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Science
STARS IN THEIR EYES
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Rajesh Mirchandani looks at ancient cosmologies
Thursday 25 December 2003 10.05-10.30pm
Thursday 1 January 2004 9.00-9.30pm

From our earliest moments, mankind has sought to find meanings in the stars. But the heavens are mute, and can only reflect our own mortal desires and aspirations.

Milky Way
Milky Way and Andromeda

Programme 1

Ever since our earliest moments on Earth, we’ve sought meaning in the stars. The Mesopotamians - in what is now Iraq - developed a system of predictive astronomy, where Priests scanned the skies for omens that might give clues to the King’s future. The ancient Egyptians believed that when they died, they became stars. So the sky became a region where Egyptian beliefs about royalty, divinity, birth and death all came together.

With the help of archaeoastronomers, historians and archaeologists, Rajesh pieces together the astronomical systems operating in the Middle East six thousand years ago. For many of us today, light pollution has created a literal barrier between us and the stars. But that shouldn’t blind us to the extraordinary astronomical achievements of ancient civilisations who had Stars in their Eyes.

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Jantar Mantar in New Delhi
Jantar Mantar in New Delhi

Programme 2

Rajesh Mirchandani goes to India, and finds that predictive astrology, developed more than four thousand years ago,still has the power to influence modern lives. Rajesh talks to historians and scientists about the pervasive and continuing impact of astrology. Only a few weeks ago, twelve thousand couples got married in Delhi on a single day, because astrologers had declared it free of what they termed Jupiter’s ‘planetary mischief’.

Rajesh also investigates ancient Chinese astronomy – where everything in the sky had its counterpart on Earth. Even the Emperor’s horses had their own stars. So did his courtiers, his palaces and his prisons. In a system where astrology had such political power, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised if Chinese astronomers were sometimes guilty of a little cosmic manipulation, when they chose to ignore or uncover celestial omens that fitted circumstances on the ground.

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