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portion of full-page star diagram featering location of Nova

Book of the week — Tychonis Brahe Mathim: eminent: Dani Opera omnia, sive Astronomiae instavratae progymnasta…

title-page with lower half-page image of figure with horn
“On the 11th day of November in the evening after sunset, I was contemplating the stars in a clear sky. I noticed that a new and unusual star, surpassing the other stars in brilliancy, was shining almost directly above my head; and since I had, from boyhood, known all the stars of the heavens perfectly, it was quite evident to me that there had never been any star in that place of the sky, even the smallest, to say nothing of a star so conspicuous and bright as this. I was so astonished of this sight that I was not ashamed to doubt the trustworthyness of my own eyes. But when I observed that others, on having the place pointed out to them, could see that there was really a star there, I had no further doubts. A miracle indeed, one that has never been previously seen before our time, in any age since the beginning of the world.” — Tycho Brahe as quoted in Burnham’s Celestial Handbook by Robert Burnham Jr. (1931-1993)

Tychonis Brahe Mathim: eminent: Dani Opera omnia, sive Astronomiae instavratae progymnasta…
Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
Francofvrti: Impensis I. G. Schönvvetteri, 1648
First complete edition

This is the first collection of writings by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe on the new star of 1572-74 and the comet of 1577. It was his observation of these astronomical phenomena that compelled Brahe to abandon the Aristotelian theory of the universe and replace it with his own geo-heliocentric system, an important step in the acceptance of the Copernican doctrine.

In early November 1572 a new star appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Its glow peaked on November 15. It was visible to the naked eye until 1574 when it faded from view. It was what we refer to today as a “supernova” — the last explosion of a dying star, one of only eight documented supernovae visible to the naked eye. Brahe reported it to be as bright as Jupiter and that it grew to be as bright as Venus. For nearly two weeks the star could be seen in daylight.

Sighting of the star was reported around the world, from England to China.

In 2008, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, after observations from a telescope in Hawaii, declared it a stellar ember called a white dwarf, which exploded after gorging on material stolen from its neighbor.

Diagram of sky with new star

seated figure of woman with outline of constelation including new star, list of stars in italics at gutter of page

The noble and wealthy Brahe’s superb collection of astronomical instruments allowed him to make more precise measurements of all sorts of celestial movement than had been made before. His observational data proved that the comet of 1577 was at least six times farther from earth than the moon. Woodcuts illustrate many of the instruments Brahe used – sextants, quadrants and other armillae.

engraving of sextant standing on checkered floor
Triangular Sextant

full-page engraving of armillary sphere on checkered floor
Armillary Sphere

full-page engraving of brass quadrant standing on checkered floor agains a brick wall with arched window
Brass Azimuthal Quadrant

The text includes many diagrams and tables. Large woodcut printer’s device on each title-page.

Recommended reading:
Burnham’s Celestial Handbook
Robert Burnham, Jr.
QB64 B85 1978
General Collections Level 1

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