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400 Years of the Telescope – Edinburgh September 20, 2008

Posted by astroed in : Astronomy , trackback

I’m now on a tour of Europe with a group of Australian astronomy enthusiasts. We are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first recorded public demonstration of the telescope by spending 18 days travelling to sites associated with the early history of the this amazing invention. The tour is led by renowned astronomer and public face of astronomy in Australia, Professor Fred Watson, Astronomer-in-Charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Coonabarabran. He wrote a book about these very events, Stargazer, a few years ago.

Annotated page of Copernicus' work.

As we journey around Europe over the next few weeks I hope to post as many entries a I can about the trip. I was inspired to write this and post some accompanying questions for school students by a dynamic teacher from Queensland, Charlotte Pezaro, who I met recently at CONASTA. Her class and another one in Texas will hopefully follow our journey. As time is tight on the trip I intend to post some more detailed articles here once I get back to Australia.

Our tour started in Edinburgh in Scotalnd on Thursday 18 September. On the Friday we journeyed up onto Blackford Hill, three kilometers south of the centre of Edinburgh to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.
The Royal Observatory Edinburgh is home to one of the world’s great collections  of early astronomical books. The Crawford Collection was gifted to the nation by the 26th Earl of Crawford in 1888 and contains over 15,000 items. Gems include a first edition of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus that was owned and annotated by by Erasmus Reinholdus, Professor of Astronomy at Wittenburg. Many experts regard this as the most important copy in existence as Erasmus’ comments give us an insight into how Copernicus’ ideas were received in the early days.

First editions of Newton\'s Principae and Galileo\'s Sidereus nuncius.

We were privileged to have access to the collection’s gems. The Librarian in charge of the collection, Karen Moran, discussed some of the Sidereus nuncius, Newton’s Principae and Halley’s synopsis on comets.

Today’s Questions:

What was the most important idea in Copernicus’ work?

Why was the development of printing books important to the spread of new astronomical ideas?


# Charlotte P - September 20, 2008

Brilliant, Rob – can’t wait til the kids get back to school for this!

# 5C - October 14, 2008

What was the most important idea in Copernicus’ work?
The most important idea was that the sun is in the centre of the solar system and all the planets orbit around it in circles.

Why was the development of printing books important to the spread of new astronomical ideas?
Now lots of people could access the ideas faster. Information didn’t change in passing (like the whispers game) – everyone got the same information very quickly.