AST80012 - Major Project: History of Astronomy

Unit Instructor:

Format of the Unit:

More details will be provided in Week 1, but the basic components of this Major Project unit will be:

  1. A major project, approved by the project supervisor/unit instructor in or before Week 1 of Semester.
  2. A project proposal, to be completed by the end of the third week of semester. Students must write a 2 page (references not included) proposal for their project, describing the aims, relevance and importance of their topic, and their proposed research methodology.
  3. An introduction & literature review, to be completed by the end of the eighth week of semester. Students must write up to a 8 page (references not included) introduction and literature review of their project topic. This entails background reading and research to give a broad understanding of the field and how the project fits in with the overall field.
  4. Newsgroups will be used for general discussions of techniques and problems encountered, as well as for Project Diary postings, whereby students are expected to make brief weekly postings of what they accomplished, learned or tested that week. These submissions will not be marked but are a compulsory part of the major project. Students must submit Project Diary postings in at least 10 of the available weeks throughout the semester, otherwise they may receive a fail grade on their final project report. Note also that there is generally less interaction between students in Major Project units as people are working on their own projects.
  5. The major project report must be submitted at the last week of semester. The project report should be about 20 pages or as negotiated with the project supervisor as different types of projects may vary in length substantially.It includes 1 page of self-assessment and should include the bulk of the ILR that was written previously.

Note that Major Project Units, including this one, do not have any associated course content.

Project Topics & Supervisors:

The project will be on a topic chosen after negotiation with the unit instructor. Previous topics completed by AST80012 students are listed below to give you an idea of the kind of topics we are looking for. Please use these as a guide to formulate your own project and then contact the unit instructor from Week 0 to discuss what you plan to research and how you are going to do it. You should aim to write several paragraphs about the project topic, with references, outlining why the topic is relevant to research as a history of astronomy project. The more detailed information you provide, the easier the job of your instructor to review it.

If the unit instructor has no objection and if a project supervisor can be found your unit instructor will give approval for the project.

Getting Started

For more information on general background readings, online resources, journals and interpreting primary resources, contact your unit instructor and/or project supervisor.

