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Scientists To Solve Astronomical Riddle Using Galileo DNA

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Bianca
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« on: January 20, 2009, 07:51:25 am »










                                Scientists to solve astronomical riddle using Galileo DNA






     
Mon Jan 19, 2009
ROME
(AFP)

– Italian scientists are trying to get Galileo's DNA in order to figure out how the astronomer forged groundbreaking theories on the universe while gradually becoming blind, a historian said Monday.

Scientists at Florence's Institute and Museum of the History of Science want to exhume the body of 17th Century astronomer Galileo Galilei to find out exactly what he could see through his telescope.

The Italian astronomer -- who built on the work of predecessor Nicolaus Copernicus to develop modern astronomy with the sun as the centre of the universe -- had a degenerative eye disease that eventually left him blind.

"If we succeed, thanks to DNA, in understanding how this disease distorted his sight, it could bring about important discoveries for the history of science," said the institute's director, Paolo Galluzzi.

"We could explain certain mistakes that Galileo made: why he described the planet Saturn as having 'lateral ears' rather than having seen it encircled by rings for example," said Galluzzi.

In an effort to recreate what Galileo -- who lived from 1564 to 1642 -- saw, the scientific team has made an exact replica of his telescope.

They now want to get DNA proof of what ophthalmologists have said was a genetic eye disease and thereby more fully understand the conditions under which he made observations that revolutionised our understanding of the cosmos.

It will take the team one year to raise the 300,000 euros (390,000 dollars) needed to finance the project and clear administrative hurdles to open Galileo's tomb in Florence's Santa Croce Basilica, Galluzzi said.

The United Nations proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy, marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's observations.

In 1609, he discovered spots on the Sun, craters and peaks on the surface of the Moon and satellites orbiting Jupiter, thereby confirming Copernicus's theory that planets orbit the Sun rather than the Earth.
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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2009, 07:54:30 am »








             Astronomers retrace Galileo's discoveries with a replica of his 400-year-old telescope






John Matson   
Jan. 13, 2009

For astronomy buffs, the arrival of 2009 brings more than just resolutions to eat better or live more frugally. The fledgling year has been designated the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Astronomical Union.

The IYA, intended to raise the public profile of astronomy, recognizes the 400th anniversary of the year Galileo, the Italian astronomer, began studying the heavens with telescopes of his own making. His observations of 1609 and 1610 showed the moon to be pockmarked rather than smoothly surfaced and unveiled four of Jupiter's moons, among other discoveries.

Now, as reported in the current issue of Physics World, Italian scientists have re-created one of Galileo's scopes in the hope of seeing the universe just as he saw it. (A macabre note to that end: the researchers are apparently seeking to disinter the legendary astronomer to study "the physiology of Galileo's eye.")

Staffers at Florence's Institute and Museum of the History of Science built the replica with assistance from the Arcetri Astrophysics Observatory and the National Institute of Applied Optics in Florence. The telescope is based on a 20-power model gifted by Galileo to Cosimo II, the grand duke of Tuscany. (Although Galileo further refined his instrument to reach a magnifying strength of 32, that high-power version does not survive in reproducible form today.)

One difference between the 400-year-old scope and today's facsimile: the latter is outfitted for digital photography, and the Institute's Web site hosts a few shots of the moon and Saturn taken with the new telescope.



http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=astronomers-retrace-galileos-discov-2009-01-13
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2009, 07:59:19 am »








                                 Astronomers view heavens through Galileo's eyes



                              Replica 'scope celebrates four centuries of heliocentrism






By Lester Haines
Posted in Space,
The Register
8th January 2009

Astronomers are celebrating 400 years since Galileo made his famous observations, which were fundamental in proving the heliocentric hypothesis, by pointing a replica of one of his original telescopes at the heavens to recreate his original stargaze.

In 1609, Galileo critically discovered four satellites orbiting Jupiter, which removed "major doubt about the heliocentric model - namely that the Earth appeared at the centre of things because only it had a satellite", as Physics World puts it.

Galileo's contribution to science was made possible by the invention of the telescope in the Netherlands in 1608, which he improved for use as an astronomical instrument. Now, scientists from the Institute and Museum of the History of Science and the Arcetri Observatory, both in Florence, have built a replica of one of his 'scopes and are "using it to generate the images that, to the best of their estimations, Galileo himself would have seen".

