Was this an astronomical phenomenon observed in 1689?

Was this an astronomical phenomenon observed in 1689?

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In a Swedish church record from 1689 a phenomenon in the sky is described. With my very limited understanding it could be a meteorological or an astronomical phenomenon, so here I ask if it could have have an astronomical phenomenon, and what it was in that case.

The place

The observations were made from the village of Fagerhult in Kalmar län in Sweden, at 57°08'55"N 15°39'52"E, in the sky to the North-East.

The time

This was 18 December 1689 (according to the Gregorian calendar - actual date given in the document is Julian 8 December).

It was "around 4 in the afternoon, around sunset". (I think that sunset actually was at about 3:15 PM local time.)


It is described as an elongated cross with the long arm being about 6 times as long as the short arm. I think it means to say that the long arm was vertical, but I'm not sure about that. The cross was shining clearly on the sky, a burning light in the north-east for about an hour. It was almost a clear sky and where the cross was there were no clouds at all.

The account is accompanied by this illustration. It doesn't have the same proportions as I understand the text to say. Maybe the image is better than the text.

(Undoubtely this led to religious ponderings, and that was presumably why this was recorded, but there is actually nothing of that in the note - just this description.)

Was there anything special happening in the sky then that could have to do with this?

That is hard tell; from your description it reads like a spectacular halo phenomenon.

They are more common when the sun is still up in the sky, but even after sunset many are possible and they can combine. With the right atmospheric conditions they can be very impressive experiences.

See for instance this somewhat cross-shaped halo at sunset. Two of the most common phenomena are the light pillar which is especially impressive near dusk and dawn and several circular halos - which can combine to a cross-shape when near horizon. Add in sun dogs which add bright spots 60° or even 120° from the sun's current position, this might explain bright(er) light in the North-East. Here is a schematic overview (German) over many halo types

See also this wikipedia article which reports a painting of a particular impressive scene which was interpreted as sign of heavens. Combinations with sun pillars also give cross - like sights in the right circumstances, e. g. or here

This is a really interesting question! One thing to note is that since it appeared in the northeast at sunset, it is nowhere near the sun - in fact, it is pretty much in the opposite direction as the setting sun. In the winter in the north, the sun would set in the southwest. And regarding your comment about the text describing the event as "around sunset" when it would have been 45 minutes later, I think that's not surprising - at northern latitudes in the winter, around the winter solstice, the path of the sun is at a very oblique angle to the horizon, so twilight lasts quite a long time. So it could easily feel like "sunset" for an hour or more. Though the sun set at 3:15 PM as you note, at 4:00 PM the sun would still only be 5.3 degrees below the horizon, so civil twilight had not yet ended. Plus, no one in those days was wearing a wristwatch, so a given observer's estimate of time of a particular event may have been less precise than we would be accustomed to now.

So, my best guess is that this might have been related to anticrepuscular rays. Pros and cons for this hypothesis:


  • Appears at the right time of day, in the right location (opposite the setting sun).
  • Would give a vertical ray.
  • Doesn't need clouds in the direction that the image is seen. (But see my comment below about the crossbar.)


  • Most of the cases I can find pictured have multiple rays, which isn't what is described here.
  • There is no obvious explanation for the horizontal part of the cross.
  • I'm not sure if this would persist without obvious changes for as long as described.

Another thought I had, which looks very similar in appearance, but is in completely the wrong direction, is a sun pillar, combined with a stratus cloud, like this (from here):

The appearance is striking, but (a) it would have to be in the sunset direction, and (b) there would have to be clouds. So it doesn't seem to quite work.

I also thought of the moon, and whether that could give something similar, e.g. if it was just below the horizon. But that doesn't quite work, either. I did some calculations, and the moon was 38% full that day (waxing crescent, one day short of first quarter). At 4:00 PM (assuming that the location is UTC+1 hour), the moon would have been 23 degrees above the horizon, at an azimuth of 161 degrees, i.e. low in the south-southeast. So that doesn't seem like it would contribute much to something in the northeast.

So clearly I don't have a definitive answer, but maybe something here will be helpful or give others some ideas.

Aberration (astronomy)

In astronomy, aberration (also referred to as astronomical aberration, stellar aberration, or velocity aberration) is a phenomenon which produces an apparent motion of celestial objects about their true positions, dependent on the velocity of the observer. It causes objects to appear to be displaced towards the direction of motion of the observer compared to when the observer is stationary. The change in angle is of the order of v/c where c is the speed of light and v the velocity of the observer. In the case of "stellar" or "annual" aberration, the apparent position of a star to an observer on Earth varies periodically over the course of a year as the Earth's velocity changes as it revolves around the Sun, by a maximum angle of approximately 20 arcseconds in right ascension or declination.

The term aberration has historically been used to refer to a number of related phenomena concerning the propagation of light in moving bodies. [1] Aberration is distinct from parallax, which is a change in the apparent position of a relatively nearby object, as measured by a moving observer, relative to more distant objects that define a reference frame. The amount of parallax depends on the distance of the object from the observer, whereas aberration does not. Aberration is also related to light-time correction and relativistic beaming, although it is often considered separately from these effects.

