In the 1600s, the nature of the moon was a matter of debate. Papers arguing for the modern concept of the moon were being printed, such as The Discovery of a World in the Moone, 1638.

The phrase a world in the moon referred to the idea that the moon was a solid, round body on which people could walk about, like our own earth. Today this is completely uncontroversial, which raises my question:

In the 1600s, what was the opposing position? If you didn't believe that there was a world in the moon, what did you believe?

For example, the authors of the text cited above argued a number of points about the moon: that it was solid, that it was opaque, that it reflected the light of the sun, and (as a separate point) that there was a world in the moon. What did people believe about the moon before such papers convinced them otherwise?

  • This question appears to be off-topic because it has nothing to do with history. – Tyler Durden Jun 25 '14 at 18:38
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    @TylerDurden, I'm trying to find out about what people believed before they learned what we know now. I think historical beliefs are on topic here, but we'll see what the community thinks. – Joe Jun 25 '14 at 18:43
  • This question seems slightly off. I think you need to anchor it more in historical belief maybe by rewording it. – ihtkwot Jun 25 '14 at 18:49

The original astronomic concepts were that planets, stars, and the sun were small, close light sources. Being in heaven, they were perfect (aside from the moon, which was smudged due to closeness to this imperfect sphere). They were embedded in clear solid domes at varying distances. But in general, the idea that the heavens were made for us on Earth to look at persisted a long time.

The overturning of these ideas, showing that some planets revolved around the sun or that moons existed around Jupiter upset this apple cart when the first telescopes were turned upward. So the crystal spheres had to go.

But still, you could see these objects as smooth lights or globes to reflect light, thus 'perfect'. The discovery of spots on the sun hurt this idea of perfection, as did the discovery of mountains, plains, and geographic features like earth on the moon. So a mountain on the moon means the moon is another world like earth. Another blow for the idea that there is an essential division between Earth and "The Heavens".

From Wiki, Planetary Science:

In more modern times, planetary science began in astronomy, from studies of the unresolved planets. In this sense, the original planetary astronomer would be Galileo, who discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter, the mountains on the Moon, and first observed the rings of Saturn, all objects of intense later study. Galileo's study of the lunar mountains in 1609 also began the study of extraterrestrial landscapes: his observation "that the Moon certainly does not possess a smooth and polished surface" suggested that it and other worlds might appear "just like the face of the Earth itself".[3]

Advances in telescope construction and instrumental resolution gradually allowed increased identification of the atmospheric and surface details of the planets. The Moon was initially the most heavily studied, as it always exhibited details on its surface, due to its proximity to the Earth, and the technological improvements gradually produced more detailed lunar geological knowledge. In this scientific process, the main instruments were astronomical optical telescopes (and later radio telescopes) and finally robotic exploratory spacecraft.

See Also: Celestial Spheres

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    Do you have any sources for the ancient view of the moon? – Joe Jun 25 '14 at 20:19

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