I’m sure this has been covered before, and I’m almost embarrassed to ask the question. As a grown and educated adult I should already know the answer. But who was the first person ever to realize and publicly suggest that the stars are other suns? IIRC from junior high school history, in Shakespeare’s time they thought the stars were holes in the ‘firmament’ (I think) through which a background light was shining. But surely one of those savvy ancients like Eratosthenes put two and two together and realized that the little ones you see at night were the same thing as the big one you see during the day, only farther away—right? Who was the first recorded person to figure it out?
A technical point: stars are not other suns. There’s only one sun, and it’s hanging over our heads right now. The correct way to phrase your question is to ask who was the first person to recognize that the sun is a star. I don’t know the answer, but I’m thinking the holes in the firmament theory didn’t outlive geocentrism.
In 1584, a monk named Giordano Bruno asserted that the stars are like our own sun, and even have planets. I think he was inspired by the recently revealed (relatively speaking) Copernican model of the solar system. But really, Bruno was just guessing.
For pragmatic reasons, this turned out to be a bad guess by him, since he was burned at the stake for it in 1590.
Probably then it was William Herschel who made the real scientific discovery. I don’t know exactly when he made the big claim, but his career was in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Who discovered that the Sun was a star? Apparently Anaxagoras, around 450 BC.
Actually, further checking suggests that he was executed in 1600.
Apologies to all, including Bruno, who really has been through a lot already.
He was burned at the stake for preaching pantheism, not for his astronomical ideas.
Actually, Walloon, I’m going to use your reference to put Bessel forward as the candidate of choice:
Finally, in 1838, Friedrich Bessel for the first time measured the distance to a star without any assumptions about the nature of stars and found it to be enormous. Distances to other stars followed soon, and then people could calculate the true brightnesses of stars, corrected for their distance to us, and discovered them to be about as bright as the Sun.
This, to me, is where speculation became discovery. Oddly enough, he was the only one in the list that I hadn’t heard of.
> IIRC from junior high school history, in Shakespeare’s time they thought the
> stars were holes in the ‘firmament’ (I think) through which a background light
> was shining.
That’s not my impression. In Shakespeare’s time, most educated people thought that stars were large bodies fixed to the firmament. Others thought that they were like the sun. Does anyone have a cite showing that many people thought that stars were holes in the firmament.
Wait… you nitpick the semantics of the question, then describe the sun as hanging over our heads?
My dictionary suggests that ‘sun’ can be used in reference to other stars - isn’t our particular fireball called Sol?