Aberration is historically significant because of its role in the development of the theories of light, electromagnetism and, ultimately, the theory of special relativity. It was first observed in the late 1600s by astronomers searching for stellar parallax in order to confirm the heliocentric model of the Solar System. However, it was not understood at the time to be a different phenomenon. [2] In 1727, James Bradley provided a classical explanation for it in terms of the finite speed of light relative to the motion of the Earth in its orbit around the Sun, [3] [4] which he used to make one of the earliest measurements of the speed of light. However, Bradley's theory was incompatible with 19th century theories of light, and aberration became a major motivation for the aether drag theories of Augustin Fresnel (in 1818) and G. G. Stokes (in 1845), and for Hendrik Lorentz's aether theory of electromagnetism in 1892. The aberration of light, together with Lorentz's elaboration of Maxwell's electrodynamics, the moving magnet and conductor problem, the negative aether drift experiments, as well as the Fizeau experiment, led Albert Einstein to develop the theory of special relativity in 1905, which presents a general form of the equation for aberration in terms of such theory. [5]

Hubble Wide-Field Image of Galaxy Cluster and Gravitational Lens Abell 1689

Release Date: September 12, 2013 11:00AM (EDT)

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This new image from Hubble of the massive galaxy cluster Abell 1689 shows the phenomenon of gravitational lensing with unprecedented clarity. This cluster acts like a cosmic lens, magnifying the light from objects lying behind it and making it possible for astronomers to explore incredibly distant regions of space. As well as being packed with galaxies, Abell 1689 has been found to host a huge population of globular clusters.

While our galaxy, the Milky Way, is only home to around 150 of these old clumps of stars, Hubble astronomers estimate that this galaxy cluster could possibly contain over 160,000 globulars overall – an unprecedented number.

This image is peppered with glowing golden elliptical galaxies, bright stars, and distant, ethereal spiral galaxies. Also visible are a number of blue streaks, circling and arcing around the fuzzy galaxies in the center of the image.

These streaks are the tell-tale signs of a cosmic phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Abell 1689 is so massive that it actually bends and warps the space around it, affecting how light from objects behind the cluster travels through space. These streaks are distorted forms of galaxies that lie behind Abell 1689. While the galaxy cluster is just over 2 billion light-years away, the galaxies being lensed are over 13 billion light-years distant.

Galaxy clusters like Abell 1689 exploit the magnifying powers of massive gravitational lenses to see even further into the distant Universe.

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys snapped these images from June 12 to 21, 2002, and between May 29 and July 8, 2010.

Credits:NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and H. Ford (JHU)

Was this an astronomical phenomenon observed in 1689? - Astronomy

The small sized asteroid 1689 Floris-Jan was observed photoelectrically in UBV at ESO and CTIO, Chile, and at Mt. Table Mountain JPL, California, during its opposition in 1980, between Oct. 7 and Nov. 6, 1980. A unique synodic rotation period P = 145 h .0 + O h .5 corresponding to 6 d .042 + 0 d .021 could be derived from a lightcurve observed during 0.6 of the rotational phase. The lightcurve should show the usual double wave characteristic with an amplitude of 0.4 mag or slightly more.

Absolute magnitudes were computed with a linear extrapolation, using a mean phase coefficient of 0.039 mag/deg, yielding barV(1,0)=12.08 and V 0 (1,0)=11.88 colors were derived as B-V =0.70±0.04 and U-B=0.25±0.05, with no variation over the observed rotational phases exceeding the scatter. From the colors alone it is evident that 1689 Floris-Jan is not a S-type asteroid, therefore belonging to groups CME or U, with a diameter between 9 and 27 km approximately, depending on the albedo assumption.

The rotation period of six days found for 1689 Floris-Jan is the longest one ever published for an asteroid. A histogram is therefore given for 300 published asteroid rotation rates in order to show the exceptional position of 1689 Floris-Jan among other asteroids. In addition there are indications that small asteroids are not necessarily fast rotators, but rather that they have also a trend to show up as slow rotators.


"Contrary to the belief generally held by laboratory physicists, astronomy has contributed to the growth of our understanding of physics." [1] Physics has helped in the elucidation of astronomical phenomena, and astronomy has helped in the elucidation of physical phenomena:

  1. discovery of the law of gravitation came from the information provided by the motion of the Moon and the planets,
  2. viability of nuclear fusion as demonstrated in the Sun and stars and yet to be reproduced on earth in a controlled form. [1]

Integrating astronomy with physics involves

Physical interaction Astronomical phenomena
Electromagnetism: observation using the electromagnetic spectrum
black body radiation stellar radiation
synchrotron radiation radio and X-ray sources
inverse-Compton scattering astronomical X-ray sources
acceleration of charged particles pulsars and cosmic rays
absorption/scattering interstellar dust
Strong and weak interaction: nucleosynthesis in stars
cosmic rays
primeval universe
Gravity: motion of planets, satellites and binary stars, stellar structure and evolution, N-body motions in clusters of stars and galaxies, black holes, and the expanding universe. [1]

The aim of astronomy is to understand the physics and chemistry from the laboratory that is behind cosmic events so as to enrich our understanding of the cosmos and of these sciences as well. [1]

Astrochemistry, the overlap of the disciplines of astronomy and chemistry, is the study of the abundance and reactions of chemical elements and molecules in space, and their interaction with radiation. The formation, atomic and chemical composition, evolution and fate of molecular gas clouds, is of special interest because it is from these clouds that solar systems form.

Infrared astronomy, for example, has revealed that the interstellar medium contains a suite of complex gas-phase carbon compounds called aromatic hydrocarbons, often abbreviated (PAHs or PACs). These molecules composed primarily of fused rings of carbon (either neutral or in an ionized state) are said to be the most common class of carbon compound in the galaxy. They are also the most common class of carbon molecule in meteorites and in cometary and asteroidal dust (cosmic dust). These compounds, as well as the amino acids, nucleobases, and many other compounds in meteorites, carry deuterium ( 2 H) and isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that are very rare on earth, attesting to their extraterrestrial origin. The PAHs are thought to form in hot circumstellar environments (around dying carbon rich red giant stars).

