Astronomers of the Renaissance

At the Minnesota Museum of History

Come Learn About Some of the Greatest Minds of the Renaissance!

Our temporary exhibit will be an exciting and educational trip back in time to the era of the Renaissance. This period was an immense burst of art techniques, writing styles, architectural advances, and creative inventions. Astronomy also flourished during this time, with many scientists we've all heard of propelling the field to magnificent discoveries. You'll hear names like Galileo, Kepler, and Nicolaus Copernicus. Join us Wednesday, April 26th, 2014, for an afternoon of brilliant scientists, their research, and how they contributed to society today!

Nicolaus Copernicus

As one of our featured scientists, Copernicus studied the Greek philosopher, Ptolemy. Ptolemy believed the Earth was the center of the universe and all else revolved around us. He criticized geocentric ideas in his 1514 manuscript, Commentariolus. In it, he proposed a new planetary model, where the sun was the center and everything revolved around it. His model was called heliocentric, "helio-" meaning sun, "-centric" meaning center. He spent decades compiling evidence and refining his theory before publishing De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543, just two months before he passed away.

Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler

Tycho found the mathematical component of Copernicus's model more satisfying than that of the Ptolemaic model; however, he was a strong believer in a stationary Earth, complicating his acceptance of Copernicus's theory. He figured that, if the Earth were moving, you could see a change of the nearer stars in relation to the farther stars. As this was not observed, he deducted that either the Earth did not move, or the stars were too far away to fathom. Unable to wrap his mind around such a vast universe, he modified Copernicus's idea by saying all the other planets revolved around the sun, and they all revolved around the Earth. After he died, Tycho's most famous assistant, Johannes Kepler, used Tycho's research to prove his own theory. He'd discovered that the planets orbit not in a circular revolution, indicated by Ptolemy's model, but rather followed more elliptical paths around the sun. His theory worked with the known mathematical laws of the universe at that time.

Galileo Galilei

In the year of 1609, Galileo first heard of the telescope being used in Holland. He created his own and looked to the heavens, seeking to defend the Copernicus model of a heliocentric universe. He made countless discoveries with his small, homemade telescope, including the presence of moons around Jupiter, "appendages" (later proved as rings) around Saturn, saw sunspots on the Sun, and observed the surface of the moon. He also used the changes of the tide to confirm the Copernican theory. The Catholic Church condemned Galileo for openly supporting anything not confirmed in the Bible, but he took back his beliefs for them and was placed under house arrest. His research was immensely valuable even after his death in 1642.

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