Copernicus: Founder of Modern Astronomy

I enjoyed reading this YA book about the great Polish astronomer Copernicus it s like taking a simplified trip to another exciting era of discovery I didn t know much about him and the book comm

I enjoyed reading this YA book about the great Polish astronomer, Copernicus - it's like taking a simplified trip to another, exciting era of discovery. I didn't know much about him, and the book communicates information about his life and era efficiently. The 16th Century was the time of the attacks of Teutonic Knights, who would simply raid, despoil towns in Poland, as they angled for more political power. Simultaneously, the Renaissance brought new interest and information - the rediscovery of Greek and Roman philosophers. Their thinking opened the door to questioning the certainties of religious teachings - and little by little the geocentric view of the universe was challenged. Copernicus proposed a heliocentric view of the universe - it was upon his thinking that subsequent progress was made. The book includes biographical information on the multi-faceted Copernicus - a Renaissance man. There's a description of the tools Copernicus used to take astronomical measurements before the invention of the telescope, such as a quadrant, an armillary sphere, and a triquetrum, an instrument made of three lengths of wood hinged together, used to measure the altitude of objects in the sky. Copernicus studied astronomy, Greek, church law, and medicine. As he took his own measurements of heavenly bodies,he realized that what Aristotle & others had written couldn't be true. Orbits cannot be circular and the Earth cannot be at the center of the universe. The explanations of some Greeks could not be correct - although their thought had been accepted as truth for over a thousand years. The geocentric model was in force - but Copernicus was in a position to read the ancient books in Greek and take his own measurements and realized that the geocentric theory could not be true. There were Greeks other than Aristotle who suggested other theories, and at least one Greek, Aristarchus of Samos, said the Earth & the other planets revolve around the sun. He also said the stars are very far away - further than what Aristotle believed - and that they did not move. Copernicus was trying to come up with an accurate model of the universe based on his measurements/observations. The model he came up with was revolutionary for his time - the heliocentric model. He also said the Earth rotates as it rotates around the sun, which is why day and night occur. He proved the stars were very far away based on his observations of their parallax, and also determined the order & proper spacing of the planets. Copernicus concluded correctly that the Earth was the third planet from the sun. He explained seeming contradictions or peculiarities such as when the path of Mars appears to turn back on itself - they are caused by retrograde motion. They only appear to be going backward because the Earth has overtaken them. Copernicus did not explain everything - it was Kepler who later figured out that the orbits have to be elliptical not circular. Copernicus actually figured all these things out in his spare time - since he had other positions the entire time he was working on his astronomical measurements. Interestingly, when the calendar was reformed by Pope Leo X, one of the men he contacted was Copernicus, who got back to him with some ideas on reforming the calendar (since the Julian calendar of 365 days + 366 days every four years (leap years) still was 11 minutes longer than than it takes for the Earth to complete its orbit of the sun. He suggested the Pope do nothing until astronomers take more observations. Finally, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII authorized the changes necessary to correct the calendar. In addition to astronomy, Copernicus was interested in medicine, economics, diplomacy, map-making, painting, and poetry. He thought debased coinage could lead to disaster, and recommended central mints. Many of his ideas were ignored or not adopted until much later. He thought a loaf of bread should cost as much as the grain used to make it. However, the central project to which he dedicated his life was his heliocentric theory of the universe, the theory that the Earth rotates on its own axis while also revolving around the sun. He worked on the mathematical details of his theory his entire life, which were contained in a book he began writing in 1511 and finished around 1530, although he continued to revise the book for years afterwards. The book summarized the ancient theories of the universe, and then described his own heliocentric model and proposed three motions for the Earth. The Earth completely circles the sun once a year. Second, the Earth spins in place from west to east. This turning is what produces day and night. Because we don't sense the Earth spinning, it appears that the sun and stars move from east to west. Only the North Star does not change position and seems to appear directly above the