Wednesday, September 12, 2007


"In a world illuminated only by fire, Galileo described in detail the surface of the Moon, which we now know is 238, 857 miles away. His Sidereal Messenger, also translated as Starry Messenger, was the first-ever treatise to detail astronomical observations made through a telescope."

(quote from the The Teaching Company's introduction to The Sidereal Messenger, written by Galileo in 1610 )

A treatise by Galileo came to me via email recently. I put it aside, meaning to read it when I had some time. When I finally read the treatise a few days ago, I felt as if I were reading someone's blog entry because, in translation, the tone is somewhat conversational, like a letter. Galileo's voice and times came alive for me. It's a verbal telescope into the time when the telescope was first invented. I like what I am guessing are his drawings and a diagram of a telescope.

Imagine how bright the moon, planets and stars were in 1610!

Coastal Northern California in Mendocino county just north of the Gualala River, between 1973 and 1994, is a place where I was able to see the vast night sky as it appears only when one is far removed from large metropolitan areas and their artificial lights.

(the above image, THE BLACK AND WHITE SERIES: INDEPENDENT CHILD / HIS FIRST WORD WAS "LIGHT," was created by am in 2005 on Arches watercolor paper, using Payne's Grey (watercolor) and Permanent White (gouache). The moon and planets are from drawings my mother made as she looked out over the ocean and saw the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and Venus on June 14, 1991)


robin andrea said...

I've never heard of the Gualala River! I just googled it and saw what a beautiful river it is. I know the Russian River and many of the rivers north in Humboldt but not this one. How cool. I often think about people who live in such bright places that the night sky reveals nothing.

am said...

On the south side of the Gualala River, where it meets the ocean, is Gualala Point Regional Park, a place where I have walked on the headlands and on the sandy beach again and again. Just thinking of that place lifts my spirits. After my father retired in the early 1970s, my parents lived in Gualala until my mother died in 1994.

Therese said...

Galileo's Lament
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

from a poem by Sarah Williams (late 1800s)

am said...

Therese -- Thanks so much for "Galileo's Lament," by Sarah Williams.