In fact, the telescope is not a replica of the instrument used to make the historic observations which appeared in 1610 in the Sidereus Nuncius (“Starry Messenger”), since only one lens survives. Rather, it's an "exact replica of the device that Galileo gave to his patron the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II, in about 1610" - a 93cm-long device boasting two lenses and a magnification factor of around 20.
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2009, 08:00:45 am »




               








The Arcetri Observatory then constructed the instrument's body, behind which the team placed a 2300 × 3400 pixel CCD to generate "digital versions of the images that would form on the retina of a human eye placed behind the telescope".

The ultimate plan is to observe all of the bodies which appear in the Sidereus Nuncius. So far, the team has spied the Moon and Saturn, and has now turned its attention to Jupiter’s moons and the phases of Venus. The latter also proved instrumental in backing the heliocentric hypothesis by disproving the Ptolemaic assertion that "we would never see more than half of the surface of Venus illuminated by sunlight".

In carrying out its observations, the team has overcome the problems of modern light pollution and the relatively low sensitivity of the CCD compared to the human eye by finding "a suitable location in the hills beyond the city" of Florence and placing the 'scope on a rotating mount to allow "an exposure of several seconds", respectively.

The astronomers' efforts to recreate exactly what Galileo saw has, though, hit a slight occular snag. Physics World explains: "The researchers also want to work out what Galileo’s eye would have done with those images. And for that, they need access to his body."

Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Florence museum, explained: “We know that Galileo died blind, so he must have had visual problems. We want to look at his DNA to try and work out what these problems were.”

Unfortunately, the rector of Florence's Basilica of the Holy Cross, where Galileo's remains lie, is apparently none too keen on his tomb being opened. Galluzzi is described as "determined" to press the matter, and insisted: “Building the replica telescope and acquiring the digital images are the first two parts of the project. Understanding the physiology of Galileo’s eye is the third part. If we can achieve this, then we will be in a position to really understand how Galileo viewed the universe.”

The researchers' images will, Physics World notes, appear online at some stage. Whether or not they have been adjusted to take into account the state of Galileo's eyesight in 1609 remains to be seen. ®





Bootnote


This year is officially "International Year of Astronomy" - principally designed to "mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope for astronomical observations", but also hoping to "generate interest in astronomy and science, especially in young people". Physics World has further details and event listings at the bottom of its Galileo 'scope piece.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 08:03:36 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2009, 08:06:10 am »










                                       Let the global astronomy celebrations begin






Jan. 5, 2009

The International Year of Astronomy marks the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei. As the 2009 celebrations kick off, Edwin Cartlidge explains how one of Galileo’s telescopes is being rebuilt by researchers in Italy, while Michael Banks looks at some of the events taking place this year


StargazingOf the many achievements of Galileo Galilei, among the most famous is a series of astronomical observations that he started in 1609 and announced in March 1610 in a publication entitled Sidereus Nuncius (“Starry Messenger”). These included radical new views of the Moon and the stars, as well as the discovery of four satellites orbiting Jupiter. By removing a major doubt about the heliocentric model — namely that the Earth appeared at the centre of things because only it had a satellite — the observation of the Jovian moons led to a new view of the universe and in the process brought Galileo considerable fame.

What had made these observations possible was the telescope. Invented in the Netherlands in 1608 (although there have been claims that it was first built a few years earlier), the telescope was initially seen as a useful new aid to warfare. However, once news of the device spread south, Galileo was able to use his considerable skills as an instrument maker to multiply the magnifying power of the basic spyglass so that he could use it as an astronomical tool.

Now, staff at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy, together with the Arcetri Observatory, also in Florence, have built a replica of one of Galileo’s telescopes and are using it to generate the images that, to the best of their estimations, Galileo himself would have seen. The aim, explains museum curator Giorgio Strano, is to understand exactly what Galileo observed and how he made his observations. “We are trying to distinguish precisely between what Galileo was potentially able to see ‘objectively’ with the telescope and what was, instead, the product of physiological, psychological and cultural factors,” he says.
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2009, 08:07:36 am »









The Moon, Saturn and beyond



The telescope being built by the Florence team is not actually a replica of the one used by Galileo to make the observations he reported in Sidereus Nuncius. It is likely, instead, that these results were obtained using a telescope with a magnification of about 30. What the team is building is an exact replica of the device that Galileo gave to his patron the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II, in about 1610. The 93 cm long instrument consists of two lenses — a converging one, the objective, and a diverging one, the eyepiece — that can magnify distant objects by up to a factor of about 20. Whereas this more modest instrument has survived intact, sadly the only part that remains of the more powerful device is the objective lens, making it impossible to remake.

