Astronomy of To-day

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Purchase of this book includes free trial access to where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: CHAPTER VI CELESTIAL MEASUREMENT Had the telescope never been invented our knowledge of astronomy would be trifling indeed. Prior to the year 1610, when Galileo first turned the new instrument upon the sky, all that men knew of the starry realms was gathered from observation with their own eyes unaided by any artificial means. In such researches they had been very much at a disadvantage. The sun and moon, in their opinion, were no doubt the largest bodies in the heavens, for the mere reason that they looked so 1 The mighty solar disturbances, which are now such commonplaces to us, were then quite undreamed of. The moon displayed a patchy surface, and that was all; her craters and ring-mountains were surprises as yet in store for men. Nothing of course was known about the surfaces of the planets. These objects had indeed no particular characteristics to distinguish them from the great host of the stars, except that they continually changed their positions in the sky while the rest did not. The stars themselves were considered as fixed inalterably upon the vault of heaven. The sun, moon, and planets apparently moved about in the intermediate space, supported in their courses by strange and fanciful devices. The idea of satellites was as yet unknown. Comets were regarded ascelestial portents, and meteors as small conflagrations taking place in the upper air. In the entire absence of any knowledge with regard to the actual sizes and distances of the various celestial bodies, men naturally considered them as small; and, concluding that they were comparatively near, assigned to them in consequence a permanent connection with terrestial affairs. Thus arose the quaint and erroneous beliefs of astrology, according to which the events which took place upon our earth were conside...
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