2009 Year of Astronomy
2009 Year of Astronomy.pdf
This move, supported by the RAS (see the letter From the Executive Secretar4.doc to the UK Permanent Representative to UNESCO), will strengthen the case for its adoption by the UN General Assembly.
2009 has been selected since it marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo turning his telescope on the skies and thereafter contributing enormously not only to knowledge about astronomy but to humanity itself.
In May 1609, Galileo received a letter telling him about a spyglass made by a Dutchman.From these reports, and using his own technical skills as a mathematician and as a craftsman, Galileo began to make his own telescopes.By August 1609 he had an instrument with a magnification of around eight or nine. With this and other instruments, some have claimed, he made more discoveries that changed the world than anyone before him.
His astronomical discoveries were described in a short book called the Starry Messenger published in Venice in May 1610. This work caused a sensation. Galileo claimed to have seen mountains on the Moon, to have proved the Milky Way was made up of stars, and to have seen four small bodies orbiting Jupiter.
In 1616 the Inquisition formally condemned Copernicus's heliocentric universe; however 16 years later Galileo publicly supported this position in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World - Ptolemaic and Copernican, leading to the charge of heresy and to his subsequent punishment (and it was only in 1992 that Pope John Paul declared the Galileo case 'closed').