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Galileo not the first to view moon through telescope?

January 14, 2009 15:29 IST

400-year-old set of 'moon maps' have led experts to claim that their creator -- Thomas Harriot -- beat Galileo to become the first man to view the moon through a telescope.

Galileo has long been credited with achieving the feat, in December 1609.

Now, according to a report by BBC News, papers at West Sussex Record Office show Harriot, an Englishman, managed it months earlier.

Dr Allan Chapman, a science historian at Oxford University, said Harriot's composite drawing of the moon marked 'the birth of modern cartography'.

'Thomas Harriot was not only the first person ever to draw an astronomical body with a telescope on 26 July 1609, he rapidly developed to become an absolutely superb lunar cartographer,' he said. 

'There weren't equivalent lunar drawings to be done for another 30 years. Tragically, no one knew of it until relatively recent times, so Galileo gets all the credit,' he further added.

Harriot's achievement has been heralded as a turning point in astronomy by many experts.

It allowed craters and mountains on the moon's surface to be studied in close-up for the first time and helped dispel many of the myths that existed about the celestial body.

British experts hope the exhibition, at the record office in Chichester, will help get Harriot the wider recognition they believe he deserves.

According to Astronomer Patrick Moore, 'I am sorry Harriot isn't better known over here; after all we all know Galileo.'

'But, Harriot was first, and his map of the moon is better than Galileo's,' he added.

Source: ANI