Celestial Sleuth: Using Astronomy to Solve Mysteries in Art, by Donald W. Olson

By Donald W. Olson

For a normal viewers attracted to fixing mysteries in paintings, background, and literature utilizing the tools of technological know-how, 'forensic astronomy' is an exhilarating new box of exploration. Astronomical calculations are the root of the reviews, that have the good thing about bringing to readers either evocative photographs and a greater figuring out of the skies.

Weather evidence, volcano stories, topography, tides, historic letters and diaries, recognized work, army documents, and the pleasant counsel of specialists in comparable fields upload type, intensity, and curiosity to the paintings. the selected issues are chosen for his or her vast public acceptance and intrigue, regarding artists reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, and Ansel Adams; old occasions reminiscent of the conflict of Marathon, the demise of Julius Caesar, the yankee Revolution, and global battle II; and literary authors similar to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Joyce, and Mary Shelley. This booklet units out to reply to those mysteries indicated with the potential and services of astronomy, starting the door to a richer adventure of human tradition and its dating with nature.

Each topic is punctiliously analyzed. as an instance utilizing the research of sky work via Vincent van Gogh, the analytical technique would come with:
- laptop calculations of ancient skies above France within the nineteenth century
- discovering and quoting the clues present in translations of unique letters by means of Van Gogh
- making website visits to France to figure out the fitting destinations whilst Van Gogh organize his easel and what celestial items are depicted.

For each one ancient occasion inspired through astronomy, there will be a unique form of secret to be solved. to illustrate:
- How can the section of the Moon and time of moonrise aid to provide an explanation for a turning element of the yankee Civil battle - the deadly wounding of Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville in 1863?

For each one literary connection with astronomy, it was resolute which celestial gadgets have been being defined and making an issue that the writer is describing a precise occasion. for instance, what was once the date of the moonlit scene while Mary Shelley first had the assumption for her novel “Frankenstein?”

These and extra enjoyable riddles will enchant and enjoyment the fan of artwork and astronomy.

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Extra resources for Celestial Sleuth: Using Astronomy to Solve Mysteries in Art, History and Literature

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1). ” Recently the White House at Night resurfaced at an exhibition in Russia, and our Texas State group made the first astronomical analysis of the sky in this work. Fig. 1 White House at Night, F766, Vincent van Gogh, Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890 Vincent van Gogh and Starry Skies Over France 37 Art historians have debated several different locations in Auvers-sur-Oise for the “white house” seen in this canvas. We wondered whether we could use clues in the painting to resolve this controversy and to find the location of the house in the present-day town.

The title of this watercolor, Messieurs les voyageurs on their return from Italy (par la diligence) in a snow drift upon Mount Tarrar, 22nd of January, 1829, provided important clues for our analysis. Astronomical analysis for this date allows us to go further and to conclude that Turner accurately depicted not only the snowy road and the local topography, but also the lunar phase of the waning gibbous Moon in the sky above, along with Saturn near its maximum brilliancy, and the bright stars of Gemini nearby.

Astronomers use the term opposition because the planet then appears in the part of the sky directly opposite the Sun, and the planet’s rising and setting occur in an opposite manner to the Sun. On both January 21st and 22nd, Saturn was rising in the northeast as the Sun was setting in the southwest. At the time of planetary opposition, Saturn is closest to Earth and attains its maximum brightness. Saturn reaches opposition, on average, only once every 378 days. The remarkable coincidence, that a Saturn opposition occurred only 1 day before Turner crossed Mont Tarare, helps to explain why the bright planet caught Turner’s eye as he looked up at the night sky.

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