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In this month - February

Galileo in St Mark's Square, Venice. Copyright Wellcome Collection.

13 February 1633

Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating the Copernican theory, which stated that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. He was put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII and spent the rest of his days at his villa near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642. The woodblock image above of Galileo with his telescope in the Piazza San Marco, Venice, is from the Wellcome Library, London:

16 February 1948

Gerard Kuiper discovered Miranda, also designated Uranus V, one of the moons of Uranus at McDonald Observatory, USA. It has the largest cliff in the solar system, Verona Rupes, rising some 20 kilometres above the surrounding landscape. The moon is named after Miranda from William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, in keeping with the other moons of Uranus.

11 February 2016

Physicists announced the discovery of gravitational waves that were first anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago. The announcement is the climax of a century of speculation, 50 years of trial and error, and 25 years perfecting a set of instruments so sensitive they can identify a distortion in space time a thousandth the diameter of one atomic nucleus across a 4km strip of laser beam and mirror.


14 February 1898

Fritz Zwicky. Swiss astronomer based in the USA. He was the first astronomer to propose the existence of dark matter and made important contributions in the areas of supernovas, neutron stars, galactic cosmic rays, gravitational lensing by galaxies, and galaxy clusters. In 1934, together with his colleague Walter Baade, he came up with the term “supernova” and during his career was able to find over 120 supernovae.

11 February 1911

Carl Seyfert. American astronomer. He is best known for his research paper on galaxies that emit broad emission line spectra, which became named Seyfert galaxies after him. These galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centres. He also published many papers on a wide variety of topics in stellar and galactic astronomy, as well as on observing methods and instrumentation.

24 February 1967

Brian Schmidt (pictured above courtesy of The University of Sydney). American born Australian based astronomer. Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU) and previously an astrophysicistat at Mount Stromlo Observatory. In 2011 He was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics together with Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter for their observations which led to the discovery of the accelerating universe.

In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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