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The Great Contribution of Islamic Astronomers

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Bianca
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« on: August 27, 2007, 04:53:32 pm »








                                           I S L A M I C   A S T R O N O M Y





                                               



In the history of astronomy, Islamic astronomy or Arabic astronomy refers to the astronomical developments made by the Islamic civilisation between the 8th and 15th centuries. It closely parallels the genesis of other Islamic sciences in its assimilation of foreign material and the amalgamation of the disparate elements of that material to create a science that was essentially Islamic. These included Indian, Sassanid and Hellenistic works in particular, which were translated and built upon.

Some stars in the sky, such as Aldebaran, are still today recognized with their Arabic names.





History


Pre-Islamic Arabs had no scientific astronomy. Their knowledge of stars was only empirical, limited to what they observed regarding the rising and setting of stars. The rise of Islam provoked increased Arab thought in this field.



Foundations



There are several cosmological verses in the Qur'an which some modern writers have interpreted as foreshadowing the Big Bang theory:

[21:30] Don't those who reject faith see that the heavens and the earth were a single entity then We ripped them apart?

[51:47] And the heavens We did create with Our Hands, and We do cause it to expand.



The foundations of Islamic astronomy closely parallels the genesis of other Islamic sciences in its assimilation of foreign material and the amalgamation of the disparate elements of that material to create a science that was essentially Islamic. These include Indian and Sassanid works in particular. Some Hellenistic texts were also translated and built upon as well.

The science historian Donald Routledge Hill has divided the history of Islamic astronomy into the four following distinct time periods in its history.
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2007, 05:00:32 pm »

                                 




700 - 825





The period of assimilation and syncretisation of earlier Hellenistic, Indian and Sassanid astronomy.

During this period, a number of Sanskrit and Persian texts were translated into Arabic. The most notable of the texts was Zij al-Sindhind, based on the Surya Siddhanta and the works of Brahmagupta, and translated by Muhammad al-Fazari and Yaqūb ibn Tāriq in 777. Sources indicate that the text was translated after, in 770, an Indian astronomer visited the court of Caliph Al-Mansur.

Another text translated was the Zij al-Shah, a collection of astronomical tables compiled in Persia over two centuries.

Fragments of text during this period indicate that Arabs adopted the sine function (inherited from Indian trigonometry) instead of the chords of arc used in Hellenistic mathematics.

Islamic interest in astronomy ran parallel to the interest in mathematics. Noteworthy in this regard was the Almagest of Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (c. 100-178). The Almagest was a landmark work in its field, assembling, as Euclid's Elements had previously done with geometrical works, all extant knowledge in the field of astromony that was known to the author. This work was originally known as The Mathematical Composition, but after it had come to be used as a text in astronomy, it was called The Great Astronomer. The Islamic world called it The Greatest prefixing the Greek work megiste (greatest) with the article al- and it has since been known to the world as Al-megiste or, after popular use in Western translation, Almagest. Ptolemy also produced other works, such as Optics, Harmonica, and some suggest he also wrote Tetrabiblon.

The Almagest was a particularly unifying work for its exhaustive lists of sidereal phenomena. He drew up a list of chronological tables of Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman kings for use in reckoning the lapse of time between known astronomical events and fixed dates. In addition to its relevance to calculating accurate calendars, it linked far and foreign cultures together by a common interest in the stars and astrology.

The work of Ptolemy was replicated and refined over the years under Arab, Persian and other Muslim astronomers and astrologers.
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2007, 05:02:45 pm »





                                                                   825 - 1025





Al-Khwarizmi, the father of
algebra and algorithms,
wrote the Zij al-Sindh.



This period of vigorous investigation, in which the superiority of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy was accepted and significant contributions made to it. Astronomical research was greatly supported by the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. Baghdad and Damascus became the centers of such activity. The caliphs not only supported this work financially, but endowed the work with formal prestige.

The first major Muslim work of astronomy was Zij al-Sindh by al-Khwarizimi in 830. The work contains tables for the movements of the sun, the moon and the five planets known at the time. The work is significant as it introduced Ptolemaic concepts into Islamic sciences. This work also marks the turning point in Islamic astronomy. Hitherto, Muslim astronomers had adopted a primarily research approach to the field, translating works of others and learning already discovered knowledge. Al-Khwarizmi's work marked the beginning of non-traditional methods of study and calculations.

