The Times of London reported that long-lost illustrations by Galileo of the Moon’s surface as he saw it through his telescope have come to light after four centuries. Galileo Galilei is often described as the father of modern astronomy and physics.
The five watercolours are in Galileo’s own copy of Sidereus Nuncius -The Starry Messenger- in which he gave details of his revolutionary “celestial discoveries”. In Sidereus Nuncius he used his telescopic observations of Jupiter’s moons to support his argument for a Sun-centered theory of the Solar System.
The work was crucial in overturning the belief that the Sun revolved around the Earth and provoked a show-down with the Vatican that ended in imprisonment for heresy. He was the first scientist to report lunar mountains and craters, concluding that the Moon was “rough and uneven, and just like the surface of the Earth itself,” rather than a smooth sphere as Aristotle had claimed.
Professor Horst Bredekamp head of the Art History Institute at Humboldt University in Berlin, who authenticated the drawings, said that Galileo had been in a hurry to circulate the work. “He was very worried that someone else might beat him to it”, he said. “We know of about 30 examples of the first edition of Sidereus Nuncius, but this one is by far the most precious and important.”