IAU Focus Meeting FM5:
Understanding historical observations
to study transient phenomena

August 20 – 22, 2018

Scientific Rationale:

There is a large number of historical observations of transient celestial phenomena, always noticed as (problematic?) deviation from the otherwise seemingly eternal, unchanging heavens. In a new area called Terra‒Astronomy, we study transient astrophysical phenomena which potentially affect Terra (e.g. climate, biosphere, etc.) such as solar activity and nearby supernovae ‒ and we investigate them with terrestrial archives, both natural archives (e.g. 14C in trees and 10Be in polar ice as solar activity proxies, or 60Fe in the ocean crust indicating a nearby supernova) and historical archives (e.g. observations recorded in previous centuries to millennia). Written records from all civilizations offer high temporal and spatial resolution, e.g. for aurora observations to reconstruct solar activity. It is essential to correctly understand the historical reports, which are written texts in old to ancient languages, using a different terminology. True understanding means considering intentions of the authors, possible narratives and hidden quotations, etc.



  • Understanding historical records from different cultures
  • Criteria to classify naked-eye observations (e.g. aurorae, comets, sunspots, halo displays) 
  • Reconstruction of solar activity for the past millennia with telescopic and naked-eye sunspots
    as well as aurorae (possibly also with solar-wind-blown comet tails) 
  • Small solar system bodies (comets, meteors, and their connection) 
  • Earth rotation and moon orbit acceleration from historical eclipses and other occultations 
  • Historical novae and supernovae (possibly also SN impostors, kilo-novae, etc.) 
  • Input from astronomy to other disciplines such as history, chronology, geophysics, etc.



Abstract list for FM5
Poster list for FM5

Monday, 20. Aug.

Understanding historical Observations to study Transients – Essentials
room: E2
10:30 - Welcome
10:35 - Neuhäuser, Ralph (What is Terra-Astronomy? An introduction)
11:00 - Griffin, Elizabeth (Applying historical observations to study transient phenomena)
11:14 - Mikayelyan, Gor (Using Byurakan Plate Archive records for revelation of transient objects) 
11:20 - Zotti, Georg (Changes in the Unchangeable: Simulation of Transient Astronomical Phenomena with Stellarium)
11:30 - Chapman, Jesse (Ambiguity, Scope, and Significance: Difficulties in Interpreting Celestial Phenomena in Chinese Records)

Proxies from the Past to study Solar Activity Variations
room: E2
13:30 - Clette, Frédéric (Revisiting the historical sunspot number back to 1610: latest progresses)
13:50 - Vaquero, José Manuel (The solar observations during the Maunder minimum: recent advances)
14:15 - Arlt, Rainer (The Maunder minimum of solar activity as documented by historical sunspot observations)
14:30 - Neuhäuser, Dagmar L. (Aurora catalogs revisited – with a focus on European records from the Early Modern Period)


Tuesday, 21. Aug.

Studies of the Historical Carrington Event and Historical records to study Transients
room: E2
10:30 - Short Introduction by Chairman
10:35 - Lee, Harim (AI-generated magnetogram of the Carrington event in 1859 and the estimation of its Dst value)
10:45 - Hayakawa, Hisashi (Scaling Historical Space Weather Events: Case Studies of Events in 1859 and 1770)
10:55 - Gallego, María Cruz (Great historical events of space weather from Spanish documents: a review)
11:05 - Wagner, Daniel (Reconstructing the geomagnetic field from historical aurorae)
11:15 - Discussion
11:25 - B S, Shylaja (Study of Sanskrit inscriptions of South East Asia as sources of records of celestial events)
11:35 - Hamacher, Duane (Transient astronomical phenomena in Australian Indigenous oral traditions: 65,000 years of oral History)

Historical records to study Transients
room: E2
13:30 - Hunger, Hermann (Cuneiform Descriptions of Transient Phenomena)
14:00 - Thomann, Johannes (An Extended Moonwatch in the Middle East in 860 CE for Determining Empirically a Critical Value for Lunar Crescent Visibility)
14:20 - Gautschy, Rita (First and last visibility of the lunar crescent)
14:35 - Hohenkerk, Catherine (Eclipses and the Earth’s Rotation) 


Wednesday, 22. Aug.

“Guest Star” Records to study Transient Phenomena
room: E2
10:30 - Trimble, Virginia (I,II,III,IV,V – Types of Historical Supernovae and what You, I, and LIGO Might Have Seen)
10:55 - Park, Sangwook (X-ray Ejecta Kinematics in the Remnants of Historical Supernovae 1604 and 1572)
11:15 - Cosci, Matteo (Galileo’s account of Kepler’s supernova (SN1604): a Copernican assessment)
11:35 - Pagnotta, Ashley (Historical Observations of Novae: Guest Stars to Glass Plates (and Beyond))

“Guest Star” Records to study Transient Phenomena
room: E2
13:30 - Ahn, Sang-Hyeon (Historical Meteor outbursts and its parent comets)
13:55 - Zolotova, Nadezhda (What can say observations of comets about the solar wind at the Maunder Minimum?)
14:10 - Mugrauer, Markus (New orbits for perihelion passages of comet 1P/Halley in AD 760 and 837)
14:25 - Short Summary
14:30 - Posch, Thomas (Definition and epistemology of terra astronomy)



  • Sang-Hyeon Ahn, Seoul
  • Aşkin Ankay, Istanbul
  • Dipankar Banerjee, Bangalore
  • James Evans, Puget Sound
  • Lyndsay Fletcher, Glasgow
  • Rita Gautschy, Basel
  • Dagmar Neuhäuser, Jena
  • Ralph Neuhäuser, Jena (co-chair)
  • Thomas Posch, Vienna (co-chair)
  • Brad Schaefer, Baton Rouge
  • John Steele, Providence
  • F. Richard Stephenson, Durham
  • José Vaquero, Badajoz
  • Nikolaus Vogt, Valparaiso
  • Marcus Werner, Kyoto
  • Hamid-Reza Yazdi, Teheran



Ralph Neuhaeuser 


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