North Pole. The third motion of the Earth explains why the North Star does not appear to move. Copernicus proposed this third motion of the Earth - an additional rotation for the Earth on its axis (much like a spinning top, the earth moves in more than one direction at a time). The third motion is in the opposition direction of Earth's yearly revolution around the sun. However, Copernicus knew that the third motion takes slightly less than a year to complete and thus does not completely cancel out the revolution around the sun. The North Star (Polaris) would shift over a long period of time. A different star could then move into the position of North Star. This is the Precession of the Equinoxes. Copernicus had erroneously calculated that the Precession would take 53,000 years; we now know that this cycle takes about 26,000 years to complete. In 13,000 years, the star Vega will become the North Star. Another 13,000 years after that, Polaris will again be the North Star. In his book, Copernicus provides diagrams and star charts and instructions for making astronomical instructions and directions for calculating eclipses. Much of the book however consists of mathematical calculations. He was afraid of publishing the book, fearing that people would mock him. People did mock his ideas even before the book was published. Protestant leaders ridiculed him - questioning how he could question Scripture. Martin Luther derided him. Copernicus' ideas overturned the accepted wisdom that placed the Earth at the center of the universe with the heavenly bodies moving around the Earth. Finally, Copernicus agreed to publish his book - on the urging of friends. The book was published in 1543 but it included a preface written by the publisher that labeled the work a hypothesis - something Copernicus had objected to since he believed his ideas were much more than a hypothesis. Even so, the publisher added the preface, without stating he had written it, and for years readers thought Copernicus was presenting a hypothesis only (although the book presents mathematical proof of his ideas). The 70 year old astronomer suffered a fatal stroke as he waited to see a copy of the published book. He was in a coma, barely alive, when a copy arrived at his death bed and was placed into his hands. He only saw the book at his last breath on the day he died. Copernicus's calculations were subsequently used to calculate more accurate almanacs, and even astrologers used the research of Copernicus to chart more accurate horoscopes. Eventually, because of the challenges of new ideas to centuries of religious tradition, the Catholic church set up a Court called the Inquisition. The Court tried people for heresy - beliefs that challenged church teaching. A later astronomer - Kepler - inherited the notebooks of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who had continued the work of Copernicus using his triquetrum but came to the erroneous conclusion that the Earth, Sun, Moon are in their own system - the Sun and Moon revolving around the Earth while the other planets revolve around the Sun - and concluded that Brahe was wrong but Copernicus was right, although he accepted many of Brahe's observations. Synthesizing Copernicus's, Brahe's, and the magnetic philosophy of the Englishman William Gilbert, Kepler came to the conclusion that although Earth and the other planets do orbit the sun, they do not orbit exactly in circles. The orbits Kepler proposed were slightly stretched circles called ellipses. This theory corrected some of the inconsistencies in Copernicus's model. The universe no longer resembled the one of antiquity. Around the same time, Italian astronomer Galileo heard about how glass lenses arranged in a tube could make distant objects appear closer. He experimented with lenses and developed a working telescope. When he observed the surface of the Moon, he was astounded to see that it wasn't a smooth, perfect body, as the ancient astronomers had taught. It was covered with craters and mountains. He also saw the planet Venus go through phases like the Moon - as Copernicus had predicted. The invention of the telescope made it possible to see these phases. Galileo also observed that Jupiter had 4 moons spinning around Jupiter - which proved that not everything in the universe revolved around the Earth. Galileo began a correspondence with Kepler - like Copernicus he was apprehensive of publishing his work, because of what did happen to Copernicus. Still, he began to promote Copernicus's heliocentric theory. By the early 17th Century, the Catholic Church had also established a list of books, called an Index, that good Catholics were not allowed to read, as they were supposed to contain heretical ideas. Copernicus's book was placed on the Index. Pope Urban VII said that Copernicus's book was more dangerous than Protestantism. Copernicus's heliocentric theory was antithetical to the Earth-centric teachings of the Holy Scripture "...a detriment to the Catholic truth..." and thus the book was banned. In 1620 the Catholic church said the Earth was not a planet