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Francesco Fontana, Novae coelestium terrestriumq[ue] rerum observationes (Naples, 1646)

New Celestial and Terrestrial Observations

Inspired by Galileo, Fontana constructed his own telescope, improving the optics. Around 1629 he began a series of detailed sketches of the face of the Moon. A series of 28 copperplate engravings reveal the Moon’s surface as perceived on different dates, as well as a fold-out lunar map. 26 woodcuts depict the planets and stars, including Saturn and the phases of Venus. 

Fontana’s telescope viewed the Moon upside down and reversed. Dark regions appear in the lower half. Small craters are scattered almost randomly throughout the bright regions at the top (known today as the “mountainous highlands”). Fontana added a notable crater (C) known today as “Tycho”. Another crater (D) appears in the middle right (known today as “Copernicus”); just below and to the right are craters now known as Kepler and Aristarchus. A ray from C (“Tycho”) runs to crater H (today “Hercules” or “Posidonius”), on the edge of the dark region known today as the Sea of Serenity.

Two craters are now named after Fontana; one on the Moon and one on Mars.

Galileo's World Exhibition Location

Source: History of Science Collections

Section: The Moon and the Telescope

Section Number: 1

Object Number: 3

Subject Area(s): Astronomy, Art

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.