Past AST80012 Project Topics: 2002-2014:
  • Evolution and application of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics to Compact Stellar Interiors
  • Shedding Light on the Universe: Standard Candles and Cepheid Variables in astronomy from the 1850s to 1940s
  • A Series of Fortunate Events Leading to the Establishment of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
  • A Brief History of Radio Astronomy in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Margaret Burbidge: A Lifetime Looking at the Glass and Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling
  • Mount Wilson Observatory: An Insider's View
  • Moving out of the Silent Planet: A Comparison of C.S.Lewis' Cosmic Trilogy to the Observed Cosmos 1938-2002
  • The History of the Royal Greenwich Observatory
  • The History of Venus from Earth
  • Tuorla Observatory Through the Years
  • Ancient Astronomers: Prehistoric North American Astronomy
  • Astronomy in Ancient Mexico
  • Sky & Telescope: This is Your Life
  • Mayan Astronomy: Science or Religion?
  • History of Astrophysics in Antarctica
  • Christian Views of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (1600 - 2000)
  • Our Changing Views of Meteorites
  • ET - Friend, Foe, Fossil or Fantasy? Science Fiction 1945-1970 Involving Mars, Venus, the Moon, and Extra-solar Planets
  • 'Are We Alone in the Universe?' The SETI Institute is Trying to Find Out!
  • The Science Fiction of Douglas Adams: Mostly Harmless, or Seriously Inaccurate?
  • Early Philosophical OBjections to the Big Bang Among the Scientific Community
  • Fact and Science Fiction
  • The Contribution of Amateur Astronomers Since the End of the Nineteenth Century
  • The development of Stephen Hawking's views on the beginning of time, within the context of contemporary thought.
  • The History of Mount Wilson Observatory
  • William Lassesl's Observatory in Malta
  • Investigations of the Interstellar Medium at Washburn Observatory, 1930-1958
  • Astrolabes (16th century)
  • Meteorites and Meteor Showers: From Folklore to Science
  • Modeling the Universe
  • History of the Harvard College Observatory: 1877-1919
  • The History of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and Its Instruments
  • Helical Rising and Egyptian Astronomy
  • The Elgin Observatory: Timing Watches by the Stars
  • Biography of The Anglo-Australian Observatory
  • Solar Physics in the 19th Century
  • Astronomy Aboard H.M. Bark Endeavour
  • The Changing Attitudes towards Giordano Bruno and his Influence
  • "...Not always visible to mortal eyes..." an account of the astronomy of William Dawes, 1787-1791
  • Great Works of Astronomy - Einstein's Relativity
  • The Story of the Heavens: Sir Robert Stawell Ball and his Legacy
  • The History of Astrobiology from antiquity to the ALH 84001 Revelation
  • A Great Book of Astronomy: Astronomie Populaire by Camille Flammarion
  • The Introduction of Computers to Astrophotographic Plate Processing
  • A Brief History of Balloon-borne Astronomy
  • A History of Czechoslovak Observatories
  • Coding the Cosmos: the role of computers in understanding the universe
  • Astronomy for the Public
  • The Scientific and Social Impact of the Mariner 4 pictures of Mars
  • Mystery Hill, New Hampshire: America's Stonehenge?
  • The Brass Triangle: Astronomy, Navigation and Instrument Making in 16th Century England
  • Percival Lowell: Scientist, Fool or Showman
  • History of Online Astronomy Education
  • Early Radio Astronomy Pioneers - Jansky, Reber and Hey
  • Black Holes: From Curiosity to Evidence
  • Tales of Comets: Impacts on Society and Astronomy
  • History of determining the Orbits of Comets
  • A Short Account of the Directorships of Robinson at Armargh, and Hamilton at Dunsink
  • Revisiting Classic Spectrographic Experiments from 1900 to 1914: Challenging Projects for Amateur Astronomers
  • Space Physiology: A History
  • A Short History of the Development of Astrobiology into a 21st Century Multidisciplinary Science
  • The Possible Evolution of Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest, United States
  • Recognition of the Importance of the Works of Ibn al-Shatir in the History of the Scientific Revolution
  • The Contributions by Georges Lemaitre to Modern Physical Cosmology
  • An Astronomical Hundred Years War: A brief history of the debate over the origin of lunar craters
  • Carte Blanche - the Carte du Ciel
  • Takuyiddin and demolition of an observatory in Istanbul in year 1580
  • The History and Contribution of Robotic Explorers to advancing Planetary (Martian) science
  • The Efforts to Measure the Astronomical Unit using the 1769 and 1874 Transits of Venus: The Technical Challenges and Final results
  • Johann Bayers Uranometria: Worlds First Sky Survey
  • Accepting General Relativity: Testing Gravity's Affect on Light
  • Lowell Observatory - Vesto M. Slipher's Early Years
  • The Two Thomas' [Digges: Harriot] and their rediscovered contribution to 17th century English astronomy
  • Astrometry: An Analysis of the Instruments and Techniques that shaped the Science
  • The Quest for the Origin of the Elements
  • Bohdan Paczynski: A Versatile Mind in a Variable Universe
  • From Copernicus to the Enlightenment: How religious orders saved astronomy in the Catholic Church
  • The Ascent of Supernovae Type Ia as Standard Candles
  • Ancient Astrometry: An Analysis of the Instruments that shaped astronomy from Hipparchus to Tycho Brahe
  • The impact of Jesuit astronomy in the 17th century China
  • Ralph Copeland: Third Astronomer Royal for Scotland and his times
  • Early Astronomy Development on Mauna Kea
  • The Design, Construction and Impact of Keck and VLT
  • The Scientific Impact History of the Lick Observatory to 1900
  • Carl Sagan and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
  • Tunguska: Meteor or Comet?
  • A comparison of the accuracy of astronomical knowledge and methodology among ancient civilizations.
  • Dr Milton L. Humason: Shedding Light on the Shadows
  • The Astronomical and Scientific Legacy of John Herschel (1792-1871), Polymath and Aesthete Tradition, Transformation and Triumph in an Age of Transition
  • A Changing Paradigm: Evolution of the Scientific Case for the Habitability of Planets Orbiting dM Stars
  • Ooldea Nights: Does a Dreamtime story told to Kabbarli (Daisy Bates) contain Aboriginal knowledge of the variability of Betelgeuse?
  • Testing Newton's Gravity: The Development of Lunar Theory in the Mid-Eighteenth Century
  • The astronomy in the 15th and 16th century's and the Portuguese maritime discoveries, routes to India, Brazil and the Earth Circumnavigation trip
  • The Data Gathered by the Great Melbourne Telescope 1869-1892
  • A pan-continental study of the Southern Hemisphere: The Australian "Emu in the Sky" with the South American "Celestial Rhea (or Llama)" and the African "Ostrich"
  • Preserving Armstrong's Footprint: The Heritage Value of the Moon
  • Sir William Huggins' Role in the Development of Spectroscopy
  • Astro-Philosophical Transactions within Kantian Transcendentalism
  • Finding God at 7.65MeV: The Hoyle Resonance and the Anthropic Principle
  • The History of the Discovery and Analysis of Quasar 3C-273
  • The Search of Exoplanets prior to 1995
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