Medieval visions of modern science


Marvelling at the Skies: Anglo-Saxon Comets and the Quest for Planet 9

Wednesday 2 May - Sunday 3 June 2018, 10am - 5pm, Belfast Room, Ulster Museum, Free Admission

What did the night sky look like 1000 years ago? What significance would the Anglo-Saxons attribute to the sudden appearance of a dazzling comet across a night sky?

Brighter than stars, and known to the Anglo-Saxons as the 'long-haired stars' (feaxeda), comets have always evoked, by their immensity and beauty, feelings of awe and terror in the beholders. Seen as both objects of study and omens of war, pestilence, famines, death of kings and fall of kingdoms, they appear frequently in historical and visual accounts from the 9th to the 12th centuries alongside important events. The well-known comet of 1066, depicted in the famous 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry, and described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as 'a sign in the skies such as had never been seen before' came to be understood as a portent heralding the end of the English dynasty at the hands of the Normans.

This exhibition Marvelling at the Skies: Comets through the Eyes of the Anglo- Saxons, which combines records of comets from Anglo-Saxon sources with contemporary images of comets (from the NASA, the New York Times and The Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Society (NIAAS) will take visitors on a cosmic journey from the earliest contemporary description of a comet in England in the year 891 under the period of Alfred the Great, to the sighting of a hazy green-hued comet Lovejoy in 2013.

The exhibition will be accompanied by music inspired by comets orbits and sound of the spheres.

It is part of an interdisciplinary research project led by Dr Marilina Cesario, from the School of Arts, English and Languages and Dr Pedro Lacerda, from the School of Maths and Physics at Queen’s, entitled ‘Before and after Halley: Medieval Visions of Modern Science’.

Dr Cesario was one of six researchers from across the UK to win and receive an APEX award, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the UK’s leading academies including; the British Academy, the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Engineering for cross- disciplinary research excellence

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Hale Bop comet

Public Talk

Anglo-Saxon Comets and Astrophysics

Wednesday 2 May 2018, 7pm, Ulster Museum, Free Admission

Is it the case that in the Middle Ages comets were solely seen as signs of divine will? What did the Anglo-Saxons know about astronomy? How can Medieval records of comets be of value to astrophyics?

These are some of the questions that will be addressed by Dr Marilina Cesario, Senior Lecturer in Anglo-Saxon in the School of Arts, English and Literature (QUB) and Dr Lacerda, Lecturer in the school of Mathematics and Physics at QUB at the opening talk which accompanies the exhibition ' Marvelling at the Skies: Comets through the Eyes of the Anglo- Saxons'.

The public lecture will be followed by a reception in the Belfast Room (Ulster Museum).

This is a free event but tickets must be booked online HERE.

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