Star Maps: A History of Celestial Cartography from Its Beginnings to Modern Times: Professor Nick Kanas

April 2, 2016 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Willingdon Memorial Hall
Eastbourne, East Sussex BN20 9HT

1) Star Maps: A History of Celestial Cartography from Its Beginnings to Modern Times

Professor Nick Kanas, MD (University of California, San Francisco; author of Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography, Springer–Praxis, 2007, 2nd edn 2012)

People have observed the night sky since antiquity in an effort to predict celestial events and understand their place in the universe. Many cultures organized the stars into heavenly patterns that reflected issues important to them. In ancient Greece, the stars were placed in constellations that were viewed as allegorical representations of classical Greek heroes, heroines, and monsters. These images formed the backbone of the cosmological and constellation maps that appeared in stunningly beautiful star atlases of the 17th and 18th centuries. But telescopic and scientific needs called for more accuracy in star placement, and gradually the heavenly bodies were positioned in increasingly accurate coordinate systems superimposed on the sky. Constellation images became redundant, and they have largely disappeared in today’s modern star atlases.

Dr. Nick Kanas, Professor Emeritus (Psychiatry) at the University of California, San Francisco, will trace the history of man’s attempts to map the night sky from the time of the classical Greeks through the Golden Age of pictorial celestial maps to modern day star atlases. His talk will be illustrated with stunning images from antiquarian celestial maps and atlases from his two books: Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography, 2nd editionn (2012), and Solar System Maps: From Antiquity to the Space Age (2013).

and after the tea break …

2) Psychology in Space: From Earth’s Orbit to the Stars

A number of psychological and interpersonal issues can affect astronauts in space. Recent studies involving astronauts on the Mir Space Station and International Space Station have given us information on important psychosocial issues that affect crew members and mission control personnel who are involved with near-Earth space missions. However, the extreme distances, increased autonomy, and communication delays that will characterize missions into deep space will introduce additional psychological stressors never before experienced.

Dr Kanas has studied psychological and interpersonal issues in space for more than 15 years as a NASA-funded principal investigator. He will review his on-orbit research findings and discuss how these might relate to people travelling to the outer Solar System and nearby stars. The impact of new stressors will also be considered, such as travelling at a significant fraction of the speed of light, putting crew members in suspended animation, or creating giant self-contained generation ships of colonists who will not return to Earth.



Dr Kanas is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (London). He has been an amateur astronomer for over 50 years and has collected antiquarian celestial maps, books, and prints for over 30 years. He has given a number of talks on celestial cartography to amateur and professional groups and has published articles on this topic in magazines and journals such as Sky and Telescope, Mercury, Imago Mundi, and the Journal of the International Map Collectors’ Society. He also has directed a NASA-funded research programme on the psychological and interpersonal issues affecting astronauts and cosmonauts in space, and he has co-authored a textbook entitled Space Psychology and Psychiatry, 2nd edition (2010 – the first edition of which won the 2004 International Academy of Astronautics Life Sciences Book Award) and a book for the general public entitled Humans in Space: The Psychological Hurdles (2015) He has also written two science fiction novels: The New Martians and The Protos Mandate, with a third on its way.

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