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

Starry Messenger

Galileo inaugurated the era of telescopic stellar astronomy by discovering vast numbers of unsuspected stars. In the Starry Messenger, on one star chart he showed 36 new stars around the original six of the Pleiades, and on another, 80 new stars near the belt and sword of Orion.  

Uncountable stars might exist, located much farther away than was previously believed.  On the old assumption of solid crystalline spheres, these discoveries required the outermost “sphere of stars” to be unimaginatively immense and implausibly thick.  Aristotelians would now have to explain how such an immense and thick sphere of stars could 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: Space

Section Number: 4

Object Number: 17

Subject Area(s): Astronomy

Time Period: 17th Century

Region(s): Europe, Italy

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Constellation tubes | Six constellations

Six constellations

Identify six common constellations by their star patterns.

Urania's Mirror was a set of 32 constellation cards designed to aid in identifying the constellations by distinguishing between star patterns and constellation figures. This set includes six constellations, selected so that at least one of them is visible (in the northern hemisphere) at any time of the year. Holes punched in the positions of bright stars allow one to hold any card up to a light and compare the star pattern with the constellation figure.

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Coma Berenices Learning Leaflet

Coma Berenices Learning Leaflet

Coma Berenices is the only one of the modern 88 official constellations named after a historical figure. It represents the hair of Berenice, Queen of Egypt (267 221 BCE), who reigned with Ptolemy III Euergetes. Learn more about this in this learning leaflet.


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Urania's Mirror: Constellation Cards

Urania's Mirror Learning Leaflet

What are your favorite constellations?

Urania's Mirror was a set of constellation cards designed to aid in the teaching and learning of constellations. This set includes 32 cards, each focused upon one or a few constellations. Holes punched in the positions of bright stars allow one to hold any card up to a light and compare the star pattern with the constellation figure.

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