Galileo’s Battle For The Heavens - premieres 7.50pm, Monday 1 & Tuesday 2 June on Sky 534 & Virgin Media 243
Based on Dava Sobel’s best-selling book and featuring Simon Callow in dramatic reconstructions, this documentary explores the life of the Italian physicist and astronomer considered by many to be the father of modern science.
Born in Pisa in 1564, Galileo lived a generation after Nicolas Copernicus published his controversial theory that the Earth was not the centre of the universe around which the heavens revolved. The theory was considered absurd by most scholars since it contradicted certain passages in the Bible, but Galileo was certain that Copernicus was right. Utilising an advanced telescope which he had designed himself, he discovered moons orbiting Jupiter and phases in the appearance of Venus, analogous to the phases of the moon, which supported the Copernican view. The Church insisted that Galileo couch his speculations in hypothetical terms only, but he stepped over the line in 1632 when he published his Dialogue On The Two Chief World Systems, which contained a thinly-veiled attack on Pope Urban VIII. Galileo was hauled before the Inquisition and spent the remaining nine years of his life under house arrest. The film reveals that Galileo’s closest confidante was his illegitimate daughter Sister Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun, as it brings one of the great minds of the Renaissance to life.