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Galileo's Legacy

 International STAR Society Conference, December 31 2008 - January 5, 2009
Makaha Resort, Waianae, Oahu, Hawaii

Today’s small telescope engineering development and scientific research are Galileo’s Legacy. Not able to purchase a telescope or even a how-to book, Galileo designed and built his own 1.5-inch aperture telescope, thereby launching the honorable traditions of do-it-yourself telescope-making and small telescope engineering. In 1609, Galileo turned his newly-made telescope toward the heavens and, in rapid succession, discovered the mountains on the Moon, a multitude of previously invisible stars, and four moons orbiting Jupiter. Not wishing to be scooped, Galileo wasted no time in describing his scientific research in Sidereus Nuncius. Many of Galileo’s observations were made from his backyard.

Four centuries after Galileo’s 1609 observations—thanks to the revolutionary trio of affordable CCD cameras, small go-to telescopes, and personal computers—thousands of backyard Galileos around the planet are now probing cosmic mysteries every clear night. They conduct scientific research across a broad spectrum: tumbling asteroids, pulsating stars, eclipsing binaries, transiting planets, and sputtering matter as it spirals onto white dwarfs and neutron stars.

To commemorate Galileo and celebrate his legacy, 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy (IYA). Starting on New Year’s Eve, Galileo's Legacy, a five-day International STAR Society celebratory conference, will help launch the IYA.   It will honor not only Galileo and his telescope, but also the many current builders and researchers—amateurs, students, and professionals—who are successfully designing, building, and using small telescopes, CCD cameras, and even spectrographs to advance astronomical science.

How do small telescopes in 2009 compare with Galileo’s 1609 telescope? Today’s backyard and campus telescopes typically have apertures around 15 inches (and beyond). With 10 times the aperture of Galileo’s telescope, they have 100 times the light gathering power. Equipped with CCD cameras, they can accumulate photons for an hour, compared with 1/10th of a second (or less) for Galileo’s eye—some 36,000 times longer. Considering both photon gathering area and integration time, today’s small telescopes and CCD cameras can accumulate an amazing 3,600,000 times more photons than Galileo’s telescope and eye—not to mention the advantages inherent in today’s greater telescope resolution and computerized go-to and image processing capabilities. No wonder these small telescopes with their CCD “eyes” are such powerful scientific research tools!

We invite you to join an eclectic gathering of amateur, student, and professional small-telescope designers, builders, and astronomical researchers as, together, we celebrate Galileo’s achievements by, four centuries later, examining his legacy: the remarkable resurgence of small telescopes and their science.
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