The sparseness of interstellar and interplanetary space results in some unusual chemistry, since symmetry-forbidden reactions cannot occur except on the longest of timescales. For this reason, molecules and molecular ions which are unstable on earth can be highly abundant in space, for example the H3 + ion. Astrochemistry overlaps with astrophysics and nuclear physics in characterizing the nuclear reactions which occur in stars, the consequences for stellar evolution, as well as stellar 'generations'. Indeed, the nuclear reactions in stars produce every naturally occurring chemical element. As the stellar 'generations' advance, the mass of the newly formed elements increases. A first-generation star uses elemental hydrogen (H) as a fuel source and produces helium (He). Hydrogen is the most abundant element, and it is the basic building block for all other elements as its nucleus has only one proton. Gravitational pull toward the center of a star creates massive amounts of heat and pressure, which cause nuclear fusion. Through this process of merging nuclear mass, heavier elements are formed. Lithium, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are examples of elements that form in stellar fusion. After many stellar generations, very heavy elements are formed (e.g. iron and lead).

Theoretical astronomers use a wide variety of tools which include analytical models (for example, polytropes to approximate the behaviors of a star) and computational numerical simulations. Each has some advantages. Analytical models of a process are generally better for giving insight into the heart of what is going on. Numerical models can reveal the existence of phenomena and effects that would otherwise not be seen. [2] [3]

Astronomy theorists endeavor to create theoretical models and figure out the observational consequences of those models. This helps observers look for data that can refute a model or help in choosing between several alternate or conflicting models.

Theorists also try to generate or modify models to take into account new data. Consistent with the general scientific approach, in the case of an inconsistency, the general tendency is to try to make minimal modifications to the model to fit the data. In some cases, a large amount of inconsistent data over time may lead to total abandonment of a model.

Topics studied by theoretical astronomers include:

Astrophysical relativity serves as a tool to gauge the properties of large scale structures for which gravitation plays a significant role in physical phenomena investigated and as the basis for black hole (astro)physics and the study of gravitational waves.

Some widely accepted and studied theories and models in astronomy, now included in the Lambda-CDM model are the Big Bang, Cosmic inflation, dark matter, and fundamental theories of physics.

A few examples of this process:

Physical process Experimental tool Theoretical model Explains/predicts
Gravitation Radio telescopes Self-gravitating system Emergence of a star system
Nuclear fusion Spectroscopy Stellar evolution How the stars shine and how metals formed
The Big Bang Hubble Space Telescope, COBE Expanding universe Age of the Universe
Quantum fluctuations Cosmic inflation Flatness problem
Gravitational collapse X-ray astronomy General relativity Black holes at the center of Andromeda Galaxy
CNO cycle in stars

Dark matter and dark energy are the current leading topics in astronomy, [4] as their discovery and controversy originated during the study of the galaxies.

Of the topics approached with the tools of theoretical physics, particular consideration is often given to stellar photospheres, stellar atmospheres, the solar atmosphere, planetary atmospheres, gaseous nebulae, nonstationary stars, and the interstellar medium. Special attention is given to the internal structure of stars. [5]

Weak equivalence principle Edit

The observation of a neutrino burst within 3 h of the associated optical burst from Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) gave theoretical astrophysicists an opportunity to test that neutrinos and photons follow the same trajectories in the gravitational field of the galaxy. [6]

Thermodynamics for stationary black holes Edit

A general form of the first law of thermodynamics for stationary black holes can be derived from the microcanonical functional integral for the gravitational field. [7] The boundary data

  1. the gravitational field as described with a microcanonical system in a spatially finite region and
  2. the density of states expressed formally as a functional integral over Lorentzian metrics and as a functional of the geometrical boundary data that are fixed in the corresponding action,

are the thermodynamical extensive variables, including the energy and angular momentum of the system. [7] For the simpler case of nonrelativistic mechanics as is often observed in astrophysical phenomena associated with a black hole event horizon, the density of states can be expressed as a real-time functional integral and subsequently used to deduce Feynman's imaginary-time functional integral for the canonical partition function. [7]

Reaction equations and large reaction networks are an important tool in theoretical astrochemistry, especially as applied to the gas-grain chemistry of the interstellar medium. [8] Theoretical astrochemistry offers the prospect of being able to place constraints on the inventory of organics for exogenous delivery to the early Earth.

Interstellar organics Edit

"An important goal for theoretical astrochemistry is to elucidate which organics are of true interstellar origin, and to identify possible interstellar precursors and reaction pathways for those molecules which are the result of aqueous alterations." [9] One of the ways this goal can be achieved is through the study of carbonaceous material as found in some meteorites. Carbonaceous chondrites (such as C1 and C2) include organic compounds such as amines and amides alcohols, aldehydes, and ketones aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons sulfonic and phosphonic acids amino, hydroxycarboxylic, and carboxylic acids purines and pyrimidines and kerogen-type material. [9] The organic inventories of primitive meteorites display large and variable enrichments in deuterium, carbon-13 ( 13 C), and nitrogen-15 ( 15 N), which is indicative of their retention of an interstellar heritage. [9]

