In Florence, the exhibition ‘Splendori Celesti’: from Galileo to gravitational waves

Dec 18, 2023

Conceived by the Galileo Museum in Florence in collaboration with the European Gravitational Observatory, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the publication of Galileo’s Il Saggiatore – the book that laid the foundations of the modern concept of science – the original exhibition “Splendori celesti. L’osservazione del cielo da Galileo alle onde gravitazionali” [“Celestial Splendors. Observing the Sky from Galileo to Gravitational Waves”] was just inaugurated and will be open from Dec. 16 until March 17, 2024 in the former dormitory of Santa Maria Novella.

The exhibition is curated by Filippo Camerota; in addition to the curator, the scientific committee includes Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota, Agostino De Rosa, Paolo Galluzzi, Franco Giudice and Vincenzo Napolano. Produced with Opera Laboratori, Splendori Celesti offers a new way of looking at the universe: seeing today the stars, planets and their satellites, and comets observed by Galileo Galilei thanks to interactive installations and immersive projections, such as those created by the camerAnebbia studio.

The long visual exploration of space continues today through the eye of large space telescopes and the ear of gravitational observatories such as Virgo. It is the signals captured by these new technologies that close the picture of the great adventure of space exploration that began with Galileo’s telescope. But astronomy across the entire spectrum of electromagnetic radiation (infrared, microwaves, radio waves, at lower wave frequencies, as well as ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays at much higher frequencies and energies) is but one side of all that the universe has to tell us. The discovery of gravitational waves promises to take us a new leap, similar perhaps to the one made by Galileo four hundred years earlier. Gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein early last century, are deformations of the space-time fabric of the Universe, ripples that propagate a change in the gravitational field. These signals, generated, for example, by the violent collisions and mergers of black holes and neutron stars, thus carry with them the trace of the most remote and violent cosmic earthquakes, which shake the fabric of cosmic spacetime. To be able to ‘listen’ to them is to have acquired, like Galileo with his telescope, a new sense for exploring and probing the cosmos around us: a very sensitive ear capable of capturing the gravitational echo of the most remote and violent cosmic phenomena, even up to the Big Bang. This latest fundamental revolution in modern astronomy is the focus of EGO’s contribution to the exhibition concept and itinerary.

The exhibition itinerary unfolds in the large hall of the former dormitory of Santa Maria Novella and is divided into six sections: Celestial Novelties; Comets; Il Saggiatore: a “Discourse on Method”; World Systems; Beyond the Visible: Exploration of Deep Space; The Sky as a Work of Art: the Aesthetic Dimension of Astronomical Observation.

In the fifth section, the protagonist is the European Gravitational Observatory and the Virgo experiment, the last frontier of astrophysics. Unlike the great space telescopes, Hubble and James Webb, which peer into deep space, albeit with infinitely more advanced technologies than Galileo’s simple lensed ‘tube,’ Virgo ‘listens’ to the faint echoes of cosmic cataclysms, such as black hole or neutron star mergers, that occurred millions or billions of years ago, revealing the gravitational waves they generated. Gravitational waves, deformations of the space-time fabric of the universe, were predicted by Albert Einstein in the theory of general relativity, but it was not until 2015 that their actual existence was first recorded. After all, from Galileo to the present, many more are the cosmic messengers that we have learned to pick up and offer us a much richer and more complex picture of our universe. Yet it is clear, 400 years after Il Saggiatore, how decisive is the legacy of Galileo, who first indicated the method by which science proceeds.

The exhibition benefits from the patronage of the City of Florence and the National Committee for the Celebration of the Fourth Centenary of the Election of Pope Urban VIII and the support of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and Unicoop Firenze. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of popular lectures exploring the themes of the exhibition, organized in collaboration with the City of Florence.

The full schedule of events will be posted on the Museo Galileo website.

INFORMATION: | phone: +39 055 2989851

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LOCATION: Santa Maria Novella Complex, former dormitory, Piazza Stazione 6, Florence

OPENING TO THE PUBLIC: Dec. 16, 2023 – March 17, 2024

HOURS: Monday-Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; closed Dec. 25, 2023 and Jan. 1, 2024

TICKET: full: 5 euros | reduced: 3 euros

For online purchase:


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