Influential Astronomers: Brahe & Kepler
Space and Astrology 3/20/11
By: Yona Williams
Throughout the history of space study and perfecting astronomical calculations, a handful of people have paved the way for such things to happen. Before modern astronomers were able to test out theories and solidify the model of the solar system, some scholars used previous evidence and early observations to create models that could become widely accepted and accurate. This article presents the contributions of Tyco Brahe and Johannes Kepler.
Tyco Brahe (1546-1601)
Before the telescope became a major piece of equipment for astronomers, other instruments were used to gauge the changes in the night sky. With the help of King Frederick II, Tyco Brahe was able to build an observatory on the Island of Hveen. It was here that he used some of the most accurate pre-telescopic instruments for observing space that were ever constructed. With these tools, he was able to calculate the positions of objects to within one minute of an arc, which was far more precise than any other assessments before him.
Brahe is also known for logging in a nonstop record of the positions of many planets and other celestial bodies. He did this for several years, all the while not accepting the ideas of Copernicus. Brahe approached the topic of the universe as a compromise Ã¢â‚¬â€œ believing that the five planets orbited the sun, but that the sun orbited the earth. He felt that the motion of the earth would be felt. He sided with religion and thought that Copernicus's ideas were unscriptural.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Towards the end of the Renaissance, a German astronomer named Johannes Kepler emerged. He wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afraid to believe in the same things as Copernicus. He also took a look at the records of observations belonging to Brahe. Since none of the ideas current during his time (pertaining to the motions of heavenly bodies) matched the records of Brahe, Kepler decided to create his own ideas. He spent 17 years working on the subject and eventually arrived with a conclusion centered on the true motions of the planets.
In addition to his studies, he also published two books in 1609 and 1619. Another discovery was that the planets traveled around the sun in ellipses. He described one focus of the ellipse at the center of the sun, while the other focus was usually at an unoccupied point in space. The rules associated with the movements of the planets were explained in what became known as Kepler's laws.
Thanks to the work of Kepler and Brahe, astronomers who came after them were able to work with a model of the solar system that actually matched the evidence. With this help, they could use the information they gathered to foresee future events or reconstruct some of the events that had already taken place in the past.