Indian River State College is home to the Hallstrom Planetarium. The Director of the Planetarium is Jon U. Bell who interned as a Scientific Assistant at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and directed the planetarium and observatory at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. He has operated the Hallstrom Planetarium at IRSC since it opened in 1993.
We attended the program "Galileo: The Power of the Telescope". As other programs we have attended at Hallstrom Planetarium, this one was insightful and entertaining! We learned:
Fallacy #1: Galileo Invented the Telescope.
Hans Lippershay invented the telescope, Galileo heard about it and figured out how to build one himself.
Fallacy #2: He was the first person to look at celestial objects with a telescope.
Thomas Harriot studied the moon with a 6x scope in 1609. Galileo was good at self-promotion, and he published his findings extensively.
Fallacy #3: He dropped cannonballs of different weights off the tower of Pisa; they hit the ground at the same time.
His last assistant wrote about this experiment, but is was most likely one of Galileo's students who actually climed up there and dropped the balls.
Fallacy #4: He was tortured and thrown in prison by the inquisition.
Dispite his disagreements with church officials, Galileo was a practicing Catholic, and the "house arrest" sentence was a slap on the wrist. He was an honored guest at the homes of the Tuscan ambassador and the archbishop of Sienna, and he had the run of his villa in Arcetri and his house in Florence where students came to learn from him. He wrote his Discourse on Two New Sciences and received honors and evan a commendation from the Pope.
Fallacy #5: He went blind from looking at the sun with a telescope.
He went blind in the last four years of his life from cataracts and glaucoma, not sun blinding which occurs almost immediately after observing. Galileo's telescopic observations of the sun were viewings when the sun was near the horizon (not entirely safe, and frankly a bad idea, but the risk was small, expecially considering the poor quality of optics used.
If you have an opportunity to attend any of Jon Bell's programs, do so, they are always interesting and informative and great for the entire family.
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