THIS DAY IN HISTORY JANUARY 7 1610 : Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s four moons.

During this month in 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo made the earthshaking discoveries that four moons revolve around Jupiter and that the telescope reveals many more stars than are visible to the naked eye.

in full  Galileo Galilei  Italian natural philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician who made fundamental contributions to the sciences of motion, astronomy, and strength of materials and to the development of the scientific method. His formulation of (circular) inertia, the law of falling bodies, and parabolic trajectories marked the beginning of a fundamental change in the study of motion. His insistence that the book of nature was written in the language of mathematics changed natural philosophy from a verbal, qualitative account to a mathematical one in which experimentation became a recognized method for discovering the facts of nature. Finally, his discoveries with the telescope revolutionized astronomy and paved the way for the acceptance of the Copernican heliocentric system, but his advocacy of that system eventually resulted in an Inquisition process against him.

The telescope is undoubtedly the most important investigative tool in astronomy. It provides a means of collecting and analyzing radiation from celestial objects, even those in the far reaches of the universe.

Galileo revolutionized astronomy when he applied the telescope to the study of extraterrestrial bodies in the early 17th century. Until then, magnification instruments had never been used for this purpose. Since Galileo’s pioneering work, increasingly more powerful optical telescopes have been developed, as has a wide array of instruments capable of detecting and measuring invisible forms of radiation, such as radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray telescopes. Observational capability has been further enhanced by the invention of various kinds of auxiliary instruments (e.g., the camera, spectrograph, and charge-coupled device) and by the use of electronic computers, rockets, and spacecraft in conjunction with telescope systems. These developments have contributed dramatically to advances in scientific knowledge about the solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the universe as a whole.

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