and that it did not move. By the 1630s, the Inquisition had forbidden Galileo to teach or write that the Copernican theory was true. Galileo instead wrote a book about an imaginary conversation between three scholars (called a "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems") - one who supported the geocentric theory, the other the heliocentric theory, and the third who was supposed to choose one side over the other. The final conclusion was left up to the reader. Because of the book, Galileo had to stand trial before the Inquisition. He said his book taught the Copernican theory but did not advocate it. Even so, the Court found he had disobeyed the earlier order of the Inquisition and Galileo had to spend the rest of his life under house arrest - for agreeing with Copernicus. And Galileo's "Dialogue" was added to the Index. It would be almost 200 years before the church removed Copernicus's book from the Index. By that time, most Catholics had embraced the heliocentric model. The work of the four groundbreaking astronomers - Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo - overturned the idea that crystal spheres make up the universe. The question of what holds heavenly bodies in place if they are not set in spheres was answered in 1666 by Sir Isaac Newton, when he proposed the laws of gravity. In 1820, the Catholic Church finally removed Copernicus's book from the Index. Many Renaissance thinkers celebrated humanity as the most special creation in the universe. Copernicus made mankind a little less special - since the Earth was just another planet, and not at the center of the Universe. Man was not at the center of all things. The adjustment of mankind's thinking to the idea that he was not at the center of the Universe, was deemed by 19th Century German poet Goethe to be perhaps the greatest demand that was ever made on mankind. A viral Copernicus: Founder of Modern Astronomy Author Catherine M. Andronik am Books Over 100 page biographies that chronicle the lives and important contributions of great scientists from around the world Titles include several hands on activities that give young people a deeper understanding of the scientist s work.. Catherine M Andronik is a library media specialist in a Connecticut high school She has written nonfiction books for readers of all ages.. Popular Ebook Copernicus: Founder of Modern Astronomy I enjoyed reading this YA book about the great Polish astronomer, Copernicus - it's like taking a simplified trip to another, exciting era of discovery. I didn't know much about him, and the book communicates information about his life and era efficiently. The 16th Century was the time of the attacks of Teutonic Knights, who would simply raid, despoil towns in Poland, as they angled for more political power. Simultaneously, the Renaissance brought new interest and information - the rediscovery of Greek and Roman philosophers. Their thinking opened the door to questioning the certainties of religious teachings - and little by little the geocentric view of the universe was challenged. Copernicus proposed a heliocentric view of the universe - it was upon his thinking that subsequent progress was made. The book includes biographical information on the multi-faceted Copernicus - a Renaissance man. There's a description of the tools Copernicus used to take astronomical measurements before the invention of the telescope, such as a quadrant, an armillary sphere, and a triquetrum, an instrument made of three lengths of wood hinged together, used to measure the altitude of objects in the sky. Copernicus studied astronomy, Greek, church law, and medicine. As he took his own measurements of heavenly bodies,he realized that what Aristotle & others had written couldn't be true. Orbits cannot be circular and the Earth cannot be at the center of the universe. The explanations of some Greeks could not be correct - although their thought had been accepted as truth for over a thousand years. The geocentric model was in force - but Copernicus was in a position to read the ancient books in Greek and take his own measurements and realized that the geocentric theory could not be true. There were Greeks other than Aristotle who suggested other theories, and at least one Greek, Aristarchus of Samos, said the Earth & the other planets revolve around the sun. He also said the stars are very far away - further than what Aristotle believed - and that they did not move. Copernicus was trying to come up with an accurate model of the universe based on his measurements/observations. The model he came up with was revolutionary for his time - the heliocentric model. He also said the Earth rotates as it rotates around the sun, which is why day and night occur. He proved the stars were very far away based on his observations of their parallax, and also determined the order & proper spacing of the planets. Copernicus concluded correctly that the Earth was the third planet from the sun. He explained seeming contradictions or peculiarities such as when the path of Mars appears to turn back on itself - they are caused