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On Seeing Further

13 Jun 2011, 13:45 UTC
On Seeing Further
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“All things move and nothing remains still” — Heraclitus The history of astronomy can be read as a story of better and better vision. Over the centuries, we have supplemented our vision with technology that allows us to see further and more clearly; while Ancient astronomers, who relied only on their naked eyes to perceive…

“All things move and nothing remains still” — Heraclitus

The history of astronomy can be read as a story of better and better vision. Over the centuries, we have supplemented our vision with technology that allows us to see further and more clearly; while Ancient astronomers, who relied only on their naked eyes to perceive the universe, managed to make star catalogues and predict comets, Galileo, pressing his to a telescope, saw all the way to the moons of Jupiter.
Optical telescopes and the human eye are fundamentally limited; early astronomers were forced to gaze into telescopes for hours on end, waiting for moments of visual stillness long enough to allow them to quickly sketch drawings of the features they were simultaneously trying to understand. Between a telescope (incidentally, “telescope” is Greek for “far-seeing”) and the celestial bodies beyond, the Earth’s atmosphere itself is in ...

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