For nearly a century, the University of Michigan possessed a piece of paper that it considered “one of the jewels” of its library. Believed to have been written in 1609 and 1610 by astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei, it features a letter signed by the scientist describing a new telescope and sketches of moons orbiting Jupiter. The university held that it was the “first observational data that showed objects orbiting a body other than the earth.”
Galileo did use a new telescope in 1610 to discover that moons orbit around Jupiter—a finding that helped substantiate Nicolaus Copernicus’ heliocentric theory—but he did not write the manuscript, the university announced last week following an investigation. Rather, the document was forged in the 20th century, most likely by a man named Tobia Nicotra….