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Athanasius Kircher, Iter exstaticum (Würzburg, 1660)

Ecstatic Journey through the Heavens

Six chief world systems were debated in Galileo’s world, some geocentric and some heliocentric.  The six systems, as they appeared side-by-side in a book by Athanasius Kircher in 1660, are as follows:

  • Ptolemaic: Upper left. All planets revolve around the central Earth. Geocentric.
  • Platonic: Upper right.  Like the Ptolemaic, except the positions of Venus and Mercury are switched. Geocentric.
  • Cappellan or Egyptian: Center left.  Venus and Mercury revolve around the Sun. Otherwise geocentric.
  • Tychonic: Center right.  All planets revolve around the Sun. The Sun in turn revolves around the Earth. The Earth and Moon are not planets.
  • Semi-Tychonic: Lower left.  Like the Tychonic, except Jupiter and Saturn revolve around the Earth.
  • Copernican: Lower right.  All planets revolve around the Sun. The Earth is a planet. The Moon is a satellite and not a planet. Heliocentric.

Galileo's World Exhibition Location

Source: History of Science Collections

Section: Systems of the World

Section Number: 1

Object Number: 1

Subject Area(s): Astronomy, Philosophy, Mathematics

Time Period: 17th Century

Region(s): Europe, Germany

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Exhibit Gallery OERs

Phases of Venus: Riccioli, New Almagest

Phases of Venus-Riccioli

The phases of Venus were an item of discussion in early modern Europe as scientists sought to determine whether it was evidence of the heliocentric system. Yet among the scientists it was anything but conclusive that this evidence proved the sun-centered universe. Learn more in this learning leaflet.


Six Cosmological Systems: Phases of Venus

Kircher-Cosmological Systems-Venus

It is often thought that Galileo's discovery of the phases of venus demonstrated the contested heliocentric model of the universe. However, such an understanding is overly simplistic of the early modern account of astronomy. Use this learning leaflet to learn more.


Elisabeth Hevelius: Observational Astronomer

Elisabeth Hevelius Learning Leaflet

How does the Sextant symbolize the person who worked on the famed Hevelius star catalog and star atlas throughout its production, from observation to publication? 

Elisabeth Hevelius, wife of Johann Hevelius, was an astronomer in her own right. They worked together in the observatory of their Gdansk home to measure angular widths and distances with a great sextant, which required two observers at a time. The Sextant was among the new constellations they proposed in Uranographia (1690), the most detailed and influential celestial atlas of the 17th century. The Uranographia contains 54 beautiful double page engraved plates of 73 constellations, and 2 oversized folding plates of planispheres.