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Influential Astronomers and their Contributions
Posted In: Space and Astrology  3/20/11
By: Yona Williams

Before we sent astronauts into space and collected moon rocks, the history of astronomy has been shaped by a handful of early thinkers and astronomers from around the world. In this article, you will encounter some of the people who have made a difference in the way we looked at the sun, moon, stars and the sky.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

A well-known name in the astronomy community, Galileo lived during the same time as Johannes Kepler, who played an important role in establishing an accurate model of the solar system. Galileo was an Italian astronomer who became the next shining star in the world of astronomy. He also believed in the theories of Copernicus.  

He was a man known for conducting experiments with falling objects from the leaning tower in Pisa – the infamous attraction that was found in his hometown. Other discoveries attributed to Galileo involved his experiments with pendulums and creation of homemade telescopes.

In 1610, Galileo was using the most advanced telescope of his time and made an exciting discovery. He saw that Jupiter had at least four moons orbiting it. This find was not in line with the thought of a concentric system because the moons of Jupiter when orbiting the planet and not the Earth. The discovery did not support Ptolemy's view of everything orbiting around the Earth.  Ptolemy was one of the first people to shed light on the concentric model. Those in favor of the theory felt that it was true because they believed Earth would leave the moon behind if it circled the sun.

According to Galileo's discovery, if Jupiter could retain its satellites, then the Earth could retain the moon as it went around the sun. Galileo published a paper about his findings. The Roman Catholic Church was not pleased and because of it, found himself in deep water. He was placed under house arrest until his death – all because he was an advocate of the Copernican theory.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

With the contributions of Sir Isaac Newton, an English astronomer, the foundation of astronomy became complete. Without Newton's findings, concepts associated with light would still be in the dark. Using his knowledge of astronomy, science, and math, Newton explored the laws of gravity and formulated laws that provided an explanation on how objects move. He also helped people to better understand how gravity worked in the first place.

Newton is responsible for jumpstarting the study of spectrum analysis. The first reflecting telescope that has made it possible to build the large telescopes found in the observatories of today is also connected to Newton.

The laws that Kepler, Galileo, and Newton created all had flaws at some point, but they were good enough to be considered reliable. Their contributions were used for many years with various scholars revising some of their work, such as Albert Einstein (1879-1955), who is famously known for his theories regarding relativity.

The laws provided by Kepler, Galileo, and Newton were not perfect but they had a good degree of reliability and were used for many years. There have been revisions of their laws by Albert Einstein and others but the original laws are still used by many for calculations that do not need an extremely high degree of precision.


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