Galileo : Siderius Nunc

July 11, 2022

By Raymond Clemens

Printed illustration of the surface of the moon. Black ink, somewhat faded, on yellowed paper.

Above: Detail, p. 18. Galileo, Siderevu nvncivs, QB41 G33 1610, copy 2. 

Our mini-exhibits end with the vitrine holding several copies of Galileo’s first printed images of the moon, the first ever made with the benefit of the telescope. For the first time, most Europeans were shown the dark side of the moon. Galileo’s sketches also emphasize its barren and rocky nature—well known to us today, but something of a revelation in the sixteenth century, when most people thought of the moon as another planet, thus generating its own light. Galileo was the first person to accurately depict the moons of Jupiter (which he called “Medicean stars,” after his patron, the Florentine Medici family). A photograph at the back of the vitrine was taken in 1968, before humans landed on the moon. It shows Earth as seen from the moon—the first time we saw our own planet from another astronomical body. This rough black and white image eerily resembles Galileo’s lunar landscape.

Below: “Apollo 8 Earthrise.” Photo taken by astronaut Bill Anders in 1968. Image Credit: NASA. 

Image of the Earth, partially shrouded in darkness, as seen from the Moon's orbit.

Featured Objects: 

QB41 G33 1610  Galileo, Siderevs nvncivs