Science in a Golden Age – Astronomy: The Science of the Stars



Today, understanding the universe, the vastness of space, and the stars from white dwarfs and red giants to neutron stars and black holes, all are at the front position of physics and astronomy research. But try to imagine making sense of universe before the invention of the telescope.

In the following episode of Science in a Golden Age, Jim Al-Khalili reveals how scholars from the Islamic World played a vital role in astronomy and navigation, and influenced the upcoming astronomers in the renaissance. At the Istanbul’s Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam, we can observe the ancient map go back to the 9th century. A Bedouin businessman Ali Sultan Al-Hajri reveals in the Qatari desert that how the position of the moon and stars was utilized for centuries for navigation and timekeeping. At the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, we can see Al-Khalili examining a large collection of astrolabes, adaptable scientific devices that could be seen as the “computer of their days”.

We can also examine the life of great astronomer al-Tusi, whose work influenced afterward astronomers including Copernicus, the renaissance astronomer credited for the formulation of the Universe model in which the sun is positioned in the center and planets rotating around. Al-Khalili also exposed how al-Biruni devised an inventive method to calculate the earth circumference, which led him to devise an unbelievably accurate estimate, within one percent of the correct value we know today.