by retrograde motion. They only appear to be going backward because the Earth has overtaken them. Copernicus did not explain everything - it was Kepler who later figured out that the orbits have to be elliptical not circular. Copernicus actually figured all these things out in his spare time - since he had other positions the entire time he was working on his astronomical measurements. Interestingly, when the calendar was reformed by Pope Leo X, one of the men he contacted was Copernicus, who got back to him with some ideas on reforming the calendar (since the Julian calendar of 365 days + 366 days every four years (leap years) still was 11 minutes longer than than it takes for the Earth to complete its orbit of the sun. He suggested the Pope do nothing until astronomers take more observations. Finally, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII authorized the changes necessary to correct the calendar. In addition to astronomy, Copernicus was interested in medicine, economics, diplomacy, map-making, painting, and poetry. He thought debased coinage could lead to disaster, and recommended central mints. Many of his ideas were ignored or not adopted until much later. He thought a loaf of bread should cost as much as the grain used to make it. However, the central project to which he dedicated his life was his heliocentric theory of the universe, the theory that the Earth rotates on its own axis while also revolving around the sun. He worked on the mathematical details of his theory his entire life, which were contained in a book he began writing in 1511 and finished around 1530, although he continued to revise the book for years afterwards. The book summarized the ancient theories of the universe, and then described his own heliocentric model and proposed three motions for the Earth. The Earth completely circles the sun once a year. Second, the Earth spins in place from west to east. This turning is what produces day and night. Because we don't sense the Earth spinning, it appears that the sun and stars move from east to west. Only the North Star does not change position and seems to appear directly above the North Pole. The third motion of the Earth explains why the North Star does not appear to move. Copernicus proposed this third motion of the Earth - an additional rotation for the Earth on its axis (much like a spinning top, the earth moves in more than one direction at a time). The third motion is in the opposition direction of Earth's yearly revolution around the sun. However, Copernicus knew that the third motion takes slightly less than a year to complete and thus does not completely cancel out the revolution around the sun. The North Star (Polaris) would shift over a long period of time. A different star could then move into the position of North Star. This is the Precession of the Equinoxes. Copernicus had erroneously calculated that the Precession would take 53,000 years; we now know that this cycle takes about 26,000 years to complete. In 13,000 years, the star Vega will become the North Star. Another 13,000 years after that, Polaris will again be the North Star. In his book, Copernicus provides diagrams and star charts and instructions for making astronomical instructions and directions for calculating eclipses. Much of the book however consists of mathematical calculations. He was afraid of publishing the book, fearing that people would mock him. People did mock his ideas even before the book was published. Protestant leaders ridiculed him - questioning how he could question Scripture. Martin Luther derided him. Copernicus' ideas overturned the accepted wisdom that placed the Earth at the center of the universe with the heavenly bodies moving around the Earth. Finally, Copernicus agreed to publish his book - on the urging of friends. The book was published in 1543 but it included a preface written by the publisher that labeled the work a hypothesis - something Copernicus had objected to since he believed his ideas were much more than a hypothesis. Even so, the publisher added the preface, without stating he had written it, and for years readers thought Copernicus was presenting a hypothesis only (although the book presents mathematical proof of his ideas). The 70 year old astronomer suffered a fatal stroke as he waited to see a copy of the published book. He was in a coma, barely alive, when a copy arrived at his death bed and was placed into his hands. He only saw the book at his last breath on the day he died. Copernicus's calculations were subsequently used to calculate more accurate almanacs, and even astrologers used the research of Copernicus to chart more accurate horoscopes. Eventually, because of the challenges of new ideas to centuries of religious tradition, the Catholic church set up a Court called the Inquisition. The Court tried people for heresy - beliefs that challenged church teaching. A later astronomer - Kepler - inherited the notebooks of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who had continued the work of Copernicus using his triquetrum but came to the erroneous