MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

GALILEO'S
SIDEREUS NUNCIUS

Now on display in the Science Library through December 2009

Cover of book Sidereus Nuncius

Sidereus Nuncius (known in English as Starry Messenger) was written by Galileo in 1610 to announce what he observed in the skies through use of a telescope – at the time, a recent invention.  It was the first record of telescopic observations of heavenly bodies, among them the stars of the Milky Way, several of Jupiter’s moons and the surface of the Earth’s moon.

In May 2009, a limited edition printing of Galileo’s landmark publication from the collections of the MIT Libraries accompanied MIT alumnus Mike Massimino into space. Massimino (SM TPP 1988, Engineer ME 1990, Ph.D. 1992) and six other astronauts boarded the space shuttle Atlantis for a journey that took them 5.3 million miles for a final servicing of NASA’s Hubble Telescope.  Massimino and other crewmembers conducted five spacewalks to upgrade the Hubble. Their work will enable the telescope to send back spectacular images of the universe well into the next decade.

The MIT Libraries’ copy of Sidereus Nuncius is one of 1000 numbered facsimile copies of the 1610 Venice edition, printed in 1964 in honor of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s birth. 

Image of moon

Portrait of Sidereus Nuncius, (1610). Image is in the public domain.

Click on images for larger view

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Shown above is a ‘collage’ of 5 images Galileo drew of his observations of the moon’s surface, which he noted was mountainous – an observation that wouldn’t have been possible with the naked eye. Image is in the public domain.


Object of the Month: November 2009


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