Fatoohi, Louay J. (1998) First visibility of the lunar crescent and other problems in historical astronomy. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Abstract

The first part of this dissertation investigates methods of predicting the first visibility of the lunar crescent: an astronomical problem that has attracted the interest of man since ancient times. Many early nations used lunar calendars, the months of which began on the evening of the first sighting of the lunar crescent after conjunction. In modern times, the resolution of this astronomical problem is of special importance -both for historians who need to determine ancient dates exactly and for Muslims around the world, whose religious calendar is lunar. The interest in this matter over the centuries has resulted in the appearance of a number of solutions by a variety of authors for predicting the first visibility of the lunar crescent.

The purpose of the first part of this dissertation is to assess the accuracy of these prediction models using ancient, mediaeval and modern observational data and to explore possible improvement. The study concludes that the concept of a “zone of uncertainty” must be incorporated into any lunar
visibility criterion; it further applies this conclusion to the widely used modern criterion of true lunar altitude versus azimuthal difference between the sun and moon. The observational data show that developing a “zone of uncertainty” in this particular criterion yields the best results of all.

The second part of the dissertation is an investigation of six problems in historical astronomy. These are: (i) assessing the accuracy of solar eclipse observations made by Jesuit astronomers in China; (ii) assessing the accuracy of lunar eclipse observations made by Jesuit astronomers in China; (iii) dating the solar eclipse of Thales; (iv) determining the modern equivalent of the Babylonian angular units of measurement; (v) dating the eclipses of Thucydides; and (vi) dating the solar eclipse of Plutarch. All papers have been published or are currently in press.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Astronomy History
Thesis Date:1998
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Jul 2011 17:39

Original download link: First visibility of the lunar crescent and other problems in historical astronomy. – Durham e-Theses

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