The Works of Galileo

Starry Messenger (1610)

Uncountable stars

With the telescope Galileo discovered vast numbers of unsuspected stars. On this page (Figure 1) he shows 36 new stars around the original six of the Pleiades. Most significantly, the stars appear small, not as enlarged globes, like planets. Therefore all stars may be much farther away than was previously believed. How plausible then is it that such an immense, and vastly thick, sphere of stars rotates every 24 hours around a tiny central, stationary Earth? Moreover, with this confirmation that the stars are indeed farther away than was thought, the absence of observable stellar parallax was no longer a valid objection to Copernicanism.

“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).

Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Galileo, 1610. Pleiades.

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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder, with the assistance of , Marilyn B. Ogilvie, Duane H. D. Roller.

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