Aristarchus of Samos was wrong: the Earth is flat

Greek thinkers and philosophers first introduced a so pretended scientific idea of the Earth as being a Globe. Eratosthenes succeeded in a simple experiment that, according to him, had the merit of measuring the radius of the Earth. Giving the spherical shape to the earth was the premise to build an infinite universe with a central sun. Later on, it would be possible the introduction of a new speculation, the making up of the evolution theory. Today the greatest part of mankind put their faith in science and worship the sun as the absolute, veritable giver and sustainer of life.

The sun: its pretended central position

The idea of an unquestionable central position of the sun was definitely established not so many centuries ago. But the Greeks had already foreshadowed right this same idea. So, for a certain period, they found themselves in a position to carry it out. The first model, in this direction, was supported by Aristarchus of Samos (310b.C-230b.C). For these ideas, he was and still is credited to have been isolated and persecuted. Was that the real situation?

Aristarchus was never regarded as impious

To answer this question, find here a statement found in Wikipedia: “It is a common misconception that the heliocentric view was held as sacrilegious by the contemporaries of Aristarchus.[6] Lucio Russo traces this to Gilles Ménage‘s printing of a passage from Plutarch‘s On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon, in which Aristarchus jokes with Cleanthes, who is head of the Stoics, a sun worshipper, and opposed to heliocentrism.[6] In the manuscript of Plutarch’s text, Aristarchus says Cleanthes should be charged with impiety.[6] Ménage’s version, published shortly after the trials of Galileo and Giordano Bruno, transposes an accusative and nominative so that it is Aristarchus who is purported to be impious.[6] The resulting misconception of an isolated and persecuted Aristarchus is still transmitted today”.

Trying to justify his theory

I find it interesting the fact that such a theory has been somewhat linked to the sun worship. Moreover, Aristarchus lent his personal support to the idea the Earth has a rotation movement around its axis, tilted in respect of the orbit plane. The objection that he had to face was rather challenging. He had to explain why the stars are in a situation to keep their relative position during the years as it should happen due to a moving Earth (the reference was to the lack of some annual parallax). Aristarchus tried to justify his theory by saying the stars are so far that it is not possible to see changes in their relative positions. Plato and Aristotle, that had lived centuries before, had refused a heliocentric model, but it appears that after Aristarchus the idea could be accepted at least for a while. For example, Pliny the Elder introduced a new concept relative to the retrograde motion of planets. He tried to explain it as an optical illusion generated by the relative position of the Earth and planets around the sun.

Aristarchus is still remembered for two considerations regarding the solar system. They keep on to be reputed as proper, however, you well know they are wrong. He developed his ideas in a text “ On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon”.  So, let’s be going to consider such ideas while commenting on the reasons why they cannot be considered as proper.

Trying to calculate the distance of the moon

He wanted to calculate the distance of the moon, but to do it you have to know how big it is. The angle subtended by the moon in the sky is about 0,5 degrees, but the problem is that the moon could be either far and big or near and small. Aristarchus figured out the problem by thinking to what usually happens during a moon eclipse. He considered that the Earth is a globe and that what happens is that the Earth projects its shadow upon the moon. He didn’t know exactly how big and how far the sun is, so its initial hypothesis was that the shadow projected by the Earth is a cylinder with a diameter equal to the earth’s diameter. He observed that the projected shadow is bigger than the moon. He understood thus that the Earth is bigger than the moon.

The moon dimensions

By following the evolution of the shadow cast upon the moon, he was able to make a first estimation of the dimension of the moon. He obtained, with these assumptions that the moon is about half of the Earth. The modern science says that, even though the proceeding was correct, Aristarchus didn’t evaluate correctly the dimensions of the sun that generates thus a conical and not cylindrical shadow. They say today that the moon is one-fourth of the Earth. We know today that science is wrong and that Aristarchus was starting from some wrong basis. We know in fact that the Earth is not a globe and that the moon runs a trajectory similar to that of the sun on a spiral-shaped over a cone between the two tropics. The moon is near and we know how far it is (an average value of 7000km can be good). With these values, we know that the moon has a diameter of about 66 km, a lot less than the 3474 foreshadowed by the scientists. We know that during a moon eclipse the shadow is not due to the Earth. On the contrary, it is due to the effects of the magnetic column present on the North Pole. It has a polarizing effect over the light of the sun. This way the light of the sun can interfere with the light of the moon in a negative way generating thus the eclipse.

The distance of the sun

After calculating the diameter of the moon, Aristarchus tried to obtain the distance of the sun. He concentrated on the moment when the moon enters the first quarter, i.e. exactly when it is possible to see half of the moon in the sky. At that moment, according to him, and to today science, the sun, the earth, and the moon form a right angle.

The angle moon-earth-sun has to be measured very carefully because a small error can create an enormous error in the evaluation of the correct distance of the sun. At first, Aristarchus measured an angle of 87° degrees when the correct value is of 89,8° (89° 52’). He found a distance quite different from the one today accepted as correct, but his proceeding is still considered as correct.

The phases of the moon and the Earth

We know instead that even in this case the starting bases are wrong. As we know, in fact, the sun and moon are almost at the same distance from the Earth so that the moon, the sun and the Earth can never arrange to form a right angle among them. We know that the light of the moon is for sure influenced by the light of the sun thanks to a fluorescence process activated by the solar radiations. These radiations are shielded by the solar wind, made of plasma, that has the shape of an undulated spiral. The moon is thus in an alternated way disclosed or screened by this plasma to the sun’s radiations. The position of the Earth is completely irrelevant in the process of the generation of the phases of the moon.

The Greek influence today

To conclude we can say that already the Greeks, with their philosophies, posited the sun in the center of the universe and this idea can be linked, even in the case of Aristarchus, to the worship of the sun. Aristarchus considerations about the sun and the moon, their distances and dimensions are in a questionable way accepted by today science; this proving how great the influence of the Greek philosophy over the scientific modern thought has been.

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