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405th Anniversary of Galileo’s Telescope

From The Huffington Post

Four hundred five years ago this week, Galileo Galilei demonstrated his new telescope to members of the Venetian senate in the Plaza San Marco. This presentation on Aug. 25, 1609, marks the birth of the astronomical telescope and the launching of a scientific revolution.

It is fitting that Galileo’s telescope was unveiled in Venice, the cradle of glass making. In the 15th century master glass makers from Murano Island, off the coast of Venice, discovered the process for producing clear glass and opened the door to the production of lenses — curved, transparent glass shapes that magnify the objects behind them.

In 1608 Dutch lens maker Hans Lippershey filed a patent for the telescope, an instrument “for seeing things far away as if they were nearby.” The following year Galileo improved on Lippershey’s techniques to create the first truly useful telescope. Its front, or “objective,” lens was only 36 millimeters in diameter, and the images that it made were blurry by today’s standards.

The great innovation that Galileo made, however, was not just improving the telescope but putting it to new uses.

Rather than peering at distant buildings or people, Galileo trained his telescope on the heavens. What he saw changed the world. Galileo’s telescope revealed the moons of Jupiter and their motion around the giant planet, the phases of Venus as it orbits the Sun, craters on the Moon and blemishes on the surface of the Sun, two bodies previously thought to be the embodiments of geometric perfection.

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