conclusion that the Earth, Sun, Moon are in their own system - the Sun and Moon revolving around the Earth while the other planets revolve around the Sun - and concluded that Brahe was wrong but Copernicus was right, although he accepted many of Brahe's observations. Synthesizing Copernicus's, Brahe's, and the magnetic philosophy of the Englishman William Gilbert, Kepler came to the conclusion that although Earth and the other planets do orbit the sun, they do not orbit exactly in circles. The orbits Kepler proposed were slightly stretched circles called ellipses. This theory corrected some of the inconsistencies in Copernicus's model. The universe no longer resembled the one of antiquity. Around the same time, Italian astronomer Galileo heard about how glass lenses arranged in a tube could make distant objects appear closer. He experimented with lenses and developed a working telescope. When he observed the surface of the Moon, he was astounded to see that it wasn't a smooth, perfect body, as the ancient astronomers had taught. It was covered with craters and mountains. He also saw the planet Venus go through phases like the Moon - as Copernicus had predicted. The invention of the telescope made it possible to see these phases. Galileo also observed that Jupiter had 4 moons spinning around Jupiter - which proved that not everything in the universe revolved around the Earth. Galileo began a correspondence with Kepler - like Copernicus he was apprehensive of publishing his work, because of what did happen to Copernicus. Still, he began to promote Copernicus's heliocentric theory. By the early 17th Century, the Catholic Church had also established a list of books, called an Index, that good Catholics were not allowed to read, as they were supposed to contain heretical ideas. Copernicus's book was placed on the Index. Pope Urban VII said that Copernicus's book was more dangerous than Protestantism. Copernicus's heliocentric theory was antithetical to the Earth-centric teachings of the Holy Scripture "...a detriment to the Catholic truth..." and thus the book was banned. In 1620 the Catholic church said the Earth was not a planet and that it did not move. By the 1630s, the Inquisition had forbidden Galileo to teach or write that the Copernican theory was true. Galileo instead wrote a book about an imaginary conversation between three scholars (called a "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems") - one who supported the geocentric theory, the other the heliocentric theory, and the third who was supposed to choose one side over the other. The final conclusion was left up to the reader. Because of the book, Galileo had to stand trial before the Inquisition. He said his book taught the Copernican theory but did not advocate it. Even so, the Court found he had disobeyed the earlier order of the Inquisition and Galileo had to spend the rest of his life under house arrest - for agreeing with Copernicus. And Galileo's "Dialogue" was added to the Index. It would be almost 200 years before the church removed Copernicus's book from the Index. By that time, most Catholics had embraced the heliocentric model. The work of the four groundbreaking astronomers - Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo - overturned the idea that crystal spheres make up the universe. The question of what holds heavenly bodies in place if they are not set in spheres was answered in 1666 by Sir Isaac Newton, when he proposed the laws of gravity. In 1820, the Catholic Church finally removed Copernicus's book from the Index. Many Renaissance thinkers celebrated humanity as the most special creation in the universe. Copernicus made mankind a little less special - since the Earth was just another planet, and not at the center of the Universe. Man was not at the center of all things. The adjustment of mankind's thinking to the idea that he was not at the center of the Universe, was deemed by 19th Century German poet Goethe to be perhaps the greatest demand that was ever made on mankind.

About Author

  1. Catherine M Andronik is a library media specialist in a Connecticut high school She has written nonfiction books for readers of all ages.

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Copernicus: Founder of Modern Astronomy Comment

  1. I enjoyed reading this YA book about the great Polish astronomer, Copernicus it s like taking a simplified trip to another, exciting era of discovery I didn t know much about him, and the book communicates information about his life and era efficiently The 16th Century was the time of the attacks of Teutonic Knights, who would simply raid, despoil towns in Poland, as they angled for political power Simultaneously, the Renaissance brought new interest and information the rediscovery of Greek and [...]


  2. I think that this book is very interesting It has a lot of information about Copernicus, who was the man who brought up the theory that the earth revolves around the sun This book was very interesting to me because I learned a lot of new things.


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