In synch with the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), which marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's discoveries, a group of astronomers and curators from the Arcetri Observatory and the Institute and Museum of the History of Science, both in Florence, Italy, are recreating the kind of telescope and conditions that led to Galileo's world-changing observations, reports January's Physics World.
Astronomers will be using the recreated apparatus to catalogue all the objects recorded in Galileo's 'Sidereus Nuncius' (or, in English, "Starry Messenger"), the treatise that Galileo published in 1610 which included many of his early observations.
The team has already observed the Moon and Saturn and are now recording images of Jupiter's moons and the phases of Venus, both of which provided crucial evidence to confirm the heliocentric hypothesis and prove that the Earth is not the centre of the Universe.
To recreate the apparatus, the team undertook a painstaking investigation of the nature of the lens of a telescope given to Galileo's patron, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II, in 1610. That work involved measuring the shape and refractive index of the lens, and using X-ray fluorescence to determine the condition of the glass. The group now plans to put the images seen by the telescope online. Sadly, the team has not been able to build a replica of the telescope actually used by Galileo to make the observations reported in Sidereus Nuncius as only one lens of that instrument survives.
The project, however, is more ambitious than just recreating one of Galileo's telescopes. The ultimate aim is to catch what Galileo himself might have seen. It is known that Galileo died blind and the researchers are keen to open Galileo's tomb to retrieve DNA and diagnose his optical affliction in order to create conditions that resemble looking through Galileo's very own eyes. At present, though, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Florence, where the tomb lies, is refusing the researchers access to Galileo's remains.
This project is just one of many activities being undertaken by professional and amateur astronomers during the International Year of Astronomy 2009.
This month's Physics World also describes highlights from some of the events due in 2009, including IYA 2009's opening ceremony at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; GLOBE at night, a fortnight in March devoted to recording the magnitude of visible stars to measure light pollution in locations around the globe; and early April's 100 Hours of Astronomy, hoping to encourage as many people as possible to pick up a telescope and observe the stars just as Galileo did 400 years ago.
Also in the January edition of Physics World:
The ability to predict earthquakes could save thousands of lives every year, but for most scientists it is a pipedream. Jon Cartwright tells the story of one physicist who believes that earthquake warnings will soon be possible.
Artificial and natural shock waves can cause incredible damage and havoc, so a better understanding of the physics of shocks could save lives – or even the entire planet. Neil Bourne describes the common thread connecting antiterrorism measures, desk toys and the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Joe Winters | EurekAlert!
Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation
19.01.2018 | Carnegie Institution for Science
Artificial agent designs quantum experiments
19.01.2018 | Universität Innsbruck
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy