we’re about to begin a journey through the cosmos
Today marks the 400th anniversary of an important milestone in astronomy: German astronomer Simon Marius viewed the Andromeda Galaxy through a telescope, the first time it was viewed through a telescope, which he described looking like a ‘candle shining through a horn.’ Andromeda is the nearest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way galaxy at 2.5 million light years away and has been the object of intense study since antiquity.
For his part, if Marius is ever remembered it is usually for his dispute with Galileo. In 1614 Marius described his discovery of the Jovian moons, pre-dating his discovery several days before Galileo’s date of discovery. Although the credit usually goes to Galileo, the names for the moons came from Marius:
Io, Europa, Ganimedes puer, atque Calisto
lascivo nimium perplacuere Iovi.
Io, Europa, the boy Ganymede, and Callisto greatly pleased lustful Jupiter.
Similarly, even though Messier credits Marius with the discovery of Andromeda as a galaxy, the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rhaman al-Sufi is now credited with the discovery over 600 years earlier!
Image of Andromeda courtesy NASA. Image of Marius in the public domain.