5,000 years of cosmology, in pictures

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The universe hasn't changed much in the past 5,000 years, but our understanding of it has. In historian John Ptak's amazing collection of cosmological maps, you can see how our view of the cosmos has changed radically over time.

A view from the 1700s contain some of the known planets zooming around in the orbits that astronomers of the day had been tracking. But below you can see an ancient Babylonian view of the universe, with nested spheres centered on Earth. What's interesting is that even the earliest views of the universe, save for a few, seem to incorporate the concentric circles or nested spheres pattern that persists all the way up to the present day - though of course today we'd place the sun at the center of our solar system, and a black hole at the center of the galaxy.


But then there are always outlier representations, like Rene Descartes' 1644 image of the cosmos, represented as a vortex:


And here at last in 1850 is (pretty much) the solar system as we know it - with the sun in the center.


You can see over 45 more illustrations in Ptak's blog, and this post is the first of several he has planned that will recount the history of cosmology in images.

via Ptak Science Books