The best of Harriot’s two whole-Moon maps shows a wealth of detail. Image copyright Lord Egremont, Petworth House Archives
January 30, 2009 This year the world celebrates the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), marking the 400th anniversary of the first drawings of celestial objects through a telescope. The telescope was invented in Holland in 1608, though it is Italian Galileo Galilei who is commonly accredited with having made the first telescope-enabled discoveries in 1609 due to the publishing of his Siderius Nuncius in 1610. Galileo was the first to publish drawings of the cratered surface of the Moon and the satellites of Jupiter, which added considerable weight to the Copernican cause and man’s understanding of the universe. Now evidence has come to light that English polymath Thomas Harriot examined and recorded the Moon through a telescope prior to the brilliant Italian.