The Englishman who beat Galileo – at Syon House

Local Astronomer to give talk

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Four hundred years ago, an English scientist and mathematician named Thomas Harriot lived at Syon House as a guest of the 9th Earl of Northumberland, popularly known as The Wizard Earl. In 1609 Harriot obtained one of the newly invented telescopes being sold in the Netherlands and turned it on the Moon, marvelling at its rugged, cratered surface. The drawing he made that night, July 26, is the oldest known depiction of a celestial object as seen through a telescope, beating the Italian scientist Galileo by four months.

Harriot went on to compile a remarkably accurate map of the Moon and observed sunspots.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Harriot’s achievement, an astronomically themed day for space enthusiasts young and old is being held at Syon Park. Attractions include a planetarium in the Great Conservatory, observing the Sun through special telescopes (weather permitting), building and launching water-propelled rockets, hands-on science activities, and space talks by speakers including local author Ian Ridpath.

A memorial plaque to Harriot will be unveiled close to the site where he made his observations. For further information go to Telescope 400 Normal admission charges to Syon Park and House apply. Download the flyer here (pdf)

There will also be an evening lecture on Harriot and his work by Oxford historian Allan Chapman, with reception to follow (advance booking required): (advance booking required)

July 24, 2009

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