By JENNIFER OUELLETTE
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And if the shape of the lens is not smoothly curved, the result will be spherical aberration: light is not refocused properly, causing blurriness. It was a teenage eyeglass maker in Middelburg, Netherlands, named Zacharias Janssen who first came up with the concept of a microscope, although most historians believe that his father, Hans, must have had a hand in creating the instrument, given Zacharias’s tender age at the time. ) No record exists as to how Zacharias made his discovery, but his profession required him to experiment with lenses.
He noted on January 7, 1610, that Jupiter appeared to have three fixed stars nearby. Intrigued, he looked again the following night, expecting Jupiter (which was then in retrograde) to have moved from east to west, leaving the three stars behind. Instead, Jupiter seemed to have moved eastward. Puzzled, Galileo returned to the formation repeatedly, observing several significant details. First, the stars appeared to be carried along with the planet. Second, they changed their respective positions.
He would train his telescope on a particular point and watch what crossed the field of view in a thin strip of the visible sky. He did this while standing on a ladder, calling out descriptions of the objects he observed to his sister Caroline, who stood below and dutifully recorded the information. On each successive night, he changed the telescope’s position to observe another thin strip of sky, then another, and so forth. Over a period of about 20 years, with Caroline’s help, Herschel was able to map out all of the night sky—at least as much of it as was visible in Great Britain.