The History of Greek Astronomy

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This paper explores four of the greatest minds of Greek astronomy Apollinarius, Aristarchus of Samos, Ptolemy, and Hipparchus of Nicea. The ancient Greeks are often referred to as the fathers of ancient astronomy. They developed theories and mathematical formulae to describe the wonders of the cosmos, even the word cosmos came from the Greeks. The ancient Greek philosophers refined astronomy from being an observational science into a full-blown theoretical science. This paper will attempt to find out who actually was more important to the history of astronomy of these four astronomers. Apollinarius was among the most prominent Greek astronomers of the time immediately preceding Ptolemy and his chief contributions were in lunar theory. Not much of his work or writings survived or is even known by title although one specimen of Apollinarius’s survived. This was a passage of about 500 words quoted in a fragment of an anonymous commentary on Ptolemy’s Handy Tables, composed in the early third century CE and was preserved in a medieval astrological manuscript. This passage explains about the periodicities with the Moon, and explains how the moon’s motion in latitude, reckoned as its progress in the plane of its orbit relative to the nodal line. Astrologers of this time period used Apollinarius’s tables for computing positions of the Sun and Moon, and that these tables employed the Babylonian convention according to which the vernal equinoctial point is at the eighth degree in Aries, not the beginning of the sign as Hipparchus and Ptolemy assumed. Apollinarius and Ptolemy were both grouped as astronomers who computed ascensional arcs by means of spherical trigonometry rather than the Babylonian arithmetical methods in common use. The second Greek astronomer in this paper is on Aristarchus of Samos who was the first to formulate plainly the heliocentric theory by

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