Thursday, January 14, 2010

1610 Gallileo And His Earth Shattering Discovery of Moons Orbiting Jupiter

I have been very ill as of late and did not get a blog out last week. A sinus+ an ear infection will do that to a blogger. I feel Oh so much better. So with all that aside, let's get cracking !!!

400 years ago in Italy there was a discovery made that rocked the foundations of the church, science, even the calendar industry! Jupiter had moons and they were in orbit around Jupiter. Now I know you might be thinking OK so what Why is that a big deal? 400 years ago for most folks on this planet everything and I do mean everything revolved around the Earth. Sun all planets you name it, it had a path that traveled around the third rock from the Sun. Earth had a fixed position in the heavens.

There had been many scientists of their day that did measurements of the whole geocentric system but kept coming up with problems like retrograde motion (planets that seem to move backwards for a time then continue their orbit) or changing of brightness at opposition. To answer these big ole head exploding problems, Tycho Brahe came up with a crazily complex set of epicycles for each offending item in the geocentric system This system was even more complex than Ptolemy's original Geocentric system complete with epicycles. The only thing that really did was just present more questions. Here is the deal folks. The church had the geocentric system firmly entrenched in there core beliefs so it pretty much boiled down to "Never let the facts get in the way of what you believe" And that was the way the church looked at the universe.

It would take a miracle to change that way of thinking. Say like if Someone discovered moons orbiting something other than the Earth... Ah you start to get the picture now of what a pivotal moment it was for Science. Now if you are Galileo what do you do after making this discovery? Before you answer that Let me point out the church had just burned someone at the stake for spreading that Heretical idea of a Heliocentric (Sun centered system). Even Copernicus was excommunicated from the church for proposing it many years earlier. So now with full knowledge of what might happen . Galileo published the findings anyway!

The real question here is did the church take notice of the discovery? As a matter of fact they did and they were less than pleased with the findings the point that the church said Galileo's observations are wrong. He is using a wildly inaccurate instrument. The church deep down knew it was only a matter of time until the science would come to the fore front. Scientist like Copernicus would be vindicated and scientists like Tycho Brahe would be left in the dust with their decades of incorrect calculations. Wow, that had to be devastating to Tycho. The only solace he might have had was to tell folks that guy over there Johannes Kepler was a student of mine.

That leaves one question for this week unanswered Why did the Calendar industries world get rocked? Here is a really good bit of trivia for you. Simon Marius discovered the moons of Jupiter on December 29th 1609 and Galileo discovered the moons on January 7th 1610. So why did Galileo get the credit? They did not use the same calendar! Galileo used the Gregorian Calendar while Marius used the Julian calendar. The Julian date would coincide with the 8th of Jan.1610. Simon wrote in his book that he had actually looked at Jupiter in November of 1609 and had seen the moons but did not draw anything Unfortunately for Simon, that observation was unrecorded. Do you think Simon Marius had any regrets?

Until next time,
Clear skies and great seeing too

Steve T


  1. The Catholic Church has only recently apologised for its treatment of Galileo.

    About time that they realised he was right after all.

  2. I don't think it was Tycho Brahe that came up with the epicycles and defferents... that goes all the way back to Ptolemy in ancient Greece. Although I'm not sure what his position was, Brahe took the observations that led Kepler to his three laws of planetary motion.

  3. Ptolomey did indeed come up with the first round of Epicycles and I should have posted that also Tycho Brahe took Ptolomey's geo centric system and tweaked it into what was known as a Tychonic system which was even more complex than Ptolemy's system He mixed in Heracles system in there but maintained that the Earth was static. Thanks for pointing that out I condensed it too much I guess!

  4. Nicole I went ahead and made it more clear. Thanks for the feedback!

  5. I think there is a lot of controversy surrounding the roles played by Ptolomey, Galileo and Tycho Brahe. What probably matters more is the end result...the earth was no longer flat and we were not at the center of the solar system.