Zooming in on the universe

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2008, 12:00am

Star Gazers

Fill in the gaps with the following words:

observatories, astrology, constellations

Watching the skies is an ancient occupation. The Sumerians who lived in the Middle East began studying the movements of stars and planets about 3500BC.

Chinese astronomers built an ________________ and made maps of the Dragon, Phoenix, Tiger and Turtle ________________ around 2000 BC.

These early sky gazers believed the movement of stars was a guide to the future. Although ________________ is still popular, modern telescopes are used to study our universe.

Telescopes help us learn about black holes, meteors, supernovas and all sorts of exciting things.

Mapping The Skies

Find words that mean the opposite:

last, disconnect, inefficient

Star charts list the position and brightness of stars, planets, comets and other objects. Until recently scientists sat up night after night, carefully noting what appeared in the night sky.

Chinese astronomer Shih Shen made a map of about 800 stars, meteors and sunspots in fourth century BC. In the west, Greece's Hipparchus was the first astronomer to make a map of 850 stars in 129BC.

Today's astronomers link their telescopes to computers. These computers convert images from the telescope to maps. Computers compare new pictures to existing star charts and only alert scientists if they find something new.

This modern system means sky-gazing is much more efficient. But do you think it's as much fun?

Telescope Inventors

Find words that mean the following:

rounded, distant, look at

The idea of looking through curved lenses to make far-away objects look bigger is very old. But as glass lenses are very hard to make, it wasn't until 400 years ago that the first telescopes were built.

The first person to apply for a telescope patent was German-Dutch inventor Hans Lippershey. He called his invention a 'kijker' (pronounced KEI-ker), a word that means 'looker' in Dutch.

When Lippershey first showed his invention to the public on October 2, 1608, he suggested it would be useful in battle.

In 1609 Italian inventor and scientist Galileo Galilei made a similar but better tool. As Galileo was the first to use it to examine the night sky, he is sometimes called the inventor of the telescope as well.

A Closer Look

Choose the correct alternative:

One of the most famous telescopes on/in earth is The Very Large Array in New Mexico, in the United States. It features in films like Contact and 2010: Odyssey Two.

Telescopes are also travelling at/in space. The Hubble Space Telescope has been orbiting the Earth and sending us pictures since 1990.

Check out/up pictures from both telescopes at www.vla.nrao.edu and hubblesite.org.

fab fact!

In 4000BC, builders at the Neolithic village of Banpo in Xian were using astronomy to line up houses with the constellation Yingshi - called Pegasus in English.

fab fact!

Astronomer, mathematician and inventor Zhang Heng (78-139AD) catalogued 2,500 stars in more than 1,000 constellations.

fab fact!

The word telescope comes from the ancient Greek roots 'tele' meaning from afar and 'skopos' meaning viewer.


Answer the following questions. To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1. The word 'telescope' means:

a. looker

b. afar viewer

c. seeing tool

2. The first telescope was patented in:

a. 2000BC

b. 139AD

c. 1608AD

3. The telescope was invented by:

a. Zhang Heng

b. Shih Shen

c. Hans Lippershey

4. Studying the stars to foretell the future is:

a. astronomy

b. astrology

c. astrophysics

5. Who first used the telescope to study the sky?

a. Galileo Galilei

b. Shih Shen

c. Hans Lippershey


Fill in the gaps: observatory, constellations, astrology

Correct alternatives: on, in, out

Synonyms: curved, far, examine

Antonyms: first, link, efficient

Quiz: 1. b, 2. c, 3. c, 4. b, 5. a