Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Mind the Gap

The starry eyed fellow above is one Giovanni Cassini, born this day 1625 in the Republic of Genoa, Italy. Our talented boy above was the first to observe four of Saturn's moons, he also shares the glory (with Robert Hooke) of discovering Jupiter's Giant Red Spot. He is also known for, and it is named after him, for finding the Cassini division in the rings of Saturn (back when I learned about the stars it was called the Cassini gap, but I guess things change after a hundred years or so). He also made the first successful measurement of longitude by using the method another bright boy, Galileo suggested. In 1671 he helped to set up the Paris Observatory, and remained its director for the rest of his life. He was also the official astronomer and astrologer to King Louis XIV. During this time, Cassini helped to take the first accurate measurement of the size of France, it turned out it was much smaller than people thought, and the King remarked that Cassini had taken more territory from him that he had lost during all of his wars, and King Louis XIV waged a lot of wars. But, for all of those heavenly discoveries, and accurate maps that added a great deal to man's knowledge of the universe around him, Giovanni Cassini (June 8th, 1625-September 14th, 1712, at the age of 87), you are my (286th) hero of the day.

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