In 850, al-Farghani wrote Kitab fi Jawani ("A compendium of the science of stars"). The book primarily gave a summary of Ptolemic cosmography. However, it also corrected Ptolemy based on findings of earlier Arab astronomers. Al-Farghani gave revised values for the obliquity of the ecliptic, the precessional movement of the apogees of the sun and the moon, and the circumference of the earth. The books were widely circulated through the Muslim world, and even translated into Latin.

In the 9th century, the eldest Banū Mūsā brother, Muhammad ibn Musa, in his Astral Motion and The Force of Attraction, discovered that there was a force of attraction between heavenly bodies, foreshadowing Newton's law of universal gravitation.
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2007, 05:09:40 pm »








1025-1450





During this period a distinctive Islamic system of astronomy flourished. Within the Greek tradition and its successors it was traditional to separate mathematical astronomy (as typified by Ptolemy) from philosophical cosmology (as typified by Aristotle). Muslim scholars developed a program of seeking a physically real configuration (hay'a) of the universe, that would be consistent with both mathematical and physical principles.

Within the context of this hay'a tradition, Muslim astronomers began questioning technical details of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy.  These criticisms, however, remained within the geocentric framework and most continued to follow Ptolemy's astronomical paradigm.  As the historian of astronomy, A. I. Sabra, noted:

"All Islamic astronomers from Thabit ibn Qurra in the ninth century to Ibn al-Shatir in the fourteenth, and all natural philosophers from al-Kindi to Averroes and later, are known to have accepted what Kuhn has called the "two-sphere universe" ...--the Greek picture of the world as consisting of two spheres of which one, the celestial sphere made up of a special element called aether, concentrically envelops the other, where the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire reside."

Some Muslim scholars, including al-Biruni, discussed whether the Earth moved and considered how this might be consistent with astronomical computations and physical systems. Several Muslim astronomers, most notably Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī and his succesors at the Maragheh school, developed non-Ptolemaic computational models within a geocentric context that were later adapted in the Copernican model in a heliocentric context.
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2007, 05:12:43 pm »






                                                          Astronomical observations





Al-Biruni was the first to conduct elaborate experiments related to astronomical phenomena, and he introduced the analysis of the acceleration of planets, discovered that the motions of the solar apogee and precession are not identical, discussed the possibility of heliocentrism, and suggested that the Earth's rotation on its axis would be consistent with his astronomical parameters.

In the 11th century, Abū al-Rayhān al-Bīrūnī was the first to conduct elaborate experiments related to astronomical phenomena. He discovered the Milky Way galaxy to be a collection of numerous nebulous stars. In Afghanistan, he observed and described the solar eclipse on April 8, 1019, and the lunar eclipse on September 17, 1019, in detail, and gave the exact latitudes of the stars during the lunar eclipse.

In 1030, Abū al-Rayhān al-Bīrūnī discussed the Indian planetary theories of Aryabhata, Brahmagupta and Varahamihira in his Ta'rikh al-Hind (Latinized as Indica). Biruni stated that Brahmagupta and others consider that the earth rotates on its axis and Biruni noted that this does not create any mathematical problems.

Abu Said Sinjari, a contemporary of al-Biruni, suggested the possible heliocentric movement of the Earth around the Sun, which al-Biruni did not reject.  Al-Biruni agreed with the Earth's rotation about its own axis, and while he was initially neutral regarding the heliocentric and geocentric models,[15] he considered heliocentrism to be a philosophical problem.  He remarked that if the Earth rotates on its axis and moves around the Sun, it would remain consistent with his astronomical parameters:

"Rotation of the earth would in no way invalidate astronomical calculations, for all the astronomical data are as explicable in terms of the one theory as of the other. The problem is thus difficult of solution."
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2007, 05:20:08 pm »








In 1031, al-Biruni completed his extensive astronomical encyclopaedia Kitab al-Qanun al-Mas'udi (Latinized as Canon Mas’udicus),  in which he recorded his astronomical findings and formulated astronomical tables. In it he presented a geocentric model, tabulating the distance of all the celestial spheres from the central Earth, computed according to the principles of Ptolemy's Almagest. 

The book introduces the mathematical technique of analysing the acceleration of the planets, and first states that the motions of the solar apogee and the precession are not identical.

Al-Biruni also discovered that the distance between the Earth and the Sun is larger than Ptolemy's estimate, on the basis that Ptolemy disregarded the annual solar eclipses.  Al-Biruni also described the Earth's gravitation as:

"The attraction of all things towards the centre of the earth."



