Since time immemorial, human beings have felt curiosity and at the same time admiration for the amazing universe. A story that corroborates this fact is that of the astronomer Johannes Hevelius, which is considered one of the best space observers of his time.
A rather interesting aspect of Hevelius’ work is that much of his work was done without a telescope. He used as main instruments only an alidade and a quadrantbut with them it was enough to compile an extensive stellar catalog with about 1,500 stars.
The technological limitations of the time did not prevent this incredible astronomer, observe the stars with unique and unprecedented precision. His fame grew much more, until he crossed borders after acquiring a powerful telescope, to become the first topographer of the Moon.
Johannes Hevelius: some details of his life
Was born In the town of GdanskPoland in 1611 in the middle of a family devoted to trade, thanks to a fairly profitable brewery belonging to his father. Thus, as a child, he received the direct influence of his father so that in adulthood he became a renowned businessman.
It was like that in 1630, counting When he was only 19, he went to The Netherlands study law at Leiden University. After graduating, he returned to his hometown to take over the family business, but he didn’t last long in that role.
During his college studies, developed a great interest in astronomy, thanks to the fact that he was very close to a professor of mathematics. Professor Peter Crugerwould be the man who would inspire Johannes Hevelius to devote himself entirely to the observation of the stars and the Moon.
Build an observatory in 1641
The roofs of three houses owned by Hevelius in Gdansk served as the basis for the construction of an observatory. He called her “the castle of stars» and in a short time it became the most important in Europe. In principle, he equipped it with many instruments that were essential for observation.
Until he finally got a telescope from Kepler, the focal length of which was 45 meters. It was the missing piece! The fame of this place was immediate, so much so that several famous personalities went to see the observatory. Between them, the same King of Poland and the prestigious astronomer Edmond Halley from England.
Hevelius telescope of 45 meters focal length.
The father of lunar topography!
History has been careful to recognize the hard work of Johannes Hevelius, the caller”the father of lunar topography“. Because map the moon This was the main business of the Polish astronomer, for which he spent many nights observing our natural satellite with his powerful telescope.
Although the Italian Galileo had done similar work 40 years ago, Hevelius surpassed him in quality. This is what emerges from a comment by a colleague and friend of his, the Frenchman Peter Gassendi. After seeing the drawings compiled by the Polish astronomer, he encouraged him to pursue the project.
So Hevelius continued to work hard, After 5 years, he had already mapped a large part of the moon. During this time he managed to engrave about 40 plates, in addition to the sketches he drew he managed to produce several copperplate engravings.
The two representations of the lunar surface are considered “like the first precise and detailed maps» from the earth satellite. Hevelius published his work some time later, it is known as selenographyin what is named by the author, appear several features of different areas of the lunar landscape.
Lunar surface according to Johannes Hevelius.
Catalog of stars in 1673
Hevelius’ passion for astronomy prompted him to compile a catalog of stars without the use of a telescope. Well I considered that these were to be used to discover celestial bodies, do not take measurements. However, this depiction was the most accurate of its time, only surpassed 4 decades later.
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Unfortunately a fire in 1679 destroyed the house by Hevelius, also its observation laboratory. All his instruments and notebooks were lost in this tragic accident. Only the “catalogue of fixed works” could be saved on this occasion by the astronomer’s daughter.
Hevelius’ work set the tone for the study of science for centuries to come. Later, in the 19th and 20th centuries, technological advancements would give us everything from the first high-definition images of the lunar surface to the already famous moon landing in 1969.
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