De revolutionibus

Last February 15th was the 450 aniversary of the bird of Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642). As everbody knows Galileo was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philospher. In other words, he was a Renaissance scientist who played a major role in the scientific revolution. Galileo’s championing of heliocentrism was controversial within his lifetime; he was investigated by the Roman Inquisition, which concluded that heliocentrism was false and contrary to scripture, placing works advocating the Copernican system on the index of banned books and forbidding Galileo from advocating heliocentrism. He was tried by the Holy Office, then found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, was forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism.

Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was also a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated Heliocentrism, a scientific model of the universe which placed the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the center. The publication of Copernicus’ book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just before his death in 1543, is considered a major event in the history of science. It began the “Copernican Revolution” that resolved the issue of planetary retrograde motion by arguing that such motion was only perceived and apparent, rather than real…

The solar system has the Sun in its center with all the planets spining in eliptical orbits around it. The Earth’s orbit is the motion of the Earth around the Sun, from an average distance of 149.59787 million kilometers away. A complete orbit of the Earth around the Sun occurs every 365.2563666 mean solar days (1 sidereal year). This motion gives an apparent movement of the Sun with respect to the stars at a rate of about 1°/day eastward, as seen from Earth. On average it takes 24 hours—a solar day—for Earth to complete a full rotation about its axis relative to the Sun so that the Sun returns to the meridian. The orbital speed of the Earth around the Sun averages about 30 km/s (108,000 km/h). Assuming Earth’s orbit around the sun to be circular, the “journey” of the Earth in one year is roughly 940 million kilometers (585 million miles).

Some years ago I read the book “The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe.” by Arthur Koestler, an interesting informative approach to the history of Astronomy. In the book, the author stated that the highly technical “De Revolutionibus” was ignored by 16th-century readers.

More recently, it came to my eyes an incredible “journey” of more than 30 years carried out by Owen Gingerich, a former Research Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University, and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. He spent more than 30 years of his life hunting down every known surviving copy of Nicolaus Copernicus’s 1543 opus, “De revolutionibus” [see]

His journey began as “a smallish project” to prove whether Copernicus’s work was or wasn’t read. Gingerich tracked who first owned each book, deciphered notes that studious readers – including Galileo Galilei – had penned in the margins, and plotted each book’s travels to form a picture of what the scientific network of the day looked like. His exhaustive research proved beyond question that “De Revolutionibus” was, indeed, a hard book to put down.

Needless to say that I have ordered Gingerich book and I am eager to read it!

#0032EAs most of the formers contributors to this “Journey of a Photograph” when I received the parcel and look at the picture inside it, I thought of a journey in a train. The trees in that picture inspired me and, after harvesting several drink cans converted to pinhole cams to register solargraphs during a holiday trip to my homeland in Asturias (North coast of Spain) I was lucky enough as to have manage to point in the right direction.

In the solargraph you see a centenary oak covered by the sun trails from the 15th of August 2013 to the 7th of February 2014. When I opened the can I found some water inside wetting the sensible black and white paper. This is, most probably, the responsible of producing those blue spots in the bottom and the “peculiar” brownish color. After letting it dry in the dark, I scanned the image formed during those months to get (after minimum post process in PS) the image you see above.

Can you image the distance we all traverse in our lives without even noticing it? A long Journey based on “Revolutionibus”

17 thoughts on “De revolutionibus

  1. Jesús, this is an hugely inspiring post. I love that the image was 6 months in the making (and how many miles?). Truly a journey in every way.
    And it is a spectacular solargraph! Even the water making its own marks adds to the beauty. Absolutely magical. Love the narrative, too.
    I need to try this technique!

    (The ‘book quest’ link Does not seem to work, though…)

    • Thank you very much, Karen!
      I am glad you like it; I was not confident with my English writing.
      Yes, Solargraphy is spectacular and I encourage you (and every photo lover) to try it. I can provide some info if needed [].
      I edited the post to correct the link to the “book quest”. It is an almost ten year old notice in the Boston Globe about the book and a presentation Prof. Gingerich made in 2004.

  2. As Karen says, inspiring and magical, Jesus. A journey in itself. Thanks so much for your participation. I will definitely be trying this as well I have never made a solargraph before and am excited to try!

    • Thanks a lot Emily!
      I am glad you like it and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this wonderful project.
      If you need any help with solargraph, please don’t hesitate in telling me, all right?
      Best wishes!

  3. Reblogged this on searchingtosee and commented:

    This wonderful solargraph by Jesus Joglar was 6 months in the making. He charts the journey of the sun, around the earth, around a beautiful, majestic, solid oak tree. And then there is the journey of science – a quest for knowledge. A fascinating read and a wonderful image. Magical, and life affirming.

  4. What an interesting trip Journey of a Photograph took you on. Hooray to Emily for giving us the incentive to keep going.Your piece is fascinating Jesus.I too like the strange colors produced by time and the elements. Thank you. Maybe we’ll get an update on a future solargraph. Carla

    • Thanks so much, Carla!!
      I am glad you like it. When I opened the cam and took out the wet paper (there was some water was inside the can) I was a little upset but after scanning and inverting the negative image I was positively surprised with the colors of both the sun tracks and the surroundings of the oak.
      I don’t know what you mean by “an update on a future solargraph”. I have several more solargraphs to post and you already may see some others I posted in my blog []

  5. I received a copy of this solargraph in the parcel sent on to me from Kiwiskan in New Zealand. Glad to have it. It’s incredible that a primitive tool like a cold drink can can produce such a sophisticated image. I’m storing the idea for future use of my own.

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