In 1121, al-Khazini, in his treatise The Book of the Balance of Wisdom, states:

"For each heavy body of a known weight positioned at a certain distance from the centre of the universe, its gravity depends on the remoteness from the centre of the universe. For that reason, the gravities of bodies relate as their distances from the centre of the universe."


Al-Khazini was thus the first to propose the theory that the gravities of bodies vary depending on their distances from the centre of the Earth. This phenomenon was not proven until Newton's law of universal gravitation in the 18th century.
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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2007, 05:23:54 pm »








                                                Beginning of hay'a tradition




 
Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen) was a pioneer of the Muslim hay'a tradition of astronomy, presented the first critique and reform of Ptolemy's model, and laid the theoretical foundations for modern telescopic astronomy.

Between 1025 and 1028, Ibn al-Haytham (Latinized as Alhacen), began the hay'a tradition of Islamic astronomy with his Al-Shuku ala Batlamyus (Doubts on Ptolemy). While maintaining the physical reality of the geocentric model, he was the first to criticize Ptolemy's astronomical system, for relating actual physical motions to imaginary mathematical points, lines, and circles:

"Ptolemy assumed an arrangement that cannot exist, and the fact that this arrangement produces in his imagination the motions that belong to the planets does not free him from the error he committed in his assumed arrangement, for the existing motions of the planets cannot be the result of an arrangement that is impossible to exist."

Ibn al-Haytham developed a physical structure of the Ptolemaic system in his Treatise on the configuration of the World, or Maqâlah fî hay'at al-‛âlam, which became an influential work in the hay'a tradition.  In his Epitome of Astronomy, he was also the first to insist that the heavenly bodies "were accountable to the laws of physics".  The foundations of telescopic astronomy can also be traced back to Ibn al-Haytham, due to the influence of his optical studies on the later development of the modern telescope.

In 1038, Ibn al-Haytham described the first non-Ptolemaic configuration in The Model of the Motions. His reform excluded cosmology, as he developed a systematic study of celestial kinematics that was completely geometric. This in turn led to innovative developments in infinitesimal geometry.

 His reformed model was the first to reject the equant and eccentrics, free celestial kinematics from cosmology, and reduce physical entities to geometrical entities. The model also propounded the Earth's rotation about its axis, and the centres of motion were geometrical points without any physical significance, like Johannes Kepler's model centuries later.

In 1070, Abu Ubayd al-Juzjani, a pupil of Avicenna, proposed a non-Ptolemaic configuration in his Tarik al-Aflak. In his work, he indicated the so-called "equant" problem of the Ptolemic model, and proposed a solution for the problem. He claimed that his teacher Avicenna had also worked out the equant problem.
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2007, 05:26:04 pm »




                                                    Andalusian school






Averroes rejected the eccentric
deferents introduced by Ptolemy.
He rejected the Ptolemaic model
and instead argued for a strictly
concentric model of the universe.




In the 11th-12th centuries, astronomers in al-Andalus took up the challenge earlier posed by Ibn al-Haytham, namely to develop an alternate non-Ptolemaic configuration that evaded the errors found in the Ptolemaic model.

 Like Ibn al-Haytham's critique, the anonymous Andalusian work, al-Istidrak ala Batlamyus (Recapitulation regarding Ptolemy), included a list of objections to Ptolemic astronomy.

In the late 11th century, al-Zarqali (Latinized as Arzachel) discovered that the orbits of the planets are ellipses and not circles, though he still followed the Ptolemaic model.

In the 12th century, Averroes rejected the eccentric deferents introduced by Ptolemy. He rejected the Ptolemaic model and instead argued for a strictly concentric model of the universe. He wrote the following criticism on the Ptolemaic model of planetary motion:

"To assert the existence of an eccentric sphere or an epicyclic sphere is contrary to nature.  The astronomy of our time offers no truth, but only agrees with the calculations and not with what exists."

Averroes' contemporary, Maimonides, wrote the following on the planetary model proposed by Ibn Bajjah (Avempace):
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2007, 05:33:21 pm »








Averroes' contemporary, Maimonides, wrote the following on the planetary model proposed by Ibn Bajjah (Avempace):


"I have heard that Abu Bakr [Ibn Bajja] discovered a system in which no epicycles occur, but eccentric spheres are not excluded by him.

