A very similar luminous lustre appears when one observes a burning candle from a great distance through a translucent piece of horn.

On 15 December 1612 (os) Simon Marius, Court Mathematicus in Ansbach, became the first astronomer to record a telescopic observation of the Andromeda Nebula. The importance of this observation was that whereas other known nebulae such as the Orion Nebula, had resolved into individual stars when viewed with a telescope, the Andromeda Nebula as recorded by Marius appears as “…a weak and faint lustre at the centre with a diameter of about one quarter of a degree. A very similar luminous lustre appears when one observes a burning candle from a great distance through a translucent piece of horn” (Simon Marius, Mudus Iovialis, 1614 my translation).

In the history of astronomy the Andromeda Nebula would go on to play a central role in the deep space observations of Charles Messier (M31) and William Herschel in the eighteenth century. In the early twentieth century its nature and status then became the bone of contention in the legendary dispute between Shapley and Curtis.

2014 being the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of Marius’ major astronomical work the Mundus Iovialis we have been celebrating his live and work in Middle Franconia. First high point of the various activities were the launching of the Marius Portal, an Internet website giving researchers free access to all primary and secondary works by and about Simon Marius with navigation in almost thirty different languages.

On 20 September a one-day conference was held with contributions covering the various aspects of Marius’ life and academic work (mathematics, astrology and astronomy) in Nürnberg. The proceedings of this conference are due to appear in book, form hopefully in 2015.

This coming Wednesday, 17 December 2014, will see the founding of the Simon Marius Gesellschaft (Simon Marius Society) in Nürnberg to further research and promote his life and work. Anybody who is interested is herewith cordially invited to apply for full or corresponding membership. There are no membership fees!


Filed under History of Astronomy, History of science, Local Heroes, Renaissance Science

6 responses to “A very similar luminous lustre appears when one observes a burning candle from a great distance through a translucent piece of horn.

  1. Walter Hehl

    Nice to see Simon Marius commented in this Blog!
    He as well as Thomas Harriott are so shadowed by the great PR guy Galilei.
    As far as I know, the greek names of the “Galilean” Jupiter moons have been proposed by Simon Marius.

    It must have been very turbulent times between Toscana and Bavaria, with comedy and blind ambition, religion and scientific pioneering. An example how difficult historical work and neutral analysis can be (and is).
    I am somehow biassed having been at school in Gunzenhausen, Bavaria, to a school now having the name of Simon Marius.

    • The names Io, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto were actually suggested by Johannes Kepler but first published by Marius in his Mundus Iovialis. It should however be pointed out that they were first adopted for the moons in the nineteenth century.

  2. skyweek

    In how far had the Orion Nebula been “resolved into individual stars”? One could detect stars inside that feature with early telescopes, but the nebulosity remained, of course (and the central region of the Orion Nebula has such a high surface brightness that any optical instrument will show it). Do you imply that early observers of the Orion Nebula simply ignored the residual nebulosity they could not resolve into stars, blaming it on their poor optics or eyesight or some other artefact? Such arguments would have been an interesting – if erroneous – episode in early astronomical usage of the telescope.

    • Not really my field of expertise but guessing or extrapolating I presume that the early telescope users thought that like the Milky way, which viewed through a telescope resolved into stars but still retained much nebulous material, the Orion and other nebulae would resolve further into stars with better and more powerful telescopes. Don’t forget that early 17th-century telescopes had abysmally bad images suffering from all sorts of distortions and aberrations. The difference was that the Andromeda nebula showed no signs whatsoever of resolving into stars.

  3. Pingback: 15/12/1612: Simon Marius detectó Andrómeda | :: ZTFNews.org

  4. Pingback: Whewell’s Gazette: Vol. #27 | Whewell's Ghost

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