In China, Where Astronomy Was Originay Developed 19
Ancient Babylonia’s View
of the Universe
The Babylonians thought that the Moon and
stars were affixed to an enormous arched
ceiling called the celestial sphere. The celes-
tial sphere was supported by Mt. Ararat,
and the Sun moved from east to west
across its inner surface.
In China, Where Astronomy Was
Originally Developed
In contrast to these imaginary universes,
people in ancient China and Greece tried
to develop models of the universe scien-
tifically. It was in China that astronomy
was first developed.
In China, several cosmologies were
conceived approximately 2,000 to 2,400
years ago, based on observations of the
heavens. Two such cosmologies were
called Gai Tian and Hun Tian.
Gai Tian described a dome-shaped
sky, like a cap, over a hemi spher ical Earth.
This was surrounded by water (the ocean)
and rotated once a day from east to west
around the north pole. The Sun also traced
a circle in the sky, and the size of that circle
varied with the seasons.
Hun Tian, whose name means the
entire sky, expanded upon the concept
of Gai Tian to try to more accurately rep-
resent the movements of the celestial
bodies. The celestial sphere enveloped
everything like an eggshell rather than
just capping it like a dome, and the varia-
tion in the constellations according to the
seasons was explained by the notion that
the north pole shifted, rather than always
remaining directly overhead.
Ancient Babylonia’s view of the universe
Gai Tian:
A cosmology positing a hemispherical dome over Earth
Hun Tian:
A spherical cosmology

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