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Sidereus Nuncius by Galileo Galilei, 1610

Here in his own hand is Galileo’s 1610 discovery of Jupiter’s four "satellites," a term first used by Kepler later that same year in support of Galileo’s discovery. Along with his observations that the Moon was not a perfect sphere but had mountains and craters, his discovery challenged the geocentric Aristotelian world-view that everything above was perfect and incorruptible. This in turn supported Copernicus’ blasphemous theory that the Moon went around the Earth and the Earth around the Sun. A 2000 year-old idea was finally being tested by observation! A translation of Galileo’s Latin text for the title page of his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger) follows:


"I should disclose and publish to the world the occasion of discovering and observing four Planets, never seen from the beginning of the world up to our own times, their positions, and the observations made during the last two months about their movements and their changes of magnitude; and I summon all astronomers to apply themselves to examine and determine their periodic times, which it has not been permitted me to achieve up to this day . . . On the 7th day of January in the present year, 1610, in the first hour of the following night, when I was viewing the constellations of the heavons through a telescope, the planet Jupiter presented itself to my view, and as I had prepared for myself a very excellent instrument, I noticed a circumstance which I had never been able to notice before, namely that three little stars, small but very bright, were near the planet; and although I believed them to belong to a number of the fixed stars, yet they made me somewhat wonder, because they seemed to be arranged exactly in a straight line, parallel to the ecliptic, and to be brighter than the rest of the stars, equal to them in magnitude . . .When on January 8th, led by some fatality, I turned again to look at the same part of the heavens, I found a very different state of things, for there were three little stars all west of Jupiter, and nearer together than on the previous night."

"I therefore concluded, and decided unhesitatingly, that there are three stars in the heavens moving about Jupiter, as Venus and Mercury around the Sun; which was at length established as clear as daylight by numerous other subsequent observations. These observations also established that there are not only three, but four, erratic sidereal bodies performing their revolutions around Jupiter."

Sidereus Nuncius by Galileo Galilei


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