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Mooning

Timocharis

Dave North


 

Some of you may have noticed my website domain, timocharis.com, and probably wondered "why that name?"

There are a lot of reasons, one of which is it's ten letters long. But we'll get to that.

The most important thing about it is: it's a crater on the Moon. About medium sized, and prior to my adoption of the name, not usually the object of much attention.

Okay, it's not my fault that it's much more well-known now — that credit goes to Michael Light, who for some reason chose a lunar orbiter photo of Timocharis (the crater) to transform into one of the most beautiful selenophotographic portraits ever published. You can see it in his outstanding Full Moon, which does not require any particular familiarity or affinity with the Moon to appreciate.

Should you wish to look for yourself, it's the prominent crater in southeastern Mare Imbrium. Very well-formed and relatively fresh, so you can study the terraces on its walls in good seeing.

Still, I'm embarrassed to say, when I google "timocharis" the first two references are to my web pages, and not the ancient astronomer for whom the crater was named (so maybe I can claim some of the credit for the fame after all! Oh, my home page is only the second reference: the first is the page about my 12.5-inch telescope, probably because of the link from Ray Cash's excellent website on dobs of all sorts — http://members.aol.com/raycash/sidewalk.htm).

Like a lot of dead people, he was Greek. Around 300-290 b.c. or so, he was the prime mover in creating the first star catalog. Ever. (He got some help from Aristillus, but it's generally considered his baby.)

That appealed to me a lot. It's one thing to think up all manner of clever things, but it's another to have the sense to write them down. In his case, all the stars he could see, plotted as accurately as he could.

I'm sure at the time this seemed silly and maybe even wasteful, though it's hard to say: those old Greeks were a lot more inquisitive than we seem to be, generally, so maybe it just made sense at the time.

It turned out to be pretty important, though he didn't live to see why: about 150 years later, Hipparchus decided to "check his work" and determined that the longitude of the stars had changed! This led to his discovery of the precession of the equinoxes, which was critical in developing the science of astronomy.

So the most important thing Timocharis did was make notes about everything he saw, allowing others to use the records to develop science further.

At the time I adopted the name, I was doing a whole lot of that kind of thing, certainly without the same degree of effect, but we emulate those we admire, not those we equal.

But wait, there's more! This guy had two firsts (or three, if you like irony...) He was the first person to study Mercury; record it as a phenomenon and describe its behavior. Well, sort of. Fact is, he thought it was two different planets (which he named Apollo — near the sun — and Hermes. That, of course, is Mercury if you're Julius Caesar. Eventually somebody noticed they were the same planet, and settled on the Hermes name.)

For obscure reasons, it's believed he committed suicide by starvation. This is just a footnote I found, and I have no idea whether it's accurate. Or if it is, why he might have done such a thing.

I have no similar plans.

So there you have it. There really isn't that much known about the guy, and certainly there have been other, greater astronomers.

But the thing that attracted me to him (other than the fact that I liked the crater) was his "firstness." There were others who wrote on astronomy before him (including Pythagoras) and even Hipparchus was more important (he stuck to the facts more than previous "philosophers").

And that other thing: the ten-letter name.

Fact is, I first started using the name when I was casting about for yet another "handle" for AOL, back when I used to take advantage of all their free CDs.

The maximum allowable string in those days was ten letters, and I considered numbers cheating.

By some oddity, I've managed to hold on to that name since then, only paying for a few months on AOL (and yeah, I still hold it, but don't send any email since I almost never check it).

And that's the story of Timocharis!

Oh yeah ... if you want to see my scope, just google "timocharis".

 


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