The copernican revolution
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The Copernican Revolution. The Birth of Modern Science. Ancient Astronomers. Found several large, important structures in the ancient world that appear astronomically aligned Used for rituals, timekeeping, agrarian cycles. E pluribus unum. Western astronomy was influenced by:

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The Copernican Revolution

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The Copernican Revolution

The Birth of Modern Science

Ancient Astronomers

  • Found several large, important structures in the ancient world that appear astronomically aligned

  • Used for rituals, timekeeping, agrarian cycles

E pluribus unum

  • Western astronomy was influenced by:

    • Antediluvian Civilizations

      • Agrarian Timekeeping

    • Ancient Greece

      • Time divisions, ratios, zodiacal relations

    • Muslim Caliphates

      • Too much to list here

    • Adapted into the Scientific Revolution

      • Revolution against what?

Which of these is believed to be an ancient observatory?

  • Stonehenge

  • El Caracol

  • The Quabba

  • All of these

What is one practical reason for studying the skies?

  • Zodiacal influence

  • Fortune-telling

  • Agriculture

  • Myths

  • Religion

What label is given to the most ancient civilizations?

  • Ancient

  • Old

  • Older

  • Antediluvian

  • Postdiluvian

For what were structures like this believed to be used?

  • Astronomical reasons

  • Religious reasons

  • Cultural reasons

  • All of the above

Identify this structure

  • Stonehenge

  • El Caracol

  • The Sun Dagger

  • Newgrange

Identify this structure

  • Stonehenge

  • El Caracol

  • The Sun Dagger

  • Newgrange

Identify this structure

  • Stonehenge

  • El Caracol

  • The Sun Dagger

  • Newgrange


  • Belief that the Earth is the center of the Universe

  • Easy to prove the bodies rotate around Earth, just look up

    • Early models just matryoshka-style nesting spheres

  • Opposite to Heliocentrism, that the Sun is the center of the Solar System



Unheard Cries

  • Many Classical Astronomers believed in, and had proof of, a heliocentric universe

  • They did not get public acceptance, as Aristotle was held in high regard by many kings, publican members, etc.

  • Aristarchus, Eratosthenes, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi

  • There were a few problems with the “perfect spheres”


  • Inner planets dive back towards the Sun

  • Outer planets make small loops in the sky every so often…

  • Could this mean the Heavens weren’t perfect?

    • Of course, not! All it takes is a little creative imagining…

Mars 1997

The Aristotelian Cycles

  • Aristotle thought maybe each planet on its sphere moved in a small circle centered on the larger sphere

  • Epicycle – the smaller circle

  • Deferens – the larger circle (orbit)

    • epi- surface

    • cycle- circle

Ptolemaic System

  • Ptolemy was a Greek scholar living in Egypt

  • Refined Aristotle’s epicycle theories

  • Ptolemy’s epicycle-based system required no less than some 80 different cycles

  • Imagine a clock with many gears


  • The Ptolemaic Model was popular for some 1300 years

  • Many religions consider us, and the Earth, special and specially located

  • A heliocentric model made them feel less significant

The Earth is at the center of a

  • Geocentric model

  • Heliocentric model

  • Gaiacentric model

  • Galactican model

The primary refusal to keep the Earth at the center of the universe was

  • Religion

  • Open-mindedness

  • Laziness

  • “mental inertia”

The Sun is at the center of a

  • Geocentric model

  • Heliocentric model

  • Juliacentric model

  • Galactican model

Circles on spheres that allow for retrograde motion were called

  • Cycles

  • Minicycles

  • Dermicycles

  • Epicycles

One Greek scientist who is credited with “codifying” planetary motion is

  • Copernicus

  • Galileo

  • Epicurius

  • Aristotle

  • Newton

  • Ptolemy

Identify this view of the universe

  • Heliocentric

  • Egocentric

  • Geocentric

  • Gynocentric

Identify this view of the universe

  • Heliocentric

  • Egocentric

  • Geocentric

  • Gynocentric

What is a small circle centered on a planets’ nested sphere?

  • Epidermals

  • Epiladis

  • Epicycles

  • Epidurals

Epicycles were devised to explain which motion of a planet in the sky?

  • Prograde

  • Retrograde

  • Downgrade

  • Upgrade

The “Scientific Revolution” was a rebellion against what?

  • Ignorance

  • Close-mindedness

  • Superstitions

  • All of the above

Nicholas Copernicus

  • Rediscovered Aristarchus’s heliocentric model

  • Used it to show harmony and simplicity

  • Explained retrograde motion and brightness changes


  • Still stuck to epicycles

  • Believed in his theory rather than proved it

  • Unimpressed public

  • Some 70 years (two ancient generations) passed until his work was proven/improved upon

  • Still declared a heretic

The Downfall of the Epicycle

  • Occam’s Razor

  • Increasing accuracy of observations

  • Longevity of observations

Tycho Brahe

  • True “Renaissance Man”

  • Built Uraniborg, an observatory in Denmark

  • Kept some of the most accurate naked-eye observations for almost 50 years

  • Brahe’s naked-eye observations were extremely accurate due to the overly-large instruments he built

Johannes Kepler

  • Met up with Tycho in Prague in 1600

  • When Tycho died, Kepler inherited his copious tables of data

  • Was more controlled scientifically than his peers

  • Used math to promote several principles

But, then again…

  • Kepler was wrong about a great many things…

    • He believed in a perfect geometry of the Universe as evidence of God

    • This caused him to reject the correct answer that orbits weren’t circular more than once

What was the flaw in the Copernican view of the solar system?