Reproducing Cosimo II’s telescope has involved a painstaking investigation of the original lenses — with the National Institute of Applied Optics in Florence having measured their shape and refractive index, and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Florence using X-ray fluorescence to determine the composition of the glass. The Arcetri Observatory, on the other hand, built a mechanical structure to house the lenses and regulate the distance between them. This structure was then linked up to a charge coupled device of 2300 × 3400 pixels, which transforms incoming photons to electrical signals and thereby generates digital versions of the images that would form on the retina of a human eye placed behind the telescope. The plan is to make these images accessible online.

Astronomers at the Arcetri Observatory are now using this apparatus to image all the objects recorded in Sidereus Nuncius and in other works by Galileo. The Moon and Saturn have already been observed, and these observations have demonstrated the effects of chromatic aberration in Galileo’s instrument. The focal length of a lens depends on the wavelength of light passing through it, so in practice it is impossible to bring white light to a precise focus, and this defocusing can be seen in the images of Saturn and of the Moon.

Arcetri Observatory director Francesco Palla says that he and his colleagues are now obtaining images of Jupiter’s moons and the phases of Venus, which provided another crucial piece of evidence in favour of the heliocentric hypothesis (with the Ptolemaic alternative incorrectly maintaining that we would never see more than half of the surface of Venus illuminated by sunlight). The researchers are also observing the Pleiades and Orion star fields, which Galileo found had scores of stars in addition to the few already known at that time. Sunspots permitting, observations will also be made of the changing face of the Sun — a hammer blow against the idea of the immutability of the heavens when originally revealed by Galileo.
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2009, 08:08:58 am »








The Galilean eye



Michele Camerota, a historian of science at the University of Cagliari in Italy, believes that the observing project will provide a valuable source of new data on the performance of Galileo’s telescopes and that it will permit an “extremely faithful” reconstruction of what Galileo saw. However, performing these observations has proved tricky. Aside from having to work with a very limited field of view (Galileo’s combination of convex objective and concave eyepiece producing a field of view of about one quarter of a degree), the researchers in Florence have also struggled to find somewhere dark enough to observe Jupiter — Arcetri nowadays being swamped by light from the city.




Moonstruck


Having eventually found a suitable location in the hills beyond the city, Palla and colleagues then had to introduce what he describes as an “inevitable trick” in order to observe the Jovian moons. Because the moons reflect so little sunlight, their imaging requires an exposure of several seconds, during which time they move appreciably across the sky. The telescope therefore needs to be placed on a rotating mount in order to track the moons — a problem that Galileo would not have encountered because the eye can make do with less light than a CCD needs.

However, even when all of the imaging has been completed, the project will not be over. That is because to work out what Galileo saw it is not enough to simply find out what kind of images his telescope created. The researchers also want to work out what Galileo’s eye would have done with those images. And for that, they need access to his body. “We know that Galileo died blind, so he must have had visual problems,” says Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Florence museum. “We want to look at his DNA to try and work out what these problems were.”

Galluzzi does not yet have permission to open Galileo’s tomb, which lies in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Florence, because the basilica’s rector opposes such a move. But Galluzzi is determined to keep trying. “Building the replica telescope and acquiring the digital images are the first two parts of the project,” he says. “Understanding the physiology of Galileo’s eye is the third part. If we can achieve this, then we will be in a position to really understand how Galileo viewed the universe.”
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2009, 08:13:07 am »









IYA2009: a taste of things to come



January marks the start of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) as designated by the United Nations, and endorsed by UNESCO — its body responsible for education, science and culture. IYA2009 is intended to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope for astronomical observations.