I have not heard it from his pupils; and even if it be correct that he discovered such a system, he has not gained much by it, for eccentricity is likewise contrary to the principles laid down by Aristotle....

I have explained to you that these difficulties do not concern the astronomer, for he does not profess to tell us the existing properties of the spheres, but to suggest, whether correctly or not, a theory in which the motion of the stars and planets is uniform and circular, and in agreement with observation."



Later in the 12th century, Ibn Bajjah's successors, Ibn Tufail (Abubacer) and al-Betrugi (Alpetragius), were the first to propose planetary models without any equant, epicycles or eccentrics. Al-Betrugi was also the first to discover that the planets are self-luminous. 

Their configurations, however, were not accepted due to the numerical predictions of the planetary positions in their models being less accurate than that of the Ptolemaic model, mainly because they followed Aristotle's notion of perfect circular motion.
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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2007, 05:37:30 pm »





                                                      Maragheh school
 






Nasir al-Din al-Tusi resolved
 significant problems in the
 Ptolemaic system with the
 Tusi-couple, which later
played an important role
in the Copernican model.



From the 13th century, astronomers of the Maragheh school, like the Andalusian astronomers, attempted to solve the equant problem and produce alternative configurations to the Ptolemaic model.

They were more successful than their Andalusian predecessors in producing non-Ptolemaic configurations, which eliminated the equant and eccentrics, that were just as accurate as the Ptolemaic model in numerically predicting planetary positions.

The most important of the Maragheh astronomers included Mo'ayyeduddin Urdi (d. 1266), Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274), 'Umar al-Katibi al-Qazwini (d. 1277), Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (1236-1311), Sadr al-Sharia al-Bukhari (c. 1347), Ibn al-Shatir (1304-1375), Ala al-Qushji (c. 1474), and Shams al-Din al-Khafri (d. 1550).

Mo'ayyeduddin Urdi (d. 1266) was the first of the Maragheh astronomers to develop a non-Ptolemaic model, and he proposed a new theorem, the "Urdi lemma".

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274) resolved significant problems in the Ptolemaic system by developing the Tusi-couple as an alternative to the physically problematic equant introduced by Ptolemy, and conceived a plausible model for elliptical orbits.

Tusi's student Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (1236-1311), in his The Limit of Accomplishment concerning Knowledge of the Heavens, discussed the possibility of heliocentrism. 'Umar al-Katibi al-Qazwini (d. 1277), who also worked at the Maragheh observatory, in his Hikmat al-'Ain, wrote an argument for a heliocentric model, though he later abandoned the idea.
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« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2007, 05:44:19 pm »









Ibn al-Shatir (1304–1375), in A Final Inquiry Concerning the Rectification of Planetary Theory, incorporated the Urdi lemma, and eliminated the need for an equant by introducing an extra epicycle (the Tusi-couple), departing from the Ptolemaic system in a way that was mathematically identical to what Nicolaus Copernicus did in the 16th century. Ibn al-Shatir's system was also only approximately geocentric, rather than exactly so, having demonstrated trigonometrically that the Earth was not the exact center of the universe.



Y. M. Faruqi wrote:

"Ibn al-Shatir’s theory of lunar motion was very similar to that attributed to Copernicus some 150 years later".

"Whereas Ibn al-Shatir’s concept of planetary motion was conceived in order to play an important role in an earth-centred planetary model, Copernicus used the same concept of motion to present his sun-centred planetary model. Thus the development of alternative models took place that permitted an empirical testing of the models."

Ibn al-Shatir’s rectified model, which included the Tusi-couple and Urdi lemma, was later adapted into a heliocentric model by Copernicus,[41] which was mathematically achieved by reversing the direction of the last vector connecting the Earth to the Sun in Ibn al-Shatir's model.

In the published version of his masterwork, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, Copernicus also cites the theories of al-Battani, Arzachel and Averroes as influences, while the works of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen) and al-Biruni were also known in Europe at the time.
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« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2007, 05:47:31 pm »







1450-1900



The period of stagnation, when the traditional system of astronomy continued to be practised with enthusiasm, but with rapidly decreasing innovation of any major significance. This view, however, has been questioned by George Saliba after studying the works of the 16th century astronomer Shams al-Din al-Khafri (d. 1550), a commentator on earlier Maragheh astronomers. Saliba wrote the following on al-Khafri's work:



"By his sheer insight into the role of mathematics in describing natural phenomena, this astronomer managed to bring the hay'a tradition to such unparalleled heights that could not be matched anywhere else in the world at that time neither mathematically nor astronomically. By working on the alternative mathematical models that could replace those of Ptolemy, and by scrutinizing the works of his predecessors who were all searching for unique mathematical models that could describe the physical phenomena consistently, this astronomer finally realized that all mathematical modeling had no physical truth by itself and was simply another language with which one could describe the physical observed reality. He also realized that the specific phenomena that were being described by the Ptolemaic models did not have unique mathematical solutions that were subject to the same restraints.

