The Beginnings of Physics: Tycho and Kepler (Part-7)

(Last Updated On: October 9, 2019)

Introduction

Heliocentrism was the pretty big thing in Medieval Europe and we shall follow its development until its conclusion (Galileo). But hold your horses, we will not talk about Galileo today. We will talk about Kepler, the first defender of The Copernicus Model of Heliocentrism. Also his “mentor”, Tycho, and his amazing contributions to astronomy.

This is the 7th part or article of The Beginning of Physics series. If you didn’t read the previous part then you should read it first – The Beginning of Physics: The Astronomical Revolution – Nicolaus Copernicus (Part-6)

If you are new then I will suggest you to read this series from the first part: The Beginning of Physics: The Presocratics (Part-1)

The mentor

Tycho Brahe was the Danish nobleman, astronomer, astrologer and alchemist born in 1542 (3 years after Copernicus died). He was a bit too serious about knowledge. I’m not exaggerating, truly: In 1566 he got his nose cut off in a sword fight against his cousin. Why? Because they’re arguing. About math. And they say I’m a nerd…

Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe

Tycho was becoming a great and known scientist, and he wanted to leave Denmark to go to work in other observatories. When the king realized this he offered castles to Tycho, which he politely refused. Tycho only accepted when the King gave him the island of Hven and proper funding for his research. Here he built two castles, Uraniborg, “the castle of the sky” and Stjerniborg, “the castle of the stars”. Here he and his staff of scientists made the most precise observations of the day, and were only surpassed by telescopes 100 years later!

the castle of Stjerniborg
The castle of Stjerniborg

In 1572 Tycho would make a hell of a discovery: while looking at the sky he noticed that a new shiny point appeared in the sky. He calculated that this should be a nova Stella (what we now call supernovae). This would change the why Tycho and many others thought about the sky: it meant the sky could change!

After the old danish king died his son, the warrior king Christian IV, sent Tycho to exile in 1599 because he was more interested in war than science. He died in 1601 in Prague. He left an enormous meticulously detailed catalog of the night sky and his assistant, Johannes Kepler!

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler
Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler was born in 1571 near Stuttgart in what is now Germany. He went to school on a scholarship at a Latin school and then to the University of Tübingen. Later he taught mathematics and astronomy at the School in Graz (after a failed attempt to become a minister). His first published book was called  Mysterium Cosmographicum which was the first book ever to defend Copernicus heliocentric model.

Here he also theorizes the orbits of the planets. He came to an epiphany in a class where he realized regular polygons (the platonic solids) bound one inscribed and one circumscribed circle at definite ratios, which, he reasoned, might be the geometrical basis of the universe (this is shown in the image below). This would be beautiful, but it is also wrong.

Kepler's model of the Universe
Kepler’s model of the Universe

In 1600, Kepler meet Tycho and impressed him so much that he shared his secret data with him and they became close collaborators. After Tycho died Kepler became the imperial mathematician where he provides astrological advice to the emperor. Then he published his magnum opus in 1609, Astronomia Nova. This came from a decade of looking at mars, and understanding something was quite wrong. According to math, the Geocentric and Heliocentric Models’ of the Universe were wrong. So he through his earlier models and created a new one, where the planets revolved around the Sun not in circles, but in ellipses. This is known as the 1st Law of Planetary Motion, which is explained in the image below.

The first law states planets orbit in ellipses where the Sun is one of the focus. The second law states that the “pizza slice” you see in image (2) as the same area. The third law (was only written in 1619 by the way) states that by knowing the period of a planet’s orbit you can determine the planet’s distance from the Sun.

Joahnes Kepler died in November 15, 1630in Regensburg, Germany.

We will explore more of the evolution of physics in the next part and the persons who made it possible! Please tell me what did you think of this article in the comments!

Here is the next part of this series: The Beginning of Physics: Galileo Galilei (Part-8)

Baltas Cruz

Baltas Cruz

He is a 15-year-old Portuguese with pretensions to becoming a theoretical physicist. He is also a chess player with some prizes in local competitions as well as a runner in a local team. Basically, a young man that loves life and lots of interesting stuff like PHYSICS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *