosmos in full. Perhaps, then, a sense of humility is desirable when approaching, what to speak of describing, such topics. While rigid quotation slinging will never place the phenomena in a nutshell; neither can dogmatic faith in modern theory (itself evolving) wholly capture the experience. Though all may be convinced, not a single blind man understood the elephant.

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