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Astronomical Tales

How Kepler proved that the planets revolve around the Sun, using the mathematics of a man with a metal nose!

The man with a metal nose who provided the data that allowed Kepler to prove that the Earth rotated around the sun was Tycho Brahe. Tycho Brahe had insulted a fellow-student in Wirtenberg and was challenged to a duel. Part of Tycho's nose was sheared off by his opponent's blade and Tycho was forced to make observations for the rest of his life with a metal insert where part of his nose should have been. This is significant because Tycho built the finest astronomical observatory in all of Europe on a tiny island near Copenhagen. The cold, damp climate made for some very uncomfortable observing! This did not deter Tycho from making the most accurate and timely observations of the sixteenth century.

Because Brahe self-published his observations, Kepler soon heard of the renowned observatory and sought access to the figures. He did not receive them for many years partially because he did not like Kepler and did not want to share his information.

What does the head of the Nazi Atom Bomb Project and the Father of Quantum Physics have in common?
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When Kepler finally talked Tycho into relinquishing his figures Kepler was able to prove that the visible planets revolve around the Sun in elliptical orbits. Tycho also believed in this heliocentric model of the solar system but did not have the guts to admit it publicly. The Catholic Church was vehemently opposed. Kepler was Protestant so that was not the issue. Still, these were superstitious times. Kepler had to defend his own mother against charges of being a witch!

Kepler's description of the elliptical orbit of planets was the scientific death knell for the Ptolomeic Earth-centered Solar System. As for Tycho his figures and equipment were hoarded by his heirs, never to be seen again.

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