The Unprecedented Impact of the Telescope

Topics: Sun, Galileo Galilei, Nicolaus Copernicus Pages: 5 (1508 words) Published: December 11, 2011
The Unprecedented Impact of the Telescope
The telescope has had a significant impact on everything related to astronomy and it has changed the world forever. There have been thousands of discoveries made using numerous types of telescopes, and it has enabled us to do things that would have never been possible without it. The telescope has allowed us to see with our own eyes what has always been outside of our world, but there is still much more to be discovered.

People have always been intrigued with the night sky, and it was made much easier when Hans Lippershey, a Dutch spectacle grinder, was experimenting with mirrors and invented the telescope (Dolan 21). Galileo Galilei caught on with the idea of refracting mirrors and published his findings in The Starry Messenger in March 1610 (MacLachlan 45). When his teachings taught that the moon’s surface had mountains and valleys, implying that the moon was not a perfect sphere, it stirred things up and started a domino effect of discoveries to be made about the sky for hundreds of years to come.

Galileo Galilei was not planning to change the view of the universe like he did, and he had no idea that what he discovered would spark such a change in thinking. When he first pointed his homemade telescope to the sky in the winter of 1609, he was amazed by what the night sky really looked like (Maran 30). The telescope was the most significant invention of the 17th century because it proved the Heliocentric Theory, it has given us information about all of the planets, and it has changed our look at astronomy.

In the 1600’s, the Roman Catholic Church had most of the influence on Europeans. Up to that time, most people believed in the Geocentric Theory, an Earth-centered theory used by Ptolemy. This theory stated that the Earth is the center of the universe and that all planets travel in circular orbits around it called epicycles (Dolan 15). Because the Church believed this theory as absolute truth, the majority of Christian Europe accepted it. Questioning the Church’s authority meant heresy, but that did not stop Nicolaus Copernicus (Dolan 15-16).

Copernicus disagreed with Ptolemy and his Earth-centered theory, but was reluctant about his discoveries for fear that he would be persecuted as a heretic. He developed the Copernican (Heliocentric) Theory, which stated that the planets, including Earth, have elliptical orbits and orbit around the Sun (Dolan 15-16). When his discoveries were published in his book, On the Revolutions, people were hesitant to support his ideas for possible heresy accusations from the Church.

Although many people were too scared of the risk of admitting this “blasphemy” to be true, some were not so hesitant. People like Galileo agreed with the Heliocentric Theory, but at this time it was merely a vague idea. Others such as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler not only supported this theory, they were eager to prove it. Eventually, Kepler used the telescope to prove that the planets travel in ellipses, not epicycles (Lippencott 18).

Supporters of this theory did not go unpunished. These people had uncovered an idea that would change the world’s way of thinking forever. Galileo Galilei was convicted of being a heretic and was put under house arrest for a life sentence where he lived for the rest of his life. But in 1992, the Roman Catholic Church officially agreed with Copernican ideas and accepted the Heliocentric Theory (Dolan 19). Proving the Heliocentric Theory was just the first step in the telescope’s impact on the way people viewed the heavens. This was the starting point for many new discoveries, including knowledge of the planets.

After the telescope was invented and the Copernican Theory was confirmed, this opened the opportunity for other astronomers to look up and observe the stars and planets. One of the first discoveries using the telescope was when Galileo looked at the sky and noticed that the universe was made up of billions of...
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