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Sunspots, 1612.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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Illustration from 'Istoria e Dimonstrazioni Intorno all Macchie Solari' by the Italian astronomer, physicist and mathematician Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), published in 1613. It shows 'maculae' (sunspots) on the surface of the Sun, observed by Galileo in 1612. Although not the inventor of the telescope, Galileo was the first to use it succesfully for astronomical observation, discovering mountains on the Moon, the phases of Venus, and four moons of Jupiter, as well as sunspots. Amongst Galileo's many achievements is his suggested general scientific approach to the investigation of celestial phenomena. He supported the Copernican heliocentric model of the Solar System, which led to him being found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition in 1633.
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