University Lowbrow Astronomers

The Ptolemaic Way To Go.

by Lorna Simmons
Printed in Reflections: November, 2001.

When you Lowbrows venture out to view the magnificent nighttime or daytime sky (anywhere, except in Michigan, of course), you need to wear your Ptolemaic Magic Glasses to find the real positions of the sparkly things out there -- no Copernican stuff for you!  The cosmos, obviously, as anyone can see, is eternally wheeling overhead before your eyes with the constellations wafting by as they slowly come into and out of your view-- except, of course, the circumpolar constellations which, simply, are up there, “running around in circles, getting nowhere” (as an old, before-your-time, song goes).  The extended and revised Copernican-based way of viewing the Universe is much more complicated and seems completely unusable for anybody’s simple observing pleasures.

On the other hand, all of us today (with the exception of Geocentrist goofies) know that everything in the Solar System is gravitationally attracted to everything else in the Solar System, and all of the bodies in the Solar System, in turn, are gravitationally attracted to, and revolve about, our Sun.  We are also aware that our Sun, in turn, gravitationally travels in its lengthy elliptical journey, safely at a great distance of 8500 parsecs (pc) from the central black hole of our very own Milky Way (a/k/a The Galaxy).  In addition, we are knowledgeable about the globular clusters, each in their own paths that randomly revolve around the Milky Way in its galactic halo.  We also realize that some nearby less-massive galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the Leo Dwarf Galaxy, etc., are locked into a stately gravitational dance with the Milky Way, which, in turn, moves in a gravitational waltz with the other galaxies in the Local Group of Galaxies.  Then again, it does not stop there.  Astronomers and cosmologists realize that our Local Group of Galaxies is gravitationally attracted to other large galactic clusters, such as the Virgo Cluster, making super-galactic clusters.  These immense super-galactic clusters in our Universe have been measured (using Type 1a Supernovae as “standard candles”) as accelerating away from all other super-galactic clusters in our Universe (sadly, in one fell swoop, throwing the Big Crunch and the Steady State universes into the theoretical cosmological trash can).

While all this glorious stuff at present is tentatively thought by many to be the evolutionary state of our universe, it makes absolutely no sense to attempt to calculate the positions against the sky of the various celestial objects while using the revised and cosmologically-extended Copernican system, because everybody instinctively knows that the celestial objects are definitely circling around us, right over our heads.  Look up and watch it happen.  Do not let anybody tell you otherwise.  As the saying goes, seeing is believing!

So, forget about the Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN), the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR), the BOOMERANG and the MAXIMA data, dark matter, dark energy, quintessence, lambda, the accelerating universe, etc.

When you are out there with your expensively and supremely overloaded, unquestionably extremely heavy (but nevertheless magnificent) telescopes with all of the fabulous doodads to complicate your viewing pleasures (which sometimes lead to bursts of purple profanity from time to time), remember to throw out all astronomical information about the true positions and movements of the celestial objects.  Trust your own eyes and your charts and vote for Ptolemy’s long-discarded system.  You cannot go wrong.  Would anybody ever attempt to attack the Messier Marathon in one night in any other way?

Of course, in Michigan, we will never know for certain about any of this, because viewing the night sky around the time of the New Moon is a much wished for, seldom fulfilled, pleasure.  Sigh!

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Copyright © 2013, the University Lowbrow Astronomers. (The University Lowbrow Astronomers are an amateur astronomy club based in Ann Arbor, Michigan).
This page originally appeared in Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers (the club newsletter).
This page revised Sunday, March 9, 2014 4:30 PM.
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