Ancient Chinese observatory

The light of distant stars at all times attracted people with its mystery. And the incredible regularity of certain events in the sky caused awe and a certain predetermination of human life. But in order to reveal these regularities, regular observations of the starry sky were necessary. To this end, even in ancient times, and were built observatories. We will not look at the hypotheses at the Stonehenge account or the pyramids on the Giza plateau, but try to look at the other side of our planet - to China and the ancient Chinese observatories.

We will not look at the hypotheses at the Stonehenge account or the pyramids on the Giza plateau, but try to look at the other side of our planet - to China and the ancient Chinese observatories

The first observatories in this country are considered to be the observatory of the ruler of Wu-wang from the Zhou dynasty, who ruled in the Middle Kingdom in the 12th century BC. It was built in the city of Zhougong, which is located in the modern province of Henan. Today from the observatory there were only partially destroyed gnomon and a low tower with a platform at the top for placing portable goniometer instruments. But even this modest equipment by modern standards allowed Chinese astronomers to put into practice a fairly accurate solar and lunar calendars. In addition, star catalogs were compiled, the sky was divided into constellations, star globes were made. Working in ancient Chinese observatories, astronomers recorded outbreaks of supernovae, the appearance of comets, which has a scientific value in our days. The first star catalog appeared in China in the 4th century BC and contained information on 800 stars. It is believed that this is the first in the world of all extant star catalogs.

Then came the turn of the great Chinese astronomer Zhang Heng (78 - 139 BC). It was he who divided the starry sky into 124 constellations, and he calculated the total number of stars visible in China. They turned out to be neither much nor little - 1500. For 320 of them, Zhang Heng gave his own names. Also this scientist designed original astronomical devices. One of them was the armillary sphere, driven into rotation by a special hydromechanical mechanism, as well as a calendar tree, from which one sheet fell daily. At the end of the month, the fallen leaves were again hung on a tree.

According to the films and books on the life of ancient people, we know with what reverence they belonged to astronomical signs, primarily to solar and lunar eclipses. And the ancient Chinese astronomers were no exception - they also paid much attention to the calculations of these eclipses. At one time, the prediction of eclipses was considered even one of the most important public services. In the book "Shu-King" is told about the solar eclipse in 2137 BC and not predicted in advance by court astronomers. This "unexpected" eclipse caused panic among the people, and the ruler had to chop off the heads of hapless astronomers.

Interestingly, the spots on our light were also first discovered by astronomers from China. In the Chinese annals it is written that in 28 BC on the sun observed a spot the size of a coin. On the spots are also mentioned and later Chinese chronicles.

In the Middle Ages, Chinese astronomers were engaged in the improvement of astronomical instruments, mainly armillas and Celestial globes. With the help of complex water mechanisms, the spheres and globes were driven into a slow motion, completing a complete revolution in a day. On their surface moved the balls, denoting the Sun and the Moon. The globes connected with the clock, which rang the bell every quarter of an hour. In parallel with the development of equipment, new Chinese observatories were built. In the 5th century AD an observatory in the city of Nanjing, and in the 12th century AD the observatory in Beijing was laid. It has survived to our days, and now it is a museum of astronomy. It is located on the ancient city wall. From the equipment on the site, fenced with a barrier, you can see almost all the ancient goniometric tools - armillary spheres, quadrant, gnomons, sextant. There were at the ancient Beijing Observatory both celestial globes and clock-klepsydra.

Time does not spare historical monuments. But, fortunately, the ancient Chinese observatories survived to this day, they show that the Chinese astronomical science in those distant times was one of the foremost astronomical sciences in the world.

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