37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 1 Cassini-Huygens
Invited, HAD Intro., Monday, September 5, 2005, 9:00-10:30am, Music Concert Hall

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[1.01] Saturn through the Telescope: The First Century

A. Van Helden (University of Utrecht)

Saturn was first seen through the telescope by Galileo in the summer of 1610. In the ensuing half century, Saturn's strange appearances became a celebrated puzzle. The problem was often not the poor quality of telescopes: a number of observers drew images that we would interpret as showing a ring around the planet. It was also a problem of concepts because for several decades observers had the wrong model in mind when they observed the planet. Thus we could say that their telescopes could show them the ring, but their preconceptions did not allow them to see it. The manner in which Christiaan Huygens arrived at the solution, in the winter of 1655-56, shows that more than good telescopes were necessary, although for rhetorical reasons Huygens maintained the opposite. And Huygens's ring-theory, elegent as it was, had several shortcomings that were slowly fixed--often by others.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.