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A PHILOSOPHICAL HISTORY (1752) In the seventeenth century there was still some hope that, even if the Earth was not the center of the Universe, it might be the only "world." But Galileo's telescope revealed that "the Moon certainly does not possess a smooth and polished surface" and that other worlds might look "just like the face of the Earth itself." The Moon and the planets showed unmistakably that they had as much claim to being worlds as the Earth does—with mountains, craters, atmospheres, polar ice caps, clouds, and, in the case of Saturn, a dazzling, unheard-of set of circumferential rings. This was the next in the series of Great Demotions, downlifting experiences, demonstrations of our apparent insignificance, wounds that science has, in its search for Galileo's facts, delivered to human pride.Far from being at the center of the Galaxy, our Sun with its entourage of dim and tiny planets lies in an undistinguished sector of an obscure spiral arm.
And when we observe distant quasars 5 billion light-years away, we are seeing them as they were 5 billion years ago, before the Earth was formed.Generally speaking, that's hundreds or thousands of years ago.