Why Chinese astronomy was 800 years ahead of Europe

Listen:  Why Chinese astronomy was 800 years ahead of the west

The world’s first atlas of the stars was produced by Chinese astronomers. This achievement came eight centuries before Europeans managed to produce their own chart, thus underlining the superiority of Chinese medieval astronomy.

We discuss how exactly the Chinese astronomers mapped the stars, how their star chart was lost, and dramatically found again, and the central part that astronomy played in Imperial rule of this vast nation.

Guest: Dr Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, an astrophysicist based in the French Atomic Energy Commission. 

Pulsars are the remnants of very large stars, at least eight times the size of our Sun, that ‘pulsate’ energy following a supernova explosion – or death of a star. They were discovered in 1967 by a young Irishwoman, Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Now, astronomers at the Centre for Astronomy, NUI Galway,

The Chinese Dunhuang ‘Star Chart’ shown here was the world’s first atlas of the stars. Europe did not produce its own first star chart for another eight centuries (Credit: Wikipedia)

are continuing Ireland’s strong involvement in pulsar research by closing in on solving the 44-year old puzzle of determining how exactly pulsars work.

Guest: Dr Andy Shearer, Centre for Astronomy, NUI Galway

Broadcast on 103.2 Dublin City FM on 01/09/2011

To contact the show email:  sciencespinning@dublincityfm.ie