Chemistry in cometary comae Edit

The chemical composition of comets should reflect both the conditions in the outer solar nebula some 4.5 × 10 9 ayr, and the nature of the natal interstellar cloud from which the Solar system was formed. [10] While comets retain a strong signature of their ultimate interstellar origins, significant processing must have occurred in the protosolar nebula. [10] Early models of coma chemistry showed that reactions can occur rapidly in the inner coma, where the most important reactions are proton transfer reactions. [10] Such reactions can potentially cycle deuterium between the different coma molecules, altering the initial D/H ratios released from the nuclear ice, and necessitating the construction of accurate models of cometary deuterium chemistry, so that gas-phase coma observations can be safely extrapolated to give nuclear D/H ratios. [10]

While the lines of conceptual understanding between theoretical astrochemistry and theoretical chemical astronomy often become blurred so that the goals and tools are the same, there are subtle differences between the two sciences. Theoretical chemistry as applied to astronomy seeks to find new ways to observe chemicals in celestial objects, for example. This often leads to theoretical astrochemistry having to seek new ways to describe or explain those same observations.

Astronomical spectroscopy Edit

The new era of chemical astronomy had to await the clear enunciation of the chemical principles of spectroscopy and the applicable theory. [11]

Chemistry of dust condensation Edit

Supernova radioactivity dominates light curves and the chemistry of dust condensation is also dominated by radioactivity. [12] Dust is usually either carbon or oxides depending on which is more abundant, but Compton electrons dissociate the CO molecule in about one month. [12] The new chemical astronomy of supernova solids depends on the supernova radioactivity:

  1. the radiogenesis of 44 Ca from 44 Ti decay after carbon condensation establishes their supernova source,
  2. their opacity suffices to shift emission lines blueward after 500 d and emits significant infrared luminosity,
  3. parallel kinetic rates determine trace isotopes in meteoritic supernova graphites,
  4. the chemistry is kinetic rather than due to thermal equilibrium and
  5. is made possible by radiodeactivation of the CO trap for carbon. [12]

Like theoretical chemical astronomy, the lines of conceptual understanding between theoretical astrophysics and theoretical physical astronomy are often blurred, but, again, there are subtle differences between these two sciences. Theoretical physics as applied to astronomy seeks to find new ways to observe physical phenomena in celestial objects and what to look for, for example. This often leads to theoretical astrophysics having to seek new ways to describe or explain those same observations, with hopefully a convergence to improve our understanding of the local environment of Earth and the physical Universe.

Weak interaction and nuclear double beta decay Edit

Nuclear matrix elements of relevant operators as extracted from data and from a shell-model and theoretical approximations both for the two-neutrino and neutrinoless modes of decay are used to explain the weak interaction and nuclear structure aspects of nuclear double beta decay. [13]

Neutron-rich isotopes Edit

New neutron-rich isotopes, 34 Ne, 37 Na, and 43 Si have been produced unambiguously for the first time, and convincing evidence for the particle instability of three others, 33 Ne, 36 Na, and 39 Mg has been obtained. [14] These experimental findings compare with recent theoretical predictions. [14]

Until recently all the time units that appear natural to us are caused by astronomical phenomena:

  1. Earth's orbit around the Sun => the year, and the seasons, 's orbit around the Earth => the month,
  2. Earth's rotation and the succession of brightness and darkness => the day (and night).

High precision appears problematic:

  1. amibiguities arise in the exact definition of a rotation or revolution,
  2. some astronomical processes are uneven and irregular, such as the noncommensurability of year, month, and day,
  3. there are a multitude of time scales and calendars to solve the first two problems. [15]

Atomic time Edit

From the Systeme Internationale (SI) comes the second as defined by the duration of 9 192 631 770 cycles of a particular hyperfine structure transition in the ground state of caesium-133 ( 133 Cs). [15] For practical usability a device is required that attempts to produce the SI second (s) such as an atomic clock. But not all such clocks agree. The weighted mean of many clocks distributed over the whole Earth defines the Temps Atomique International i.e., the Atomic Time TAI. [15] From the General theory of relativity the time measured depends on the altitude on earth and the spatial velocity of the clock so that TAI refers to a location on sea level that rotates with the Earth. [15]

Ephemeris time Edit

Since the Earth's rotation is irregular, any time scale derived from it such as Greenwich Mean Time led to recurring problems in predicting the Ephemerides for the positions of the Moon, Sun, planets and their natural satellites. [15] In 1976 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) resolved that the theoretical basis for ephemeris time (ET) was wholly non-relativistic, and therefore, beginning in 1984 ephemeris time would be replaced by two further time scales with allowance for relativistic corrections. Their names, assigned in 1979, [16] emphasized their dynamical nature or origin, Barycentric Dynamical Time (TDB) and Terrestrial Dynamical Time (TDT). Both were defined for continuity with ET and were based on what had become the standard SI second, which in turn had been derived from the measured second of ET.

During the period 1991–2006, the TDB and TDT time scales were both redefined and replaced, owing to difficulties or inconsistencies in their original definitions. The current fundamental relativistic time scales are Geocentric Coordinate Time (TCG) and Barycentric Coordinate Time (TCB). Both of these have rates that are based on the SI second in respective reference frames (and hypothetically outside the relevant gravity well), but due to relativistic effects, their rates would appear slightly faster when observed at the Earth's surface, and therefore diverge from local Earth-based time scales using the SI second at the Earth's surface. [17]

The currently defined IAU time scales also include Terrestrial Time (TT) (replacing TDT, and now defined as a re-scaling of TCG, chosen to give TT a rate that matches the SI second when observed at the Earth's surface), [18] and a redefined Barycentric Dynamical Time (TDB), a re-scaling of TCB to give TDB a rate that matches the SI second at the Earth's surface.

