A Brief History of High-Energy Astronomy: 1600 - 1699 Era

In Reverse Chronological Order

6 Jul 1687 Sir Isaac Newton's "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" (Mathematical Principals of Natural Philosophy) published.
1667 or 1679 The inferred date of the supernova explosion which produced the Cassiopeia (Cas) A supernova remnant (SNR 111.7-02.1), the last supernova known to have occurred in our (Milky Way) Galaxy. It has been somewhat puzzling to modern astronomers as to why there are no definitive observations by contemporaneous eastern or western astronomers of this supernova, although it has been suggested by Ashworth (1980, Journal for the History of Astronomy, 11, 1) that Flamsteed may have seen it, since there is a star marked in John Bevis's Uranographia Britannica (sky atlas), which was created in the 18th century, at the position at which Cas A lies.
Jun 1670 The first definitive detection by Western astronomers of a classical nova, now called Nova Vul 1670 or CK Vul. The discoverer is believed to be Dom Anthelme, a Carthusian monk, who reported a new 3rd magnitude star in (what was then) the constellation of Cygnus. After CK Vul faded out of sight in 1672, it was not until 1982 that astronomers located the now much fainter star and the nebulosity ejected in the outburst: see Shara et al. (ApJ, 294, 271, 1985) for a review of this object. See the IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegram's List of Novae in the Milky Way for the properties of this and later Galactic novae.
1667 The Italian astronomer Geminiano Montanari discovers that the star Algol (also known as Beta Persei or the Demon Star) is a variable star, making it one of the first non-nova, non-supernova variable stars discovered. Algol was later discovered by John Goodricke (1783, Phil. Trans. Royal Society of London, 73, 474) to be a periodic variable star, and (much) later (in the 1970s) this eclipsing binary star was found to be both a strong radio and X-ray emitter.
1665 The publication of the first volume of the Philosophical Transactions (of the Royal Society of London), generally considered to be the first true "scientific" journal (although the term "scientific" hadn't been invented at this date). Interestingly, among the very first articles in the debut volume were ones on astronomical topics such as the belts of Jupiter and on a comet.
1645-1715 Studies of the occurrence rate of sunspots, as well as radiocarbon (C14) analysis of tree rings, indicate a 70-year period of lower than average solar activity, now called the Maunder Minimum. This period was, likely not coincidentally, one with cooler than average global temperatures, implying that the solar luminosity was also reduced during this interval.
1632-1633 Publication in March 1632 of Galileo Galilei's "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World - Ptolemaic and Copernican" in which he compared and contrasted the geocentric and heliocentric models, followed in 1633 by his trial and conviction by the Inquisition.
1612 The first detection by Western astronomers of a probable nova, in the constellation of Leo. This nova reached 4th magnitude and was reported by the German astronomer and Jesuit priest Christoph Scheiner. See the IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegram's List of Novae in the Milky Way for the properties of this and later Galactic novae.
1609-1612 Galileo Galilei builds his telescope in 1609 and discovers over the next several years, among other things, the phases of Venus, the Galilean satellites around Jupiter, and the presence of sunspots on the Sun.
1609 Publication of Kepler's "Commentaries on the motions of Mars" which includes Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion.
1608 Invention of the telescope by Hans Lippershey, a German-Dutch len grinder and eyeglass maker and/or other Dutch instrument makers.
1607 Johannes Kepler records the appearance and motion of the comet of 1607 (later to be known as Halley's Comet (P/Halley)).
1604 Both Kepler and Galileo, as well as Chinese and Korean astronomers, observe and record a "new star" in Serpens (Ophiuchus in the modern IAU-designated constellations) which is now recognized to be a supernova (SN 1604). The remnant of this supernova, SNR 004.5+06.8, is referred to as Kepler's SNR in honor of its co-discoverer (sorry, Mr. Galileo et al.)
Feb 17, 1600 The execution by the Inquisition of the philosopher and Dominican monk Giordano Bruno. Bruno was known for his espousal of the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis and his suggestion that the stars were distant suns which could also have planets orbiting them. He was also a philosopher, theologian and poet. The degree to which his astronomical views led to his trial and execution is still actively debated among historians.

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We would like to thank the following individuals for their contributions to this page: Jesse S. Allen, and Ian M. George along with JPL's Space Calendar and the Working Group for the History of Astronomy's Astronomiae Historia (History of Astronomy) information pages.

Web page author: Stephen A. Drake (based on an original by Jesse S. Allen)

Web page maintainer: Stephen A. Drake

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