  • Kept the Earth at the center

  • Had the Moon in orbit around the Sun

  • Still used epicycles

  • He couldn’t read ancient Greek

Which astronomer kept some of the best naked-eye observations?

  • Aristarchus

  • Tycho Brahe

  • Johannes Kepler

  • Nicolas Copernicus

Beside their outstanding accuracy, what was special about Brahe’s observations?

  • He used a telescope

  • Their unparalled accuracy

  • He wrote backwards and upside down

  • He kept these logs for many years

Johannes Kepler rejected many sound scientific arguments while pursuing…

  • An online degree

  • Geometric perfection

  • Mrs. Johannes Kepler

  • The Unification Theory

Brahe’s accuracy in his observations was due to the

  • Longevity of his observations

  • Sizes of his astronomical tools

  • Excellent assistants he hired

  • Copious quantities he quaffed

Participant Scores


Kepler’s First Law

  • The orbital paths of the planets are elliptical with the Sun at one focus


Semi-Major Axis




How “not circular” an orbit is

The Sun is at one focus


e = 0

Small planets around single stars

Single stars around galaxies


0.005  e  0.250

Most single planets around single stars

Asteroids, “dwarf” planets around single stars

Single stars around galaxies


0.250  e

Certain “dwarf” planets around single stars


“Perturbed” items

Jupiter “perturbing” a comet


Aphelion and Perihelion

  • Perihelion

  • Point of an orbit closest to the Sun

    • = a (1 – e)

  • Aphelion

  • Point of an orbit farthest from the Sun

    • = a (1 + e)


Kepler’s Second Law

  • An imaginary line connecting the Sun to a planet sweeps equal areas of the ellipse in equal intervals of time


Kepler’s Third Law

  • The square of the planet’s orbital period is proportional to the cube of its semi-major axis

  • p2 = a3

  • Obeyed by all planets, not just the six Kepler knew about

For the planets


For the Galilean satellites


Kepler’s star

  • Seen in 1604

  • The HST snapped this picture a few years ago, showing the expanding gas cloud

Galileo Gallilei

  • Used a telescope

    • Mountains on the Moon

    • Sunspots

    • Jovian Moons

    • Phases of Venus

    • Rings of Saturn

  • Found many “imperfections”

  • Wasn’t trying to anger the Church

Sidereus Nuncius

  • Published in 1610

  • In 1616 his works were declared heresy

  • Published a second treatise, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, in 1632

    • Published in Italian rather than Latin

  • Placed under house arrest until he died

  • “Forgiven” in 1992

Latter-Day Proofs

  • Aberration of starlight, c. 1720

  • Apparent shift of a star due to the revolution and rotation of the Earth

Latter-Day Proofs

  • Parallax

    • If the Earth was the center, there wouldn’t be parallax from June to January

  • Multiple launched vehicles that follow predicted paths

Who first used a telescope to observe and quantify the heavens?

  • Ptolemy

  • Copernicus

  • Galileo

  • Brahe

Who made multiple-year, high quality observations with large instruments in order to quantify the heavens?

  • Ptolemy

  • Copernicus

  • Galileo

  • Brahe

Many of Galileo’s observations challenged the Church views because

  • They were mathematical

  • They were unorganized

  • They showed “imperfections”

  • They were a challenge to modesty

Which type of orbit would you expect Ceres or Vesta to exhibit?

  • A

  • B

  • C




Who used mathematics to provide explanations for astronomical movements?

  • Kepler

  • Copernicus

  • Galileo

  • Brahe

Which of these are not one of Galileo’s controversial observations?

  • Mountains on the Moon

  • Saturn’s Rings

  • The Andromeda Galaxy

  • Venus’s phases

What would Eris’s period be in years if she lies some 67.7 AU from the Sun?

  • 4583 yrs

  • 557 yrs

  • 16.7 yrs

  • 310288 yrs

Which type of orbit would you expect Halley’s comet to exhibit?

  • A

  • B

  • C




For his work, Copernicus and Galileo were both

  • Celebrated in their time

  • Considered heretics

  • Mostly ignored by others

  • Honored as living heroes

What is Ceres’s semimajor axis if she takes 4.6 yrs to orbit the Sun?

  • 2.8 AU

  • 9.9 AU

  • 21.1 AU

  • 97 AU

Participant Scores

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