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Section 5: The Sphere of the Fixed Stars Dissolves
Inspired by the comet of 1577 that signaled the rejection of the concept of planetary spheres, Giordano Bruno pleaded to abolish the sphere of the fixed stars as well. In 1584, he wrote: "Break and hurl to earth with the resounding whirlwind of lively reasoning...the adamantine walls of the...ultimate sphere." The time had come. If the cosmos had no solid planetary spheres, it was difficult to rationalize one for the stars.

Some astronomers, such as Thomas Digges, dissolved the sphere of the fixed stars after it lost its role in moving the planets in the sun-centered system; others were finally convinced by the comet. Some broadened the sphere, depicting the stars as occupying a thicker stellar orb; a few abolished it altogether.


Various images of the heliocentric universe showing the stars dispersed.

Above, clockwise from left:
* William Gilbert, De Mundo Nostro Sublunari Philosophia Nova., 1651.
* Jean Pierre de Mesmes, Les Institutions Astronomiques., 1557.
* Martin Szentivanyi, Curiosiora et Selectiora Variarum Scientiarum Miscellanea 1689.

Perhaps the earliest image of stars dispersed, rather than in sphere. From A Prognostication Euerlasting of Right Good Effect... Lately Corrected and Augmented by Thomas Digges his Sonne. Leonard Digges, 1596.
Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology
5109 Cherry Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
This exhibition is made possible by generous support from Mr. & Mrs. James B. Hebenstreit and Mrs. Lathrop M. Gates.