The aim of the initiative is to generate interest in astronomy and science, especially in young people, under the central theme of “The universe, yours to discover”. I

YA2009 is a global celebration of astronomy with more than 100 countries involved in preparing activities.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO are coordinating events throughout the year, which are happening regionally, nationally and internationally. National events can be found at the IYA2009 individual country websites.

Although this list is not exhaustive, here is a sample of what is coming up around the world during the year. Meanwhile, Physics World will be publishing a special astronomy issue in March, and there will be additional astronomy coverage on physicsworld.com throughout 2009.

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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2009, 08:14:51 am »




           

             2009

             INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY










                                                                        Cosmic diary






International Year of AstronomyAll year round, worldwide
www.iya2009.org
Professional astronomers around the world will be blogging about their day to day activities and what it is like to be an astronomer. Researchers from NASA, the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory will be blogging as part of this project

Portal to the universe
All year round, worldwide
www.portaltotheuniverse.org
A website built for IYA2009 will feature rolling news, new images taken by telescopes, blogs by astronomers, and videos, as well as links to other astronomy websites. It will also contain a directory of observatories, facilities and astronomical societies.

IYA2009 opening ceremony
15–16 January, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
Hundreds of people are expected to attend the official launch, such as government ministers and Nobel-prize winners, including Robert Wilson, who shared one half of the 1978 prize with Arno Penzias for the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation. There will be exhibitions as well as talks by leading figures in astronomy.

Conference on the role of astronomy in society and culture
19–23 January, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
Examining the relationship that astronomy has established with different cultures around the world. There will also be an accompanying art exhibition.

GLOBE at night
16–28 March, worldwide
This project lets students, teachers and parents take part in a global campaign to observe and record the magnitude of visible stars to measure light pollution in a given location. After the observations are collected, a map will be produced showing the levels of light pollution around the world.

100 hours of astronomy
2–5 April, worldwide
One of the cornerstone projects of IYA2009, this event will try to make as many people as possible use a telescope and look up the stars.

International Astronomy Day
2 May, worldwide
Local astronomical societies, planetariums, museums and observatories will be giving presentations and workshops to help increase public awareness about astronomy.

IAU general assembly
3–14 August, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Leading astronomers will head to Brazil for a two-week conference to discuss everything from dark matter and galaxy clusters to whether the fundamental constants change with time.
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2009, 08:16:51 am »








Kepler’s heritage in the space age
24–27 August, Prague, Czech Republic
Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Johannes Kepler’s 1609 book Astronomia Nova, in which he provided the formulation of the first two laws of planetary motion in the solar system. The conference at the National Technical Museum in Prague celebrates Kepler’s contribution to astronomy.

Astronomy and its instruments before and after Galileo
28 September – 3 October, Venice, Italy
The conference will examine at how astronomical instruments have changed with time and the differences between countries when exploring the universe.

Great worldwide star count
9–23 October, worldwide
This event encourages everyone to go outside, look skywards after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations, and then report their findings online.

European Society for Astronomy in Culture (SEAC) conference
25–31 October, Alexandria, Egypt
The SEAC, which includes archaeologists, historians and astronomers as its members, will meet to discuss the practice, use and meaning of astronomy in culture.






About the author



Edwin Cartlidge is a freelance science writer based in Rome.

Michael Banks is news editor of Physics World



http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/37157
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2009, 08:27:00 am »

















                                          Pope praises Galileo, celebrates the Solstice



                                                             Galileo magnifico?






By Joe Fay •
Posted in
Science,
22nd December 2008

The Pope tipped his hat to long-time Vatican bugbear Galileo this weekend as he helped kick off the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.

Pope Benedict also gave some comfort to pagans by acknowledging the connection between the date of Christmas and the Winter Solstice.

Pope Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, formally apologised for the Church's hounding of Galileo for pointing out that the Earth - and therefore man - was not at the centre of the Universe, never mind the solar system. But the relationship between Benedict and the sciences in general and astronomy in particular, has been somewhat pricklier.

So, it might have seemed perverse that the pope this weekend decided to highlight Unesco's International Year of Astronomy, which marks 400 years since Galileo first used the telescope. Still, the occasionally surprising Benedict - he wears Prada after all - rose to the occasion, paying tribute to Galileo and his ilk for promoting further understanding of the laws of nature.

