Essay, Research Paper: Galileo And Stars 


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I feel that the motivation of Galileo’s pursuits in Astronomy and stargazing
was driven by his desire to be financially successful. Galileo was an extremely
ambitious and clearly independent individual whose methods of generating
scientific data epitomizes a survival of the fittest like struggle between all
of the prominent scientists of his time. During Galileo's life there was no gray
area of wealth like the middle class of today, and therefore you were either
rich or poor. In Science and Patronage published by Westfall, the word
friend’s connotation back then was not one of caring for another person and
mutual support but rather defined in a financial type way of using one’s
connections to better one’s self. There was patronage inside of patronage;
therefore Galileo did not always see what he claimed to have seen, his
associates might have though. Since patronage was the way of the world at this
time as Galileo knew it made no sense for someone to swim against the current,
for they would simply become tired and unsuccessful. Because of Galileo's
position as a patron to the prince, many of his disciples were patrons to
Galileo himself thus providing him data and insightful knowledge. Galileo in
turn allowed the use of his name as a referral to help his disciples out.
Surprisingly Galileo had only worked as a patron for those, which gave him
enough money or got persuaded into his over exaggerated descriptions of what the
moon really looked like. Galileo did not go into depth with many of the things
he saw, instead he attempted to describe everything he saw vaguely in order to
make sure he got credit for seeing it first. I feel that it is important to
document your discoveries as Galileo had not only to get credit for seeing it
first but to create a larger body of information that can be collaborated on
amongst all of the people. It appears that as he wrote Sidereus Nuncius that he
wasn’t even quite sure of all his findings and mostly improvised through his
work. I am doubtful that the princes he served were even able to see what
Galileo claimed in Sidereus Nuncius at least in our day and time it seems
difficult to get a clear image of the heavens because of light pollution and
possibly air pollution such as smog and other industrial chemicals. Although
Galileo’s descriptions of the moon were sometimes very accurate I did not see
exactly what he did, which could be a result of the moon’s surface changing
through time. For instance, the circular orb located near the center of the moon
at half moon was not visible to me during my observations. Of the more important
facts in Galileo’s discourse, I feel that his deduction that the moon is not
perfectly spherical and smooth as the Pythagoreans had believed, rather
mountainous with many prominence and depressions very much like the textured
landscape of earth. Galileo supports these ideas in a logical manner and
illustrates them in his observations when the moon is in its different phases.
He claims that the dark regions of the moon are shadows cast by the sun. Another
detail about the moon that was made more visible to me by the telescope is the
circular outline around that moon, even in the dark region, that separates the
body of the moon from the ether, which is a term Galileo uses for the rest of
the outer space. During this time there was also much debate about the source of
the moon’s illumination. “Some have said that it is the intrinsic and
natural brightness of the moon herself; others that it is imparted to it by
Venus, or by all the stars; and yet others have said that it is imparted by the
sun who penetrates the Moon’s vast mass with his rays”. A good point that
supports the moon reflects light from the sun is the fact that during an eclipse
the moon does not retain its brilliant illumination. Galileo relates this to the
way earth has twilight in the morning and evening when the solar rays falling
upon the earth illuminate depending upon our proximity. I feel that Galileo
appears to be too strong-minded when expressing his ideas as he rejects the idea
of the moon being illuminated by light imparted by Venus. Galileo was the
pioneer of the idea that light is reflected by all of the heavenly bodies. He
proposed that the moon is reflection light to earth, which originates from the
sun and we (people on earth) are reflecting that same light towards the moon.
“In an equal and grateful exchange the Earth pays back the moon with light
equal to that which she receives from the Moon almost all the time in the
deepest darkness of the night.” (Galileo, p.XX) That would be to say that
people on the moon also view the earth as illuminated. I feel that that idea is
an important idea which holds true today, that light travels in a straight line
from the moon to the earth and vice versa. I have witnessed an effect, which
Galileo noted pertaining to the magnification of stars. In fact when I aimed my
telescope at the stars I did not notice a great deal of magnification if any as
compared to the enlargement of something that does not emit as much light such
as my stereo in my room. When I observed first, the stereo with the naked eye I
was not able to read the lettering associated with different buttons. Next with
the spyglass I was able to distinctly read even the smallest of lettering on the
interface of the stereo. All objects observed by me were insightfully enlarged
for my viewing except that is the nebulous bodies which us humans call stars.
