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Johann Hevelius, Annus climactericus (Gdansk, 1685)

The Climactic Year

In astrology, a “climactic year” marks a turning point, a moment of greatest risk. The preface explains that 1679 was Hevelius’ climactic year, for in that year his observatory burned. Fire destroyed many manuscripts, books, and instruments, including the sextant. He was 67 years old. After his death six years later, his wife and fellow astronomer Elisabeth published the star catalog and celestial atlas.

Galileo's World Exhibition Location

Source: History of Science Collections

Section: Comets

Section Number: 2

Object Number: 25

Subject Area(s): Astronomy, Scientific Instruments, Women and Science

Time Period: 17th Century

Region(s): Europe, Poland

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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.