How did ancient people use the stars and planets?


People have been completely fascinated with the stars in the night sky throughout various cultures for thousands of years. Even before astrologists even really understood what stars and planets were and how they differed, astrologers were already observing the changes occurring in the moon and sun. They were also making observations about the constellations occurring in the sky. During ancient times, the planets and stars were used for several purposes.


For one, they used stars and planets in order to develop calendars. As early as 5,000 years ago, astronomers explored the changes occurring in the moon and sun. They saw patterns within the sun rising and setting, as well as in the position and shape of the moon on different evenings. Most cultures gradually created calendars which were based off the sun and moon movements. When the sun would rise, it marked the start of a new day, and when the sun would set, the day was ending.  And when the moon was full, it signaled that a month had passed and a new one started.

Another way in which the stars and planets were used in ancient times was to create stories. In ancient civilizations, they would make stories that were based on the shapes of the constellations in the stars. Sometimes they appeared similar to people, objects or animals.   People would make these astronomical observations and these stories were in fact carved into stone caves. This practice dates all the way back to 30, 000 years ago.


Stars and planets were also used by ancient people in order to determine global position. Ancient sailors would use the stars to guide them at sea. Astronomers of the time understood that certain constellations, for example, the Big Dipper, were only to be seen from the north of the sky, and knowing this allowed travelers to know which direction to head.

Ancient people also used stars and planets to predict the future. Astrological signs were created by early astronomers in ancient Babylon. Astronomers would keep note of the movements and paths of the planets, and it was believed that following the planet’s movement could, in fact, tell the future.