Looking At Space, Through Time

Michael Benson’s book, “Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time,” is a collection of illustrations of the heavens, as perceived by people from the 12th century through to the digital era.

Cosmigraphics 5

This map of our solar system from 1846, which appeared in school textbooks, in its day, provides a notion of mid-19th century cosmology. It depicts a dozen planets (as opposed to eight per the present-day tally.)

Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, there are four orbs: Ceres (discovered in 1801), Pallas (discovered in 1802), Juno (discovered in 1804), and Vesta (discovered in 1807). They were all counted as planets until the 1860s, when the discovery of a cluster of small bodies in that region, reclassified them as asteroids.

Today, none of them have been reinstated, save for Ceres, which enjoys a status between that of an asteroid and a full-fledged planet: a dwarf-planet.

Another notable presence in the archaic map is that of an object, spinning between the Sun and Mercury: Vulcan. Those wondering if it was named after Mr. Spock’s homeland from “Star Trek” should know that it predates the science-fiction series.

The French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier “predicted” its existence in 1843. He was so certain of his calculations that he promoted it widely, hoping that the telescopes would confirm his find. But no such planet was found. But another of his mathematical entity that did turn out to be a celestial one was Neptune, detected in 1846.

An omission—from our perspective, that is—is Pluto. It wasn’t discovered until 1930.

This map, which appeared in a broadsheet bulletin from Hot Springs, South Dakota, refutes the theory that the Earth is a “globe,” and proposes that it’s the shape of a roulette wheel in a round-edged square.

This is a depiction of a fiery comet from the mid-1500s.

h/t: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS and WIRED

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