Chapter 2 — A brief look into the past regarding the Sun-Mars relationship

At this point, let us briefly step back in time and look at the observational work of some eminent astronomers of yore who, unwittingly, indicated that the Sun and Mars are binary companions. Keep in mind that, at the time, none of them knew about the existence of binary star systems.

Firstly, I’d like to show you a page that I scanned from a book titled Indian Mathematics and Astronomy. The book was graciously given to me by its author (as I visited him in Bangalore, India, in April 2016), namely Prof. Balachandra Rao, a now-retired professor of mathematics, astronomy historian and author of several captivating books on ancient Indian astronomy. The page illustrates the planetary model designed by Pathani Samanta, a man rightly heralded as India’s greatest naked-eye astronomer of all times:

As you can see, the two models of Pathani Samanta and Tycho Brahe are quite identical. I have highlighted (in yellow and red) the intersecting orbits of the Sun and Mars which, clearly, are consistent with what we would call today a binary pair.

Since Tycho predated Pathani by more than two centuries, one might suspect some plagiarism at play here. However, it appears to be well-documented that Pathani Samanta (who published a monumental work in Sanskrit, the “Sidhanta Darpana”) reached his conclusions through his very own observations and ingenuity, working in semi-seclusion and with little or no contact with the Western world for most of his lifetime. I find it most unlikely that Samanta simply plagiarized Brahe’s work.

Conversely, one might then just as well suspect Brahe of having “plagiarized” some ideas from another illustrious Indian astronomer/mathematician. Namely, Nilakantha Somayaji (1444-1544) who, in turn, predated Brahe by a century or so. So let’s leave this at that, and instead ask ourselves a far more interesting question implied by these identical models:

“How and why did such diverse astronomers, after lifetimes of painstaking research, eventually reach such strikingly similar conclusions, independently of each other?”

Furthermore, as we take a closer look at them, there is one thing in both illustrations that intuitively appears to be missing. If you are game, please pause your reading for one minute and before reading on ask yourself: what geometric shape (that should logically be there) is absent in both of the above planetary models? Give it a good thought and continue reading when inspired to do so.

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