Of course, in the Vatican's world, it doesn't stop there. Understanding the laws of nature therefore stimulates an appreciation of God's work. This would normally be the point at which we kick off an unholy row by asking whether the pope is then saying the laws of nature were laid down by God, and are not independent of him, whether he exists or not.

But instead, we're going to marvel at how Benedict, after veering into science, then seems to have swerved into Dan Brown territory. After pointing how Christmas uncannily coincides with the Winter solstice, he gave an account of how astronomy, and the solstice, underlie the very architecture of the Vatican.

According to AsiaNews.it, Benedict pointed out that "not everyone knows that St Peter's Square is also a meridian: the obelisk, in fact, casts its shadow along a line that runs along the pavement toward the fountain under this window, and in these days the shadow is at its longest of the year.

"This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking out the rhythm of prayer. The Angelus, for example, is recited in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, and with the meridian, which was used in ancient times to identify 'true noon', clocks were adjusted."





Of course, this is what the Pope wants you to think.

As any good conspiracy theorist knows, he is clearly trying to distract attention from the fact that the obelisk naturally points to the grave of Mary Magdalene, who is interred with the Templar's gold, the Ark of the Covenant and the outline for Dan Brown's next novel. ®
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« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2009, 11:01:36 am »









                                           Is that two moons around Saturn I see?







Philip Pullella
– Thu Jan 22, 2009
Reuters
ROME

– Italian and British scientists want to exhume the body of 16th century astronomer Galileo for DNA tests to determine if his severe vision problems may have affected some of his findings.

The scientists told Reuters on Thursday that DNA tests would help answer some unresolved questions about the health of the man known as the father of astronomy, whom the Vatican condemned for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun.

"If we knew exactly what was wrong with his eyes we could use computer models to recreate what he saw in his telescope," said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Museum of History and Science in Florence, the city where Galileo is buried.

Galileo, who lived from 1564 to 1642, is known to have had intermittent eye problems for the second half of his life and was totally blind for his last two years.

"There were periods when he saw very well and periods when he did not see very well," said Dr. Peter Watson, president of the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis and consultant to Addenbrooke's University Hospital, Cambridge.

Watson, who has studied Galileo's handwriting, letters and portraits of the astronomer, suspects he may have had unilateral myopia, uveitis -- an inflammation of the eye's middle layer -- or a condition called creeping angle closure glaucoma.

Watson believes Galileo did not acquire his eye problems by looking at the sun but by systemic illnesses, including an attack when he was young that left him temporarily deaf and bloody discharges and arthritis so severe he was bedridden for weeks.

He was under particular stress when he was tried for heresy by the Inquisition because the Copernican theory he supported conflicted with the Bible.
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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2009, 11:03:57 am »









ERROR OF A GENIUS?



One of the "errors" that Galileo made, which Galluzzi suspects may have been attributed to his bad eyesight, is that he believed Saturn was not perfectly round but may have had an irregular, inflated side.

With his 20-power telescope and with his eyes in bad shape he might have mistaken Saturn's gaseous ring to surmise that it was formed of one planet with two moons as satellites.

"This was probably a combination of errors. He probably expected to find satellites and his eyesight may have contributed to some confusion," said Galluzzi.

"A DNA test will allow us to determine to what measure the pathology of the eye may have 'tricked' him," he said.

"If we discover the pathology he suffered, we can formulate a mathematical model that simulates the effects it would have had on what he saw and using the same type of telescope he used we can get closer to what he actually saw," Galluzzi said.

"We only have sketches of what he saw. If we were able to see what he saw that would be extraordinary," he added.

Galileo was buried in Florence's Santa Croce Basilica about 100 years after his death. Before, his remains were hidden in a bell tower room because the Church opposed a proper burial.

His bones were stored together with those of one of his disciples, Vincenzo Viviani, and those of an anonymous woman.

Galluzzi and others believe the bones belong to the most beloved of Galileo's three illegitimate children, Sister Maria Celeste, a nun who died when she was 33. She was the subject of the 1999 international bestseller "Galileo's Daughter," by Dava Sobel. DNA would determine if she is his daughter.

Galluzzi said he was waiting for permission from the Church to exhume the body and then would form a committee of historians, scientists and doctors to oversee the project.



(Editing by
Katie Nguyen)
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