Thursday, October 22, 2009

Welcome the Galilean Nights

If you have wanted to see the wonders of the night sky and didn’t have a telescope, now is your chance! Just look around for an astronomy club, planetarium, science museum, or science center in your area. They are sure to be out and about over the next three evenings. From this Thursday evening through Saturday evening (October 22 through 24), amateur and professional astronomers have been asked to observe (pun intended) the “Galilean Nights,” a Cornerstone Project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

Promoted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the “Galilean Nights” is an international project encouraging amateur and professional astronomers, enthusiasts and the public, to head outside and point their telescopes toward the wonders of the night sky that were first observed 400 years ago by revolutionary Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642).

In a coordinated effort, astronomers will share their knowledge and enthusiasm for space by encouraging as many people as possible to look through a telescope at our planetary neighbors. The celestial bodies being emphasized are those that Galileo observed, including Jupiter and the Moon, which will be in good positions for observing.

The planners hope to give hundreds of thousands of people the thrill of looking through an astronomical telescope for the first time. More than 1,000 public events in over 70 countries are participating.

Galileo build his first two-lens telescope in mid-1609 based on the design of German-Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey, who constructed the first telescope in the Netherlands in 1608. Based upon available material, historians estimate that Galileo first his telescope toward the sky in October 1609. His observations eventually led him to discover many things. Galileo discovered the four main satellites of Jupiter. He realized that Earth’s moon was pitted with craters and not a perfect sphere. These and many other discoveries led Galileo to conclude, like polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543), that the Earth revolved around the Sun and not the other way around.

Galileo was tried for heresy by the Vatican and forced to recant. The last ten years of Galileo’s life were spent under house arrest. Thankfully, we today are not subject to the same restrictions of thought, so do something about it. Get out their and see the wonders of the nighttime sky. They are waiting just for you!

To find a “Galilean Nights” event in your area, to learn more about the “Galilean Nights” project, and to learn more about the International Year of Astronomy 2009, check out these links:

Galilean Nights

International Year of Astronomy 2009


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