Extraterrestrial time-keeping Edit

Stellar dynamical time scale Edit

For a star, the dynamical time scale is defined as the time that would be taken for a test particle released at the surface to fall under the star's potential to the centre point, if pressure forces were negligible. In other words, the dynamical time scale measures the amount of time it would take a certain star to collapse in the absence of any internal pressure. By appropriate manipulation of the equations of stellar structure this can be found to be

where R is the radius of the star, G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass of the star and v is the escape velocity. As an example, the Sun dynamical time scale is approximately 1133 seconds. Note that the actual time it would take a star like the Sun to collapse is greater because internal pressure is present.

The 'fundamental' oscillatory mode of a star will be at approximately the dynamical time scale. Oscillations at this frequency are seen in Cepheid variables.

On earth Edit

The basic characteristics of applied astronomical navigation are

  1. usable in all areas of sailing around the earth,
  2. applicable autonomously (does not depend on others – persons or states) and passively (does not emit energy),
  3. conditional usage via optical visibility (of horizon and celestial bodies), or state of cloudiness,
  4. precisional measurement, sextant is 0.1', altitude and position is between 1.5' and 3.0'.
  5. temporal determination takes a couple of minutes (using the most modern equipment) and ≤ 30 min (using classical equipment). [19]

The superiority of satellite navigation systems to astronomical navigation are currently undeniable, especially with the development and use of GPS/NAVSTAR. [19] This global satellite system

  1. enables automated three-dimensional positioning at any moment,
  2. automatically determines position continuously (every second or even more often),
  3. determines position independent of weather conditions (visibility and cloudiness),
  4. determines position in real time to a few meters (two carrying frequencies) and 100 m (modest commercial receivers), which is two to three orders of magnitude better than by astronomical observation,
  5. is simple even without expert knowledge,
  6. is relatively cheap, comparable to equipment for astronomical navigation, and
  7. allows incorporation into integrated and automated systems of control and ship steering. [19] The use of astronomical or celestial navigation is disappearing from the surface and beneath or above the surface of the earth.

Geodetic astronomy is the application of astronomical methods into networks and technical projects of geodesy for

    of stars, and their proper motions
  • precise astronomical navigation
  • astro-geodetic geoid determination and
  • modelling the rock densities of the topography and of geological layers in the subsurface using the stellar background (see also astrometry and cosmic triangulation)
  • Monitoring of the Earth rotation and polar wandering
  • Contribution to the time system of physics and geosciences

Astronomical algorithms are the algorithms used to calculate ephemerides, calendars, and positions (as in celestial navigation or satellite navigation).

Many astronomical and navigational computations use the Figure of the Earth as a surface representing the earth.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), formerly the International Earth Rotation Service, is the body responsible for maintaining global time and reference frame standards, notably through its Earth Orientation Parameter (EOP) and International Celestial Reference System (ICRS) groups.

Deep space Edit

The Deep Space Network, or DSN, is an international network of large antennas and communication facilities that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions, and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions. DSN is part of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Aboard an exploratory vehicle Edit

An observer becomes a deep space explorer upon escaping Earth's orbit. [20] While the Deep Space Network maintains communication and enables data download from an exploratory vessel, any local probing performed by sensors or active systems aboard usually require astronomical navigation, since the enclosing network of satellites to ensure accurate positioning is absent.

Globular Star Clusters in Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689

Release Date: September 12, 2013 11:00AM (EDT)

Read the Release: 2013-36

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About This Image

Hubble Finds Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 Full of Giant Star Clusters

Peering deep into the heart of the massive galaxy cluster Abell 1689, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has nabbed more than 160,000 globular clusters, the largest population ever seen.

The image at left, taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, shows the numerous galaxies that make up Abell 1689. The box near the center outlines one of the regions sampled by Hubble, containing a rich collection of globular clusters.

The monochromatic view at right, taken at visible wavelengths, zooms into the region packed with globular clusters. They appear as thousands of tiny white dots, which look like a blizzard of snowflakes. The larger white blobs are entire galaxies of stars.

Globular clusters, dense collections of hundreds of thousands of stars, are the homesteaders of galaxies, containing some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. Almost 95 percent of globular cluster formation occurred within the first 1 billion or 2 billion years after our universe was born in the big bang 13.7 billion years ago.

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys snapped these images from June 12 to 21, 2002, and between May 29 and July 8, 2010.

Members of the science team are John Blakeslee Karla Alamo-Martinez and Rosa Gonzalez-Lopezlira, Center for Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in Morelia Myungkook James Jee, University of California, Davis Patrick Cote and Laura Ferrarese, DAO/NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Andres Jordan, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, in Santiago Gerhardt Meurer, International Centre of Radio Astronomy Research, University of Western Australia, in Perth Eric Peng, Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University and Michael West, Maria Mitchell Observatory, in Nantucket, Mass.

Credits:NASA, ESA, J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and K. Alamo-Martinez (National Autonomous University of Mexico)
Acknowledgment: H. Ford (JHU)

William Whiston (1667�)

William Whiston was born at Norton-juxta-Twycross, Leicestershire where his father, Josiah Whiston (1622�), was Rector from 1661-1685. He attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Tamworth, Staffordshire and then Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics. He resigned his Fellowship in 1699 to marry Ruth Antrobus, the daughter of his headmaster at Tamworth School. He died in 1752 at Lyndon Hall, Rutland, his daughter and son-in-law's residence.

