Mapping the sky from ancient to pre-modern times
People began measuring the positions of the stars thousands of years ago and the story of the measurement of stars is a story of some of the most talented and dedicated scientists who have ever lived. As ESA’s Gaia mission ushers in a new era of space-based astrometry, we look at the history of this distinguished discipline, starting with the pioneers who worked before the invention of the telescope.
Archaeological records show that astronomy is one of the first natural sciences developed by early civilisations all over the globe. Ancient astronomers could perform only limited investigations of the sky, using rudimentary aids to the human eye. Even so, humankind had already begun the measurement of the positions of celestial bodies, making astrometry – the science of charting the sky – one of the oldest branches of astronomy.