Discovering Mira Ceti: Celestial Change and Cosmic Continuity
In the short narrative that follows I introduce two new heroes. Although we begin with Fabricius’s first sighting in 1596, the new pivot point in the drama is the collaboration between Hevelius and Boulliau that began around 1660. As it happens, Learned Europe paid little attention to Mira in the generation after the first scattered sightings of 1596, indeed, nearly 70 years passed before the New Star was given a working identity. Like Columbus discovering America, Fabricius and Holwarda saw different things—for convenience, I call them Fabricius’s Star and Holwarda’s Star. Hevelius’s Historiola (Danzig, 1662) and Boulliau’s Ad astronomos (Paris, 1667) presented a different vision. It made Mira famous. As I shall argue, if Hevelius gave Mira a history, Boulliau gave Mira a future.5 In the end, the New Star not only challenged the ancient cosmos, it became an enduring icon for the New Science, a returning reminder of celestial continuity and cosmic order.