Click on image for larger version.

A New Theory of the Earth, 1696.

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Some pages from the fifth edition of A New Theory of the Earth.

In this book, Whiston sets out his ideas on the formation of the Earth. It has to be consistent with the creation story in Genesis, except that the people who wrote the Old Testament did not have the astronomical knowledge of Whiston's own time.

The book is over 400 pages long and discusses many aspects of the Earth. Whiston says that astronomical objects existed before the creation of the Earth in Genesis, and were moved to their current locations at the time of Genesis.

Before the deluge the was Earth perfect sphere in a circular orbit. There were no oceans, only lakes and rivers (p358, p370 and others). The air was thinner, with no rain, storms, thunder or lightning, the ground was watered by mists (p365). There were no rainbows (p367).

He writes that the water for forty days and forty nights of rain described in the Biblical flood came from Earth passing through the tail of a comet. The rest of the water came from the Fountains of the Great Deep.

The encounter with the comet also changed the shape of both the Earth and its orbit, and caused seasons and changeable weather, and the first rainbow.

Although the "dirty snowball" idea dates from 1950, suggested by Fred Whipple, water was not observed in a comet until 1986 in Comet Halley, using the International Ultraviolet Explorer. It is estimated that it lost 1.5 x 10 8 tons (1.36 x 10 8 tonnes) of water between September 1985 and the beginning of July 1986. There are about 1.54 x 10 18 tons (1.4 x 10 18 tonnes) of water on the surface of the Earth. Research showed that the water in Comet Hartley 2 is the same as that in the Earth's oceans. (Clavin and Perrotto, 2011). However, other results, such as from Rosetta (Altwegg et al, 2015), suggest that Earth's water may not have come from comets after all.

Immanuel Velikovsky, author of the now discredited Worlds in Collision, 1950, was aware of the work of William Whiston. Velikovsky also described a comet causing catastrophes on Earth. He claimed it had been ejected by Jupiter and later became the planet Venus.

Religious Views

He succeeded Isaac Newton as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University from 1702 until 1710, when he was expelled from the university, because of his religious views. He supported a return to the early days of the church and also Arianism: following the teachings attributed to Arius (ca. AD 250-336). Arius, in saying that Christ did not always exist, made him inferior to God. [This is nothing to do with the concept of an Ayrian race.] The university rules stated that he must not teach anything that disagreed with Anglican doctrine. Whiston also published his beliefs. It is possible that, had he only written in Latin, he would have had fewer difficulties, because only academics would have read his work. Another consequence was that, although he lectured at the Royal Society, he was never invited to become a Fellow.


In 1711 he moved to London, having to make a living, and gave a variety of lectures, both with partners and alone. His astronomical teaching included a course on astronomy (with Francis Hauksbee the younger (1687�)), and lectures on astronomy in coffee shops. He would give talks after astronomical phenomena occurred such as aurora and eclipses. He sold charts of the solar system and the 1715 and 1724 solar eclipses.

Board of Longitude

He became involved with finding better ways to calculate longitude at sea. In 1714, with Humphrey Ditton (1675-1715), he petitioned Parliament for a reward for a reliable method of finding longitude. Newton, Cotes, Clarke and Halley intervened. Whiston and Ditton published a broadsheet on the subject. That year, the Longitude Act was passed. This resulted in the creation of the Board of Longitude, whose members included William Ludlam (c1717-1788) later in the eighteenth century.

The drawings on the wall show one of Whiston's methods of determining longitude. He suggested having a line of ships at fixed points across the ocean. They would fire a star shell at the same time each day. The distance of the shell would be calculated using the time taken for the sound to arrive after the flash of light was observed. He also suggested a method using variations in magnetic declination.

The paintings and engravings of Hogarth's A Rake's Progress differ. In 1763 Hogarth added the Britannia emblem to the engraving of "In the Madhouse" which covered some of the mathematical diagrams.

Note: Hogarth's work is political rather than scientific!

Click on image for larger version.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) uses the time taken for a signal to travel from satellites to the ground to determine a location. Whilst this is not the same as William Whiston's proposal, both make measurements by timing signals.

Astronomical Publications

Praelectiones Astroniomicae Cantabrigiae in Scholis Publicis Habitae, 1707,
Astronomical Lectures read in the Public Schools at Cambridge [English Version], 1715.

Praelectiones physico-mathematicae, 1710, a more accessible version of Newton's Principia.
Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematick Philosophy More Easily Demonstrated [English Version], 1716.

As well as religion Astronomical Principles of Religion includes chapters on astronomy, for example: a diagram showing "The Copernican or true Solar System" opposite p34, "A Map of the Moon", opposite p67, drawings of Jupiter and Saturn, opposite p71. comets are members of the solar system p74, the fixed stars are much further away and of the same nature as the Sun p78

Click on image for large version.

Tunbridge Wells

The engraving on the left is based on a drawing by the novelist Samuel Richardson (1689�) of people in Tunbridge Wells in 1748. Dr. Johnson is on the extreme left and Whiston on the extreme right, walking away from the others.

From: The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, August 1, 1829.

Click on image for larger version.

