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Astronomy: Thomas Harriot, the first telescopic astronomer

In 1609 Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei unveiled his first telescope. To mark the occasion, the United Nations declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. It is a year "to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe through the day and nighttime sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery." The CBC Digital Archives looks at Canadian contributors to astronomy and our own trip through the cosmos.

Galileo Galilei is considered the first modern astronomer for making public his telescope in August 1609. But one month earlier, England's Thomas Harriot made drawings of the moon. These were the first drawings of celestial objects as seen through his own telescope. In this 2009 report from CBC News, we learn about Thomas Harriot and his place in the history of modern astronomy.
• Thomas Harriot lived from 1560 to 1621. Born to a wealthy family, Harriot grew up in Oxford, England with proficiency in mathematics and astronomy. After graduating from Oxford University, his first job was working for Sir Walter Raleigh as a math tutor.

• Harriot's drawings were not published because he was making a comfortable living working for the Ninth Earl of Northumberland. In August 1609, Galileo presented his telescope to the Venetian Senate. He was immediately given tenure at the University of Padua and his salary was doubled.

• Using his new eight-powered telescope, Galileo published his first drawings and observations in 1610. He discovered the four moons of Jupiter in January and the phases of Venus in September. His conclusions proved that the earth rotated around the sun.

Medium: Television
Program: Around the World
Broadcast Date: Jan. 15, 2009
Anchor: Harry Forestell
Reporter: David Common
Duration: 2:14
Photo: Galileo image in Public Domain

Last updated: August 9, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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