Galileo asserted that this was because of the visual effect that the stars
dancing rays make it look larger when observing with the naked eye, and with the
spyglass which he proposed acted almost like a decoder and unmasking the volume
enhancing shield of light shone by the stars. Myself also observed the lack of a
definite shape of the stars, which was observed by Galileo. He is accurate when
he describes the stars light emissions as pulsating and the heavenly bodies or
planets as covered with a definite blanket of light. As I gazed around the sky
without the spyglass in hand the sphere of fixed stars appeared to be fairly
simple; that is until I magnified Orion’s belt which I saw too many stars to
count. Galileo proclaimed that he saw eighty and depicted an illustration of all
of them I feel that it is more difficult to find the constellations when probing
the sky with the spyglass as compared to using the naked eye to find the
constellation and then magnifying the stars of importance. The spyglass
definitely made society during Galileo’s time aware of stars that they were
unconscious to. I wonder why Galileo did not mention the Big Dipper that is
located in Ursa Major. It was a test for warriors to decipher between the two
stars on the handle that almost appear as one, I imagine that it would be
reassuring to the warriors that failed to see that there really is a second
star. At first I did not realize that there was a second star in the Big Dipper
but after seeing it I was able to recognize the faint glowing star. When I
observed the seven sisters I was not able to see a seventh star as Galileo
asserted. I’m sure that as Galileo observed the clusters of stars in the sky
that he came to the realization that to come to a truth in the number of stars
is virtually impossible. The next topic that Galileo created a lot of hype about
in his proposal was the discovery of four planets. In hopes of putting astronomy
in a more visible place in the public eye, Galileo challenged all astronomers to
determine the periods of these new planets. This would definitely not be
possible by the use of a conventional low powered telescope; therefore Galileo
had an advantage for surviving in the patronage world. Since Galileo made his
own telescopes and swiftly distributed them to all prominent and potential
charitable individuals his name was automatically connected to the study of the
universe. Another reason for his domination, which is not really an act of
fairness, is the quality of the telescopes he sold and the quality of the ones
that were gifts to royal individuals. The fact that some individuals did not
have the power to observe the marvels that Galileo had only hurt his cause of
trying to reform the system of the universe. It’s logical to say that the
spyglasses he sold were not of superior quality in which to make a serious
breakthrough in determining the periods of the Medician Stars. Yet he still made
money off selling these spyglasses and monopolized the industry in which all
individuals were contributing to his financial and influential growth. He knew
that it was only a matter of time after all of the speculation and skepticism
that he would prevail, and make a profit in the process. I even states in the
footnotes of Albert Van Helden’s that in the case of observing the
satellites’ s of Jupiter, it was necessary to have a specialized celestial
telescope that magnifies fifteen times or more. I cannot say that I have seen
the Medician stars, although I did observe Jupiter. His observations of the
satellites of Jupiter seem to be consistent in that they form a straight line
and are seen at varying times in different formations. Jupiter was an exemplary
model that demonstrates how the moons revolve around the planets much like the
moon and earth. This observation may have upset many of the people that believed
in the Copernican system at this time, because now two planets were known to
have moons. When reading Sidereus Nuncius I did find that Galileo’s book was
persuasive because of the documentation of his research. At first I completely
disagreed about the things he saw with his telescope, but then I realized that
it requires an adequate amount of time to make good observations as he had.
There are other factors that led me to be skeptical; mostly the weather and the
light that obscured my view led me to believe that it was difficult to see
anything. The conditions and environment for viewing the sky were definitely
much better during his time than ours. There was no electricity in Galileo’s
time therefore he did not have to deal with what we call today Light pollution,
I’m sure that smog and air pollution have an effect on visibility and
influence the amount of quality viewing time available to amateur astronomers
today. Galileo finishes his work declaring that the lack of time prevents him
from completing everything, which to me is an indication that he was pressured
to get his work done in a short amount of time in fear that someone else would
make the discoveries before him. Reading through VanHelden’s conclusion I
found that the scientific world was very competitive at this time and many
scientists were very jealous of Galileo’s success. The case with Martin Horky
of Bohemia, who made false implications about Galileo’s spyglass and then made
a wax impression of it to try and reproduce one better than Galileo’s,
demonstrates this clearly. Kepler’s statement in his reply to Galileo in
Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo can either be the revealing of Galileo’s hidden
agenda to gain publicity on his misrepresented findings or what he was truly
pursuing the entire time, which was the truth. In retrospect, Galileo was simply
trying to earn a living doing something that he loved, which was the observation
of sciences. He did what he had to do. Had he been more modest about his
findings I feel that his ideas and observations would not have had such a
violent reaction with society and his fellow scientists, some of which were
overcome with jealousy and hatred. It is important to remember that people
believe what they want to believe and you should never try to aggressively
impose an idea on someone or some group of people. From a scientific basis I can
clearly say that I agree with Galileo’s work and with his methods of
patronage, although I may not like his personality.
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