In a letter, Richardson writes:

"Another extraordinary old man we have had here, but of a very different turn the noted Mr. Whiston, showing eclipses, and explaining other phaenomena of the stars, and preaching the millennium, and anabaptism (for he is now, it seems, of that persuasion) to gay people, who, if they have white teeth, hear him with open mouths, though perhaps shut hearts and after his lecture is over, not a bit the wiser, run from him, the more eagerly to C—r and W—sh, and to flutter among the loud-laughing young fellows upon the walks, like boys and girls at a breaking-up." (The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 1829)

Thomas Barker, grandson

About 1715 William Whiston's daughter, Sarah, married Samuel Barker (1686�) of Lyndon, Rutland. Their son, Thomas Barker (1722�) was born at Lyndon Hall and married Anne, one of the sisters of Gilbert White (1720�).

Thomas made meteorological observations at Lyndon from the age of about eleven, which have been used to study the Little Ice Age (a period of cooling after the Medieval Warm Period). Some of his observations were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. He was not a Fellow of the Royal Society, so the observations were submitted in Barker's name by Fellows, including Gilbert White's brother, Thomas. In 1755 (49 pp347-50) part of a letter Barker wrote to James Bradley was published in Philosophical Transactions. It concerned the return of a comet seen in 1531, 1607 and 1682. It was expected again in 1757 or 1758. Although it is not yet named, this was Halley's Comet. Thomas Barker published a book, An Account of the Discoveries Concerning Comets in 1757.

The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith

The character of Reverend Dr Charles Primrose in The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith, (published in 1766) was probably based on William Whiston.

Click on image for larger version.


Altwegg K. et al, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a Jupiter family comet with a high D/H ratio (Abstract), Science 23 January 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6220. Published online December 10, 2014.

Fara, Patricia, Fatal Attraction - Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment, 2005, pp51-6, 64.

Feldman, P. D., Festou, M. C., Ahearn, M. F., Arpigny, C., Butterworth, P. S., Cosmovici, C. B., "IUE observations of Comet Halley: Evolution of the UV spectrum between September 1985 and July 1986", ESA Proceedings of the 20th ESLAB Symposium on the Exploration of Halley's Comet, Volume 1: Plasma and Gas p 325-328: p328

Force, James E., William Whiston: Honest Newtonian, 1985. Limited preview.

Hogarth, William, A Rake's Progress, Plate 8 (Orig, unfinished) [png]

Inkster, I., "Advocates and audience - aspects of popular astronomy in England, 1750- 1850", Journal of the British Astronomical Association, vol.92, no.3, p.119-123. William Whiston is mentioned on p119)

Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, The, Vol. 14, Issue 383, August 1, 1829, pp66-8: "Tunbridge Wells". Engraving of William Whiston based on a drawing by Samuel Richardson.

Nichols, John, The history and antiquities of the county of Leicester: Vol. 4, Part 2, 1811. p852, drawing of church, p851

Snobelen, Stephen D., 'Whiston, William (1667�)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 online edn, Oct 2009 [, accessed 29 September, 2012]

Whiston, William, Memoirs of the life and writings of William Whiston : containing memoirs of several of his friends also, 1753.[Rare books, University of Leicester Library]

Waites, Bryan, editor, Who Was Who In Rutland, Rutland Record Society, 1987.

New Hubble image of galaxy cluster Abell 1689

This new image from Hubble is one of the best ever views of the massive galaxy cluster Abell 1689, and shows the phenomenon of gravitational lensing with unprecedented clarity. This cluster acts like a cosmic lens, magnifying the light from objects lying behind it and making it possible for astronomers to explore incredibly distant regions of space. As well as being packed with galaxies, Abell 1689 has been found to host a huge population of globular clusters.

Hubble previously observed this cluster back in 2002. However, this new image combines visible and infrared data from Hubble&rsquos Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to reveal this patch of sky in greater detail than ever before, with a combined total exposure time of over 34 hours.

These new, deeper, observations were taken in order to explore the globular clusters within Abell 1689 [1]. This new study has shown that Abell 1689 hosts the largest population of globular clusters ever found. While our galaxy, the Milky Way, is only home to around 150 of these old clumps of stars, Hubble has spied some 10 000 globular clusters within Abell 1689. From this, the astronomers estimate that this galaxy cluster could possibly contain over 160 000 globulars overall &ndash an unprecedented number.

This is not the first time that this trusty magnifying glass has helped astronomer detectives try to solve clues about the Universe. In 2010, astronomers were able to investigate the elusive phenomena of dark matter and dark energy by mapping the composition of Abell 1689 (opo1037a, heic1014). Its powers as a zoom lens also enabled Hubble to identify a galaxy dubbed A1689-zD1 in 2008, one of the youngest and brightest galaxies ever seen at the time (heic0805).

This image is peppered with glowing golden clumps, bright stars, and distant, ethereal spiral galaxies. Material from some of these galaxies is being stripped away, giving the impression that the galaxy is dripping into the surrounding space. Also visible are a number of electric blue streaks, circling and arcing around the fuzzy galaxies in the centre [2].

These streaks are the tell-tale signs of a cosmic phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Abell 1689 is so massive that it actually bends and warps the space around it, affecting how light from objects behind the cluster travels through space. These streaks are actually the distorted forms of galaxies that lie behind Abell 1689.

Other galaxy clusters like Abell 1689 will be observed by Hubble during the upcoming Frontier Fields programme, which will exploit the magnifying powers of massive gravitational lenses to see even further into the distant Universe.


[1] Globular clusters are dense collections of hundreds of thousands of stars &mdash some of the oldest surviving stars in the Universe.

[2] These streaks appear to be blue because the galaxies that form them are furiously forming very hot new stars. The emission from these hot young stars causes the blue hue.

