New PDF release: Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries

By Govert Schilling

400 years in the past in Middelburg, within the Netherlands, the telescope used to be invented. the discovery unleashed a revolution within the exploration of the universe. Galileo Galilei chanced on mountains at the Moon, spots at the sunlight, and moons round Jupiter. Christiaan Huygens observed info on Mars and earrings round Saturn. William Herschel found a brand new planet and mapped binary stars and nebulae. different astronomers made up our minds the distances to stars, unraveled the constitution of the Milky manner, and found the growth of the universe. And, as telescopes turned greater and extra robust, astronomers delved deeper into the mysteries of the cosmos. In his Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries, astronomy journalist Govert Schilling tells the tale of four hundred years of telescopic astronomy. He appears on the a hundred most vital discoveries because the invention of the telescope.

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He is jealous and suspicious, lays claim to other people’s inventions, and becomes embroiled in a heated argument with Isaac Newton about who first developed the theory of gravity. His sharp eyesight stands him in good stead in May 1664; the planet Jupiter is in the constellation Sagittarius and does not rise high above the horizon. The image is unclear, but Hooke sees a spot on the planet and determines Jupiter’s rotational period at ten hours. A year later the same spot is described by Jean-Dominique Cassini.

Over several days in December they measure the position of Gamma Draconis, which proves to vary somewhat. In March 1726 the star reaches its most southerly position in the sky; six months later it is forty arcseconds more to the north. But this cannot be caused by the parallax; the star is shifting in the wrong direction. Bradley and Molyneux do not understand it at all. Is there perhaps a slight, periodical shift in the Earth’s axis? If so, a star on the other side of the celestial pole would show the same change in the opposite direction.

Research into the dynamics of the ring system also provides insights into other flat, rotating structures in the universe, such as spiral galaxies and gas and dust disks around stars which may in the future evolve into planets. The giant planets Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also have ring systems, but they are by no means as majestic as the one around Saturn. This ringed planet has become an icon of astronomy, as familiar as a five-pointed star or a crescent moon; Christiaan Huygens would have been delighted.

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