Astronomy in The 16th Century

A brief overview of Brahe and Kepler’s views on Copernicus’ theory in the 16th Century.

Based upon the Kuhn article, the revolution of astronomy and astrology is further solidified into a modern scientific view through the observations, data, and calculations from two prominent astronomers of the 16th century, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Even though at the time, their beliefs on the celestial sphere differed and Kepler’s works weren’t influential or carefully analyzed until much later by Newton, the foundation for scientific inquiry and the idea of reformation is laid out through Brahe’s observations and Kepler’s theories and laws. By following previous works of Copernicus and the ancients, Brahe’s keen observations led to a better understanding of the stars and the orbit of Mars, while Kepler, who believed in Copernicus’ theory, used Brahe’s data and Copernicus’s mathematics to suggest elliptical motion of planets; proving that  science is a foundational process, and scientific discovery is a long term process, and it can be restricted by technological hindrances and the societal views of the period, as seen through Copernicus’ apology to the Pope in one of his published articles.

                The Kuhn article states the importance of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus on 16th century astronomy theories and proofs as well as the split from the Ptolemaic system.  Many astronomers at the time, including Brahe, didn’t believe in Copernicus or Ptolemy’s theory because not enough observations due to technological restrictions are recorded and the theories were not flawlessly proven through mathematical theory.  Brahe thus set out to observe the heavens and record the data into a new volume and also coming up with a new theory to explain the heavens, the Tychonic system. Brahe proposed the universe as mechanical and offered a compromise between Copernicus and Ptolemy. Even though Brahe’s ideology was similar to Copernicus, the Tychonic system offered a break in renewed interest in reinventing an explanation for the heavens. 

                Basing off of Brahe’s observations and Copernicus’ mathematical theories, Kepler researched and developed an elliptical orbit for the planets and supported the Sun as the center of the universe. Kepler’s Three Laws of Planetary Motion proposed a modern and accurate equation for determining the distance, period, and gravitation of planets in their orbits and related it to astronomical theory. However, it was not until Newton’s time that Kepler’s work is discovered.

                The article provides a comparison of Brahe’s and Kepler’s theories, and the link between them in relation to advancing astronomical studies and observations, it also suggests the inevitably of the human mind to advance and evolve in order to understand the natural world and relate it to science.

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