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Moon Space Science

Mapping the Moon Before Galileo 60

ClockEndGooner writes "The BBC has posted an interesting piece on a British contemporary of Galileo who observed the surface of the moon and drew up a more complete set of lunar maps before the much celebrated Florentine. The first lunar cartographer, Thomas Harriot, who also made an early visit to the Jamestown colony in Virginia, observed the moon with an early telescope and mapped his observations five months before Galileo. Noted British astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore, is quoted in the article: 'I'm sorry Harriot isn't better known over here... after all, we all know Galileo. But Harriot was first... and his map of the Moon is better than Galileo's.' Harriot's achievement may not have been as well known, since he deliberately kept a low profile as two of his friends were imprisoned in the Tower of London for political crimes."
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Mapping the Moon Before Galileo

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:34PM (#26453821)

    Thomas Harriot did draw the moon using a telescope a few months before Galileo.

    This is his interpretation of what he saw through his telescope:

    Galileo's interpretation:

    " But Harriot was first... and his map of the Moon is better than Galileo's"

    Umm. Galileo was an artist as well as a scientist and very good at Chiaroscuro artwork. He could visualize what he was seeing through the telescope. Even Harriot after seeing Galileo's pictures in Sidereus Nuncius took another look through his telescope, and guess what his next drawings were suspiciously similar to Galileo's :)

  • Re:And...? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @03:42PM (#26453953)

    It seems to me that you're misreading ignorance into Moore's words. (You do know who he is, right?)

    All he says is that he's sorry Harriot isn't better known over here. It's a bit of an english idiom for 'more widely known' but if Moore had meant 'better known than Gallileo', or even 'better known than Gallileo for this particular job' he'd have said it. I'd imagine he's quite aware of Gallileo's other achievements.

  • Re:The reason why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @05:17PM (#26455589) Homepage
    Really, Galileo got in trouble with the Church not because they were "wackjob creationists" but rather because of a) violating certain (obsolete) teaching standards at his university - a small tragedy, but you probably would be skeptical if you were the dean and one of your physics profs started going on about the electric universe or cold fusion too - and more importantly b) he wrote a book which poked fun at important people who were wrong and called them stupid by proxy, thereby insulting the honor of important political figures (i.e. the Pope, who really should have been a step or two above typical 17th-century Italian politics but apparently wasn't).

    I think there's more of a Science-and-Politics lesson here than a Science-and-Religion one. Of course, neither the anti-religious lobbies nor the Protestant lobby really figure they have much to gain by going into detail and making distinctions beyond calling "Galileo!" (galileo, figaro) whenever it's convenient. People might actually learn something about history if they did that, or even Society. We wouldn't want that to happen, would we now?

  • Re:And...? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shellbeach ( 610559 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @06:37PM (#26456939)

    If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it...

    Galileo stuck his neck out for his views and incurred the wrath of the Church. Of course his achievement would be better known than that of someone who was keeping a low profile.

    But Galileo's observations of the moon had nothing to do with his (much later) encounter with the inquisition. In fact, after Galileo published his telescopic observations of the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and various stars in 1610, he was feted by the Pope and the Jesuit College as a scientific hero. (The first friction between Galileo and the church occurred six years later, in 1616; but the real trouble -- when he was hauled before the inquisition -- didn't start until 1631.) The issue here is the old scientific game of "who did what first".

    That said, this really isn't news; Harriot's 1609 unpublished maps have been known about for years.

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