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Galileo, Sidereus nuncius (Venice, 1610), photograph of starfields

Starry Messenger

With the telescope Galileo discovered vast numbers of unsuspected stars. On one page he shows 36 new stars around the original six of the Pleiades, and on another, 80 new stars near the belt and sword of Orion. 

What if uncountable stars might exist, much farther away than was previously believed? How plausible would it be for an immense and vastly thick sphere of stars to rotate every 24 hours around a tiny central, stationary Earth?

“For the Galaxy is nothing else than a congeries of innumerable stars distributed in clusters. To whatever region of it you direct your spyglass, an immense number of stars immediately offer themselves to view, of which very many appear rather large and very conspicuous but the multitude of small ones is truly unfathomable.” Galileo, Sidereus Nuncius, trans. Albert Van Helden (University of Chicago, 1989)

Galileo's World Exhibition Location

Source: History of Science Collections

Section: Galileo and the Telescope

Section Number: 5

Object Number: 5

Subject Area(s): Astronomy, Art, Mathematics

Time Period: 17th Century

Region(s): Europe, Italy

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Exhibit Gallery OERs

Art and Astronomy Walking Tour

Art and Astronomy Walking Tour

“What was it like when art and astronomy were intertwined?”

Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Lorenzo Sirigatti, Galileo... what joins them together?  Why is Galileo's Starry Messenger (1610) displayed alongside Giorgio Vasari's Lives of Eminent Painters and Sculptors

Galileo’s scientific discoveries occurred in the context of a specific artistic culture which possessed sophisticated mathematical techniques for drawing with linear perspective and handling light and shadow.

Do you know someone who received a telescope for Christmas? There's no better way to begin looking through a telescope than to ponder the way Galileo's professional training as an artist prepared him to make his astronomical discoveries.

In the Galileo’s World exhibition, four galleries took their point of departure from Galileo’s Starry Messenger (Sidereus nuncius, 1610):  
• Galileo and Perspective Drawing  
• Galileo and the Telescope   
• The Moon and the Telescope   
• The Sky at Night

These distinct but overlapping galleries were on physical display in different places and combinations during the course of the Galileo’s World exhibition, most notably at the National Weather Center and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.  Various books from these galleries are part of the current Rotating Display and the "The Sky Tonight reprise" gallery, including Galileo’s Starry Messenger itself.

Use this handout to aid you in you as you walk through the 2017 Rotating Display and The Sky at Night reprise gallery.