Astronomy

Astronomy is the branch of natural science that studies the celestial bodies. The word is a combination of astron, Greek for "star," and nomos, Greek for "law." Astrology was formerly part of astronomy, with astrological determinations being viewed as a "practical application" of astronomical knowledge. Prior to the modern period, all of the

An illustration of the great Viennese telescope, constructed in the mid-nineteenth century. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

great astronomers were also astrologers, including such luminaries as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler.

Several hundred years ago, however, the two fields began to diverge, and today there are two distinct communities: astrologers, who are largely ignorant of astronomy, and astronomers, who know almost nothing about astrology. For the most part, contemporary astronomers despise astrology as a medieval superstition. This is not, however, because astrology fails to pass empirical tests of validity, but because astronomers reject astrology out of hand. When skeptics have actually subjected astrology to empirical tests, they have found—sometimes to their dismay—correlations between celestial and terrestrial phenomena.

For their part, astrologers are more often than not woefully ignorant of astronomy. This ignorance is sometimes compounded by an attitude that condemns all science as narrow-minded and spiritually dead. There are, however, a handful of contemporary astrologers who have explored current astronomy for potential astrological insights, including Michael and Margaret Erlewine, whose Astrophysical Directions offers a starting point for astrologers interested in pursuing this line of research, and Philip Sedgwick, whose Astrology of Deep Space is a creative follow-up on the Erlewines' work.

sources:

Brau, Jean-Louis, Helen Weaver, and Allan Edmands. Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology. New

York: New American Library, 1980. Erlewine, Michael, and Margaret Erlewine. Astrophysical Directions. Ann Arbor, MI: Heart Center School of Astrology, 1977. Sedgwick, Philip. The Astrology of Deep Space. Birmingham, MI: Seek-It Publications, 1984.

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