More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

A paper describing the observations of globular clusters within Abell 1689, entitled &ldquoThe rich globular cluster system of Abell 1689 and the radial dependence of the globular cluster formation efficiency&rdquo, will appear in the 20 September issue of The Astrophysical Journal (and is available online here). This study was led by K. A. Alamo-Martinez (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Canada) and J. P. Blakeslee (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Canada).

Image credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and H. Ford (JHU)

Galaxy Abell 1689's "Gravitational Lens" Magnifies Light of Distant Galaxies

Release Date: January 07, 2003 12:20PM (EST)

Read the Release: 2003-01

Download Options:

About This Image

A massive cluster of yellowish galaxies, seemingly caught in a red and blue spider web of eerily distorted background galaxies, makes for a spellbinding picture from the new Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. To make this unprecedented image of the cosmos, Hubble peered straight through the center of one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, called Abell 1689. The gravity of the cluster's trillion stars - plus dark matter - acts as a 2-million-light-year-wide "lens" in space. This "gravitational lens" bends and magnifies the light of the galaxies located far behind it. Some of the faintest objects in the picture are probably over 13 billion light-years away (redshift value 6).

Though gravitational lensing has been studied previously by Hubble and ground-based telescopes, this phenomenon has never been seen before in such detail. The ACS picture reveals 10 times more arcs than would be seen by a ground-based telescope. The ACS is 5 times more sensitive and provides pictures that are twice as sharp as the previous work-horse Hubble cameras. So it can see the very faintest arcs with greater clarity. The picture presents an immense jigsaw puzzle for Hubble astronomers to spend months untangling. Interspersed with the foreground cluster are thousands of galaxies, which are lensed images of the galaxies in the background universe. Detailed analysis of the images promises to shed light on galaxy evolution, the curvature of space, and the mystery of dark matter. The picture is an exquisite demonstration of Albert Einstein's prediction that gravity warps space and distorts beams of light.

This representative color image is a composite of visible-light and near-infrared exposures taken in June 2002.

Credits:NASA, N. Benitez (JHU), T. Broadhurst (Racah Institute of Physics/The Hebrew University), H. Ford (JHU), M. Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory), the ACS Science Team and ESA
The members of the ACS science team are: H.C. Ford (JHU), G.D. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory), N. Benitez (JHU), M. Clampin (STScI), G.F. Hartig (STScI), D.R. Ardila (JHU), F. Bartko (Bartko Science & Technology), J.P. Blakeslee (JHU), R.J. Bouwens (UCO/Lick Observatory), T.J. Broadhurst (Racah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University), R.A. Brown (STScI), C.J. Burrows (STScI), E.S. Cheng (NASA-GSFC), N.J.G. Cross (JHU), P.D. Feldman (JHU), M. Franx (Leiden Observatory), D.A. Golimowski (JHU), C. Gronwall (Pennsylvania State University), L. Infante (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile), R.A. Kimble (NASA-GSFC), J.E. Krist (STScI), M.P. Lesser (Steward Observatory), A.R. Martel (JHU), F. Menanteau (JHU), G.R. Meurer (JHU), G.K. Miley (Leiden Observatory), M. Postman (STScI), P. Rosati (European Southern Observatory), M. Sirianni (JHU), W.B. Sparks (STScI), H.D. Tran (JHU), Z.I. Tsvetanov (JHU), R.L. White (STScI/JHU), and W. Zheng (JHU)

Fast Facts

About The Object
Object Name Abell 1689
Object Description Galaxy Cluster, Gravitational Lens
R.A. Position 13h 11m 34.19s
Dec. Position -1° 21' 56.0"
Constellation Virgo
Distance The distance to the lensing cluster is 2.2 billion light-years (675 megaparsecs).
Dimensions he ACS image is roughly 3.2 arcminutes (2 million light-years or 630 kiloparsecs) in width.
About The Data
Data Description Principal Astronomers / ACS science team: H.C. Ford (JHU), G.D. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory), N. Benitez (JHU), M. Clampin (STScI), G.F. Hartig (STScI), D.R. Ardila (JHU), F. Bartko (Bartko Science & Technology), J.P. Blakeslee (JHU), R.J. Bouwens (UCO/Lick Obs.), T.J. Broadhurst (Racah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University), R.A. Brown (STScI), C.J. Burrows (STScI), E.S. Cheng (NASA-GSFC), N.J.G. Cross (JHU), P.D. Feldman (JHU), M. Franx (Leiden Observatory), D.A.Golimowski (JHU), C. Gronwall (PSU), L. Infante (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile), R.A. Kimble (NASA GSFC), J.E. Krist (STScI), M.P. Lesser (Steward Obs.), A.R. Martel (JHU), F. Menanteau (JHU), G.R. Meurer (JHU), G.K. Miley (Leiden Obs.), M. Postman (STScI), P. Rosati (ESO), M. Sirianni (JHU), W.B. Sparks (STScI), H.D. Tran (JHU), Z.I. Tsvetanov (JHU), R.L. White (STScI/JHU), and W. Zheng (JHU)
Instrument HST>ACS/WFC
Exposure Dates June, 2002, Exposure Time: 13.2 hours
Filters F475W (g), F625W (r), F775W (i), F850LP (z)
About The Image
Compass Image

Fast Facts Help

  • Proposal: A description of the observations, their scientific justification, and the links to the data available in the science archive.
  • Science Team: The astronomers who planned the observations and analyzed the data. "PI" refers to the Principal Investigator.

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA. AURA&rsquos Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations.

Watch the video: 10 Unsettling Astronomical Incidents and Phenomena (July 2022).


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