Rather there were several mathematical models that could account for the Ptolemaic observations, yield identical predictive results at the same critical points used by Ptolemy to construct his own models (thus accounting for the observations as perfectly as Ptolemy could) and still meet the consistency requirement that was imposed by the Aristotelian cosmology which was adopted by the writers in the hay'a tradition."



A large corpus of literature from Islamic astronomy remains today, numbering around at least 10,000 manuscript volumes scattered throughout the world, much of which has not been read or even catalogued. Even so, a reasonably accurate picture of Islamic activity in the field of astronomy can be reconstructed.
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« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2007, 05:49:38 pm »


A depiction of a Medieval Islamic astronomer.
Thought by some to represent Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi.

The illustration above is a section of a painting showing workers at the observatory of Taqi al-Din at Istanbul in 1577. The particular painting is from the epic poem Shahinshah-nama by 'Ala ad-Din Mansur-Shiazi. It was written in honour of Sultan Murad III who reigned from 1574 to 1595. Though it is common to speak of Arabic astronomy the more correct term would be Arab-Islamic astronomy. Many of the astronomers (and peoples) were not Arabs but were from the regions of (modern-day) Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Arabic was the scientific language and lingua franca for followers of the Islamic religion. The language of the religion was Arabic. It is correct to speak of Greek science being passed to the Arabs. Arab rulers of Arab states, for example the 'Umayyad dynasty (which collapsed in the 740s, funded and patronised the transmission process through Syriac sources The following 'Abbasid dynasty can also be considered as an Arab regime.
http://members.optusnet.com.au/~gtosiris/page11-26.html










                                                           Observatories





The first systematic observations in Islam are reported to have taken place under the patronage of al-Mamun. Here, and in many other private observatories from Damascus to Baghdad, meridian degrees were measured, solar parameters were established, and detailed observations of the Sun, Moon, and planets were undertaken.

In the 10th century, the Buwayhid dynasty encouraged the undertaking of extensive works in Astronomy, such as the construction of a large scale instrument with which observations were made in the year 950CE. We know of this by recordings made in the zij of astronomers such as Ibn al-Alam.

The great astronomer Abd Al-Rahman Al Sufi was patronised by prince Adud o-dowleh, who systematically revised Ptolemy's catalogue of stars. Sharaf al-Daula also established a similar observatory in Baghdad. And reports by Ibn Yunus and al-Zarqall in Toledo and Cordoba indicate the use of sophisticated instruments for their time.

It was Malik Shah I who established the first large observatory, probably in Isfahan. It was here where Omar Khayyám with many other collaborators constructed a zij and formulated the Persian Solar Calendar a.k.a. the jalali calendar. A modern version of this calendar is still in official use in Iran today.
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« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2007, 05:54:15 pm »





Azophi's The Dipiction ofCelestial Constellations.
The constellation pictured here is Sagittarius.
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2007, 06:01:05 pm »


THE ISTANBUL OBSERVATORY





The most influential observatory, however, was the Maragheh observatory founded by Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī under the patronage of Hulegu Khan in the 13th century. Here, al-Tusi supervised its technical construction at Maragheh.

The facility contained resting quarters for Hulagu Khan, as well as a library and mosque. Some of the top astronomers of the day gathered there, and from their collaboration resulted important modifications to the Ptolemaic system over a period of 50 years.

In 1420, prince Ulugh Beg, himself an astronomer and mathematician, founded another large observatory in Samarkand, the remains of which were excavated in 1908 by Russian teams.

And finally, Taqi al-din bin Ma'ruf founded a large observatory in Istanbul in 1575, which was on the same scale as those in Maragha and Samarkand.

In modern times, Turkey has many well equipped observatories, while Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, UAE, Tunisia, and other Arab states are also active as well.

Iran has modern facilities at Shiraz University and Tabriz University. In Dec 2005, Physics Today reported of Iranian plans to construct a "world class" facility with a 2.0 m telescope observatory in the near future
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