The Distant Comet and the Tychonic System

The Tychonic System

In November 1577, Brahe had another unusual experience, similar to that of the 1572 supernova. A comet appeared in the night sky. This excited him very much, and he began new observations. After using parallax measurements, he came to the astonishing conclusion that the object existed farther away than the Moon. Again, this was more evidence against the established theories that only within the sublunary sphere did things move and change. Until Brahe and his instruments came along, comets were...

Privileged Childhood

Copernicus lived a rather obscure life, the accounting of which has been told through bits and pieces of information gathered from scattered historical records. He was born Niclas Koppernigk in Torun, Poland, on February 19, 1473, into the privileged upper class. (Nicholas Copernicus is the Latinized form of his name.) His father, also Niclas Koppernigk, was a merchant who emigrated from Krakow, Poland, in about 1458. He became a successful businessman and magistrate in Torun. Nicholas's mother...

Europes First Astronomical Research Facility Is Built on Hven Island

Word spread to the Danish king Frederick regarding Brahe's achievements in astronomy however, it seemed Brahe had plans to move to Basle, Germany, and not home to Denmark. As a Danish noble, King Frederick expected Brahe to return to Denmark and serve his own country as a royal astronomer. He offered Brahe a number of different castles, but Brahe refused them, stating that the duties associated with the governing of such castles would interfere with his work in astronomy. King Frederick sent...

Cosmology Stardom

Within the rapidly advancing world of modern technology, the name Stephen Hawking was becoming synonymous with innovative cosmology and the mysterious and intriguing issue of black holes. Recognition for his talent was coming fast upon him. In March 1974, Hawking became one of the youngest scientists elected to the Royal Society of London. Between 1975 and 1976, he won six awards for his advances in science, including the Eddington Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, the Pius XI Medal...

Lunar Eclipse Shifts His Educational Goal toward Astronomy

When Tycho was seven years old, he began his schooling at a clerical school near Vordingborg, where he received his elementary education and learned the Latin language, both spoken and written. In 1559, at age 13, Tycho began classical studies at the University of Copenhagen, and, although he focused on law, the university offered education in astronomy and the mathematics that accompany its study. This is where Brahe became deeply involved in the subject. It was within the first year at...

Born into Privilege

Raised as an only child, Tycho (pronounced teeko, as it is in Latin) Brahe was born Tyge Brahe on December 14, 1546, at Knutstorps Castle in Skaane, Denmark (now in Sweden) as a twin. His twin, Niels Brahe, died at birth. Tycho was the firstborn son to his father, Otte Brahe, a distinguished nobleman who was governor of Helsingborg Castle and member of the Danish Rigsraad (elevated in 1563). The Rigsraad, or Council of the Realm, was made up of about 20 members whose courtly duties included...

Design Begins on Observational Instruments

In the pursuit of astronomy, Brahe became very familiar with the many subjects with which it is closely associated, such as mathematics, cartography, geography, navigation, and the use and construction of observational instruments. Brahe's first instrument used for observation was a cross-staff, or astronomical radius. It soon became clear that he was in need of a better instrument. Thus Brahe set about designing his first astronomical instrument for measuring the stellar positions. In 1565,...

Knights Tale

Throughout his productive life, Hershel compiled and published numerous papers, ranging from the first discovery of Uranus in 1781 to an 1821 catalog of 145 double stars. In 1816, the prince of Wales, George IV, knighted Herschel, and in 1820 the Royal Astronomical Society was founded, of which Herschel was appointed president in 1821. During his time, Herschel was a leader in his field. The achievements of other astronomers paled in comparison, since by no other means in the history of the...

Calling for the Death of Physics

Throughout the mid-1990s, some of Hawking's focus shifted to the investigation of the Einstein-Rosen bridge, also known as worm-holes or tunnels through space-time, and the question of whether time travel is possible. The prospect of time travel intrigued Kip Thorn, a theorist at Caltech (California Institute of Technology), as well as other eminent scientists. Thorn and his colleagues showed that general relativity allows for the possibility of a particular type of wormhole to exist as a...

The Shaping of the Galaxy

Through his work on binary stars, Herschel proved that stars, not just planets, had motion. This was significant data, considering that until that time, stars were regarded as fixed objects in the celestial sphere. Herschel began to ask himself if the Sun in our own solar system was on the move, which he showed was precisely the case. Using his superior instruments, Herschel was able to determine the stars' proper motion. He determined that in one part of the sky, the stars seemed to be moving...

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker, a free black man in 18th-century America, taught himself astronomy. (Photo by MPI News and Sport Collection Getty Images) Benjamin Banneker, a free black man in 18th-century America, taught himself astronomy. (Photo by MPI News and Sport Collection Getty Images) The First African-American Astronomer Eighteenth-century astronomer, clockmaker, farmer, and antislavery advocate, Benjamin Banneker is known as the first African-American astronomer. Banneker did not begin his career...

Copernicanism Deserves Support

For the time being, Galileo was a celebrity. Word of his observations and discoveries spread throughout Rome. In 1611, he was invited to attend a grand banquet at the Collegio Romano, where Jesuit mathematicians certified his discoveries. While there, he gained a membership to the Accademia dei Lincei (Lincei National Academy) by Federigo Cesi, an Italian natural scientist who suggested the word telescope for Galileo's invention. Cesi remained a supporter of Galileo for the rest of his life. By...

The Space Race

In 1947, von Braun briefly returned to Germany to marry Maria Louise von Quinstorp, his cousin. Then, in 1950, he and his new family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, along with his team of scientists. They went to work there for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal. At Redstone, Von Braun worked on the Redstone, Jupiter, and Jupiter-C rockets. In 1952, von Braun published his first book, titled The Mars Project, initially through a German publisher and then in 1953 through an...

Copernicuss Legacy

In 1539, a young mathematician arrived at Frauenburg unannounced. His name was Georg Joachim, but he is known simply as Rheticus, which means the man from Rhaetia, the European city in which he was born. His purpose was to discover from Copernicus more information about this new astronomical system he had heard about. Rheticus, it turned out, was a professor of mathematics from the University of Wittenberg, a purely Protestant community. Since Rheticus was a Protestant, Copernicus had every...

Brahes Legacy

During his years at Uraniborg, Brahe accomplished a great amount of work. He established entirely new methods for celestial observation and compiled a star catalog. He designed and constructed a wide range of astronomical instruments with which to record his measurements, some that were accurate to within four minutes of an arc (1 15 of a degree), and he was the first to compensate for atmospheric refraction. His logs and publications (many printed on his own press) would become the...

Sagans Legacy

Throughout his career, there was very little that concerned space and astronomy in which Carl Sagan was not involved. He delved into areas of planetary exploration, life in the cosmos, science education, and public policy and government regulation of science and the environment. Sagan won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1978 for The Dragons of Eden Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence 1977 . He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and authored, coauthored,...

Copernicus Recognizes a Need for Change

Ptolemy Equant

In the domain of the educated, Ptolemy's system, while largely unquestioned, had nevertheless always been regarded with a bit of quiet uncertainty. The universe, being that of the divine God, was considered to be perfect. A perfect God could create nothing less than a perfect universe. Thus, if the universe was perfect, why, then, did Ptolemy's system place the Earth off center This was not perfection. It was cause for growing scandal among the scholars concerning the Earth-centered system, and...