History of Astronomy: the Revolution in Used Gear Sales (and GALILEO, the man)

Hundreds of years ago, in Europe, if you printed something called "The Starry Messenger" you could be dragged before the Inquisition. There you would face gruesome torture followed by "Justice" and death by any manner of horrific means (see page bottom for the story of the historic origin of the name "The Starry Messenger!")

.A couple decades ago, in the 1980s, if you were an astronomer and you had a used scope to sell, you had a slow and limited set of resources. The easiest was trying to sell it to someone in your Club, but putting your astro gear into the local newspaper, or out at a garage sale, would have poor prospects. The best way to sell if you had the time to wait was to send a check in the mail to buy an ad in Sky and Telescope Magazine, but that had a lead time of 1-2 months..... Basically, there was a huge "vacuum in space" in terms of astronomers reaching a large group of their peers to buy and sell used astronomical gear, or to make known their projects and club activities.

Steve Cariddi and his partner Alan Levin saw the need clearly, and in about 1986 began a free resource for their fellow astronomers......(note: they were based in Ithaca, New York, which itself is an interesting story: Ithaca, despite a poor climate for astronomy, has for many years been the base of VernonScope, a small company of high repute which has for decades supplied the famed Brandon eyepieces for Questar, and in more recent years has produced a series of remarkable apochromats, culiminating in their prestigious 130mm in about 1995 (readers are invited to email me with more exact dates!)......Starry Messenger was not able to remain free, and by 1994 subscriptions cost about as much as a subscription to Sky and Telescope..... The Messenger faded away sometime in the mid-Nineties, and was gone forever. I suspect the rise of the Internet was part of the story there, as tech-savvy astronomers soon realized the wonderous resource the Internet could provide them in contacting a world-wide audience of their peers... Nowadays, there is no doubt about the total success of such on-line used gear resources as "AstroMart."

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Last Revision 1/28/2016


THE STARRY MESSENGER IN HISTORY

The year is 1610, and a 46 year old Italian scientist writes a book that gets him into a whole lot of serious trouble. Its title is "The Starry Messenger."

The man is Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). He's been grinding lenses and gradually improving his ground-breaking telescope to the point where its 20-power magnification and 50mm uncoated objective have shown him the fact that Jupiter is not a star, but another planet, and, most importantly, that it has moons that revolve around it, and NOT around the Earth as the proper Aristotle laws said they should. This seemingly fun observation was reported in Galileo's book, but the unfortunate fact was that Galileo's observtions and theories clearly supported Copernicanism, which was soon to be officially banned by the Roman Catholic Church, making anybody believing in it heretics and subject to the death sentence at Church whim.. And indeed, in 1633 Galileo was dragged before the Inquistion and forced to publicly recant his theories or face death...... In the history of science, Galileo's experiment-based work was a huge departure from the abstract approach of Aristotle. Galileo is now often referred to as the "father of modern observational astronomy." Click here to go to Wikipedia for more detail about Galileo.