Modeling the Cosmos

Digital Humanities
Research Environment for the
History of Ancient Astronomy

Since November 2017

In the ancient world, astronomers developed geometrical models to account for the motion of the celestial bodies.

The earth in the center of the universe, they imagined the stars and planets to be located on rotating spheres around it, whose nested movement creates their individual paths in the sky.

Eudoxos Homocentric Model of the Cosmos

The intricate designs of the pre-modern astronomical models prove difficult to grasp from verbal descriptions and illustrations alone, but become very evident by means of digital modeling and visualization.
With today’s technology, we have the possiblity to represent ancient astronomy in the way it was originally conceived – as “geometry in motion”.

The Planets of the Solar System

With my project Modeling the Cosmos, I want to take digital approaches in the history of astronomy one step further. Key concepts in Digital Humanities are interactivity and real-time simulation, coming together in the form of encompassing digital environments.

Digital Reconstruction of the Epicyclic Model by Ptolemy

My aim is to provide the Computational History of Astronomy with a digital research environment to reconstruct astronomic models from the historical accounts.
Technically fit to host planetary models from the ancient systems up to Keplers laws, my tool enables researchers to interactively study and explore the options and constraints of the historic sources.

Digital Reconstruction of the Epicyclic Model by Ptolemy

In this function, the simulations will also aid in the digital reconstruction of lesser known historical astronomical models, whose functioning is only partially understood, such as the geometrical designs of the astronomers Giovanni Amico, Girolamo Fracastoro or Al-Bitruji.

In June 2020, I was presenting the virtual planetarium at the conference “Teaching Classics in the Digital Age”. In this excerpt of my talk, I am giving a roundup of the planetarium’s functionality.