Case Studies from the History of Astronomy

Here are some papers written by or brought to our attention by section members:

Babylonian Astronomy
Here’s a paper by Robert Bremner on  “Linear Measures of Celestial Angles, and an Observatory”. The paper examines Babylonian records, from the 1st millennium B.C., of planets passing fixed stars and specifically their up/down differences in linear cubits. It shows they were using the top of a gnomon as a foresight around which the observer moved on non-circular arcs. Finally an area north of the Western Court of the Southern Palace is identified as a possible site of the observatory.

Bremner Measures of Celestial Angles (July 2023)

Illustrations for Babylonian Measures

The 1896 Eclipse
An account of the 1896 total eclipse of the Sun, which was observed from northern Norway by an expedition containing many BAA members. It’s written by the famous astronomy populariser SIr Robert Stawell Ball, the Patrick Moore of his day, and it appeared in Strand Magazine.The Total Eclipse of 1896If you want to know more about this eclipse expedition, why not look up Bob Marriott’s 1991 paper on the eclipse in the BAA Journal (J Br. Astron Assoc. 101,1991, p 162).Thanks to Phillip Jennings for bringing this article to our attention.
The Tunguska Blast
George Sola presents an unusual analysis of the famous Tunguska event of 1908, probably caused by a meteor or icy body vaporising over Siberia. George uses techniques from the military, who know more than a little about blast radii and so on, to understand better what happened.Tunguska: Cosmic Airburst Paradigm
Can you help the Section Director with some research I have been doing?

This is the Tower at Jersey Marine, a village on the main road north out of Swansea. The Tower has been a feature of  the landscape of Jersey Marine for over a century. It was built in 1860 by Neath entrepeneur Evan Evans as part of a Victorian tourist resort, and featured a camera obscura, which gave patrons a vivid and secretive view of the outside world. During the second world war the Tower was used as an observation post for bombing practice in Swansea Bay – rumour has it that Rocky Marciano was billeted  there; he was certainly based in Swansea as a GI during the war. When I became interested in the building, twenty years ago, it was in disrepair, surrounded by the remains of the resort (for example, a real tennis court), but I’m pleased to say that the site has been redeveloped as a spa-hotel, with the the Tower as a centerpiece – I have stayed at the hotel and it’s well worth a visit.

I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who knows more about the history of the building – please get in touch with me via the contact form. In particular, I’d love to know about the camera obscura (one of my areas of research). And has the Tower ever been used for astronomical observations?

Mike Frost

Hope you enjoyed reading The Case Studies. If you have any comments or information, I’d love to hear from you.

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