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Modern astronomy began a little more than three centuries ago with the invention of the telescope and Galileo's application of it to the study of the heavenly bodies. This new instrument at once revealed to him the mountains on the moon, the satellites of Jupiter, and the spots on the sun, and brought the celestial bodies under observation in a way that no one had dreamed of before. In our view to-day, the planets of the solar system are worlds; we can examine their surfaces and judge wherein they resemble or differ from our earth. To the ancients they were but points of light; to us they are vast bodies that we have been able to measure and to weigh. The telescope has enabled us also to penetrate deep into outer space; we have learnt of other systems besides that of our own sun and its dependents, many of them far more complex; clusters and clouds of stars have been revealed to us, and mysterious nebul?, which suggest by their forms that they are systems of suns in the making.
Walter Maunder was a British astronomer best remembered for his study of sunspots and the solar magnetic cycle that led to his identification of the period from 1645 to 1715 that is now known as the Maunder Minimum.