Medieval rockets to first satellites

  • Brian Harvey
Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


China has a long history in astronomy, astronautics and rocketry. Although ancient astronomy began in Babylon, China was not far behind and has the longest history of continuous observing of any civilization. Aurorae were recorded in 13,000 BC, eclipses were observed as far back as 2165 BC and records of stars can be found carved into bones dating to 1400 BC. A supernova was observed in Antares in 1300 BC, meteor showers in 687 BC and comet Halley in 467 BC, when it was realized that its tail pointed away from the Sun. Later, it was realized that there were sunspots on the Sun. The first star catalogues were made in 350 BC, outlining the ‘mansions’ of the sky, like western constellations. The year 104 BC marked the first sundials and construction of the first observatory, Zijin Shan (Purple Mountain) near Nanjing. This tradition was not just practical, but imaginative as well, for prehistoric frescoes envisaging flight into space were found in the caves of Dunhuang.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Harvey
    • 1
  1. 1.TempleogueIreland

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