The Sidereal Messenger1

memorable year: July 1609. The setting: Venice. The astronomer: Galileo Galilei.

The challenge: Viewing distant objects as if nearby; the design of the very first telescopes.

Galileo Galilei was born in 1564 at Pisa (Figure 1). Galileo began his studies in medicine at the University of Pisa, but soon left those studies, preferring mathematics with Ostilio Ricci. In 1592 he secured the chair of mathematics at Padua.

Telescopes, in the form of low-magnification spyglasses, were being made since the autumn of 1608. In 1609, Galileo was in Venice, when he heard of an invention that allowed distant objects to be seen as distinctly as if they were nearby.

It was in October 1608 that a spectacle-maker by name of Hans Lipperhey, born in Germany, but who spent most of his life in Zeeland (the Netherlands) had already applied for a patent (which was actually refused). When Galileo heard of this new instrument he set about designing and making improved versions, with higher magnifications.

The Sidereus Nuncius (or, "The Sidereal Messenger") represents Galileo Galilei's first publication regarding the Grand Stage Before Us, through the eyes of his recently designed telescopes ... Some of the richness and grandeur which the night sky revealed through Galileo's telescopes, including telescopic views of the Moon, multitudes of stars undetected by the naked eye as well as the discovery of four bright moons ("wandering stars") orbiting the planet Jupiter, are poignantly described in his Sidereus Nuncius. The Grand Stage Before Us

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