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Aspects of Astronomy and Navigation in Australia with Andrew James, ASNSW

Friday 2 September 2011 - 8:00pm
Topic: Aspects of Astronomy and Navigation in Australia
Speaker: Andrew James, ASNSW
Venue: Epping Creative Centre - 26 Stanley Road, Epping
Abstract: Early explorers of our area of the world are often portrayed as expeditions sailing into the unknown; searching for new lands and territories, commercial opportunities, or even just prestige for their countries or empires. Yet written histories usually gloss over the aspects of the navigational and astronomical importance of these times. The subject is usually narrowly bound to English or Great Britain perspective, aimed at either the Transit of Venus observed by James Cook in 1769, the establishment of the Sydney colony and the observatory of Lt. Dawes in 1788, followed then by Parramatta Observatory in 1821. However, often glossed over, are the French and Spanish expeditions in our region who did made similar astronomical observations during this period.

Yet the early success of these expeditions are all underpinned by the important maritime skills in finding the local time or latitude and longitude, often obtained by celestial navigation of the sun, moon, planets and stars. Using rudimentary technical equipment, they soon were able to accurately calculate their positions by established methods of reduction of astronomical observations using relatively simple mathematics. Such methods had to be obtained by trial and error, meaning that these expeditions required a trained astronomer on the voyage, who was able to test the usefulness of various alternative navigational procedures and techniques. I.e. Eclipses of the sun and moon, occultations, lunar phases, phenomena of Jupiter's moons, to magnetic deviation. They also had important responsibilities to make other astronomical observations wherever possible to verify such things as early astronomical ephemeredes.

This interesting talk will discuss some of these earliest astronomical observations from Australia, and how this information improved future navigational techniques.

We will conclude talking on the astronomical observations and contributions of the Stare Government observatories towards navigation in Australia.


Event Date: 
Friday, 2 September, 2011 - 20:00

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