Astronomy in different cultures

Astronomy rose in different cultures at different times, and these various cultural traditions eventually led to the science of astronomy practiced today. The Babylonian's had the ability to predict the positions of the Sun and Moon and eclipses. The Mayan's knew about the planet Venus and were able to predict its position in the sky and there is evidence that the solstices were observed at Stonehenge in England and at Machu Picchu in Peru.

In many ancient cultures, star watching played an important part in religion and mythology . As people looked at the night sky, they saw patterns and shapes formed by the stars. Since they did not know what stars were or how the universe "worked" they often made up myths and stories to explain what they saw.

To read about some of these stories in the stars, please choose:

Myths about the stars tell a lot about what was important to the people who made them up. Most constellations and other star groupings were animals or heroes that were part of peoples' religion, mythology, or daily lives.

Many cultures made up stories about the stars to explain why the stars appear to move and why they change position from season to season. They also explained as best they could what the world looked like, and different cultures came up with very different explanations.

To read about some different models of the world:

The ball-shaped Earth, the shape we now know it to be , was one of these ideas, suggested by Pythagoras or one of his followers over 2,500 years ago. By the time Columbus set sail in 1492, many educated people believed in a ball-shaped Earth. Their biggest disagreement was about its size. Most people thought the Earth was so big that Columbus and his crew would run out of food before they reached land again. In fact, if they had not run into the Americas, they would have!