Thursday, August 25

King of night vision, king of insight

As I'm sure you know, every good spy (or pirate) has to have a telescope.

But did you know Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei made a telescope with about 3x magnification (based upon vague descriptions of a telescope invented in the Netherlands in 1608) and demonstrated it to Venetian lawmakers on Aug. 25, 1609?

Galileo later made versions with up to about 30x magnification. His telescopes were a profitable sideline for Galileo who sold them to merchants who found them useful both at sea and as items of trade. With a Galilean telescope (also known as a terrestrial telescope, or spyglass) the observer could see magnified, upright images on the earth.

Galileo could also use it to observe the sky and he published his initial telescopic astronomical observations in March 1610 in a brief treatise entitled Starry Messenger.

He began publicly supporting Copernicanism (or heliocentric view) after 1610, which placed the Sun at the center of the universe, with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics.

In 1633 Galileo was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy for "following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture," and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life where he died on Jan. 8, 1642, at the age of 77.

Galileo has since been called the "father of modern observational astronomy," the "father of modern physics," the "father of science," and "the Father of Modern Science."

Stephen Hawking said, "Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science."

Galileo, I lift my spyglass to thee in a toast.

Perhaps coincidentally, a series of six articles now known as
the Great Moon Hoax were published in the New York Sun beginning on Aug. 25, 1835. The supposed discovery of life and even civilization on the Moon were falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, one of the best-known astronomers at the time. 

Eventually, the authors announced the sun caused the lens to act as a "burning glass," setting fire to the observatory that destroyed the telescope.

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