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Astronomy Then and Now

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Astronomy: Then and Now
Have you ever heard the saying you can’t teach an ole dog new tricks? What about the one where three old dogs teach new tricks? I’m sure you have heard that one, anyone who knows about our solar system can thank the three old dogs. Well, they’re not dogs at all, and at their time they weren’t old but in our time their long gone. Of course, I am speaking about Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Kepler. Funny thing is each one of them challenged and changed their predecessor's work, for the better of course, but we will get to that later. We have these three men to thank for a whole lot of new tricks. To name a few would be, our solar system, the way we form our maps, and we can’t forget the numerous mathematical formulas used to make ideas come to life. In this research paper, we will touch base on the lives of three great astronomers and the tricks they have taught us. We will also see how astronomers of today contribute to our everyday lives.

Some say that our first astronomer was a great astronomer. Other say, “Ptolemy was the only great astronomer of Roman Alexandria.” (Brown, 2016) It’s all a matter of opinion, but what we cannot deny was Ptolemy was a great astronomer of his time and today. We do not know much about Ptolemy’s personal life. What we do know about him came from his work. He was born around 85ce in Egypt to a Greek family even though he bore a roman name. To say Ptolemy was diverse is an understatement. He was also diverse in his studies being he was a mathematician, geographer, and astrologer. We know he was a Roman citizen, due to his name, which was most likely given to an ancestor and carried down. We know his family must have been Greek because he wrote in Greek even though he lived in Egypt. Ptolemy was a great mathematician, astronomer and known for his geographical discoveries. As a mathematician, his length of chords in a circle are the earliest surviving table of the trigonometric function. (Jones, 2016) “He also applied fundamental theorems in spherical trigonometry (apparently discovered half a century earlier by Menelaus of Alexandria) to the solution of many basic astronomical problems.” (Jones, 2016) Many people say they would never use the math they learn about in school, and this could be true but if you plan on being an astronomer or any sort of scientist you will use it. Ptolemy also used math as a geographer. One could say he was remembered for his maps just as much as he was for his astronomical discoveries. He used the writings of Marinus of Tyre in his book, Guide to Geography. “Nothing would be known about Marinus if Ptolemy had not preserved the substance of his cartographical work.” (Jones, 2016) This is a reason to use past works for our own ideas and discoveries, it helps us to remember the works of those before us. It has been said that before Columbus came along with his map many used Ptolemy’s map. His greatest innovation in geography was to record longitudes and latitudes in degrees for roughly 8,000 locations on his world map. Ptolemy wrote, ‘Geographia’ which consisted of eight books. (Jones, 2016)
Though many people in the scientific world of astronomy know him for his earth centered universe theory; or in other words geocentric theory. Ptolemy argued for his theory in his book called, The Almagest, using mathematical terms. The original literature has been lost but a hybrid version in Arabic and Greek remains. “Earth, he argued, is a stationary sphere at the center of a vastly larger celestial sphere that revolves at a perfectly uniform rate around Earth, carrying with it the stars, planets, Sun, and Moon—thereby causing their daily risings and settings.” (Jones, 2016) We know now thanks to other astronomers that this theory was wrong, but why did so many people of the time believe it? Even the Roman Church had no issues with the theory. “Eventually, with the re-emergence of European learning in the 13th century, the geocentric view of the universe would be adopted by the Catholic church.” ("The Fall of the Geocentric Theory") So many people believed this theory because they did not know any better. Ptolemy’s system was the ‘new high tech’ of his time. Though unfortunately around the fifteenth-century changes to astronomy were desperately needed. People had been using the Ptolemaic system, based off of Ptolemy’s theory, and the calendars were becoming less and less accurate. Two astronomers named Peurbach and Regiomontanus tried to rectify the issues in Ptolemy’s system but were unable to fix all of the errors. This brings us to our next astronomer, Copernicus.
Copernicus is known by some as the brave scientist who stood up for his beliefs but known by all as the astronomer who discovered the heliocentric system. Born February 19, 1473, in Torun Poland. His father died when he was ten years old so his uncle Bishop of Varmia Lucas Watzerader takes him under and provides for his schooling. (Biography.com Editors) In 1491 after he turned eighteen Copernicus enter University of Cracow and studied painting and mathematics. He did not take any astronomy class but began collecting books on astronomy.
After graduating in 1494, he returned to Torun and took up a canons position, arranged by his uncle, at the Frombork’s cathedral. It is interesting to note that Copernicus holds onto this job for the rest of his life, despite his religious controversy with the church. The job was very demanding and left Copernicus to pursue his academic interests in astronomy only during his free time. In 1496, he took a leave of absence and went to Italy and enrolled in a religious law program at University of Bologna. There he meets Domenico Maria Novara, an astronomer by profession and the two of them hit it off very well. Novara and Copernicus actually become roommates and Novara introduces Ptolemy further as well as challenges the ancient astronomer’s writings. By 1500 Copernicus finishes his law studies, he wanted to study practical medicine but could do so due to his leave of absence expiring. Amazingly in 1503, Copernicus sat for the law exam at University of Ferrara and passed it the very first time. (Jones, 2016) Afterward, Copernicus went back to Poland and resumed his position as a canon with his uncle at a nearby Episcopal residence. One could only imagine the conflict between his Uncle and himself when he expressed his forming theories in astronomy. Even with the family controversy Copernicus helped his ailing uncle for the next seven years. In 1508, Copernicus began to develop his own celestial model. Around 1510 after his uncle passed away he moved to Frombark Cathedral Chapter in hopes of devoting more time to his studies in astronomy. His first celestial model was called the heliocentric solar system. The system shows the sun as the center of the universe. The heliocentric system challenged Ptolemy’s geocentric system, which the Roman Church did not like. In 1543, the church stated his model was heretical and went against the church’s beliefs. Even religious leader Martin Luther’s underlying Andreas Osiander opposed the model saying, “This fool wants to turn the whole are of astronomy upside down.” (Jones, 2016) Osiander also went so far as to write a disclaimer in Copernicus’s book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. The disclaimer stated the book was just a theory and not fact. Copernicus was too ill after a stroke to defend his work. The book was published with the unauthorized addition, though it could have been a blessing in disguise. The disclaimer helped the church overlook the book until many years after Copernicus’s death. Until then the book was published and spread to the greatest minds who could understand the intense mathematical equations. His contributions are still seen far and wide in the science of astronomy. His heliocentric model and books were not perfect but he like Ptolemy set us on the write path and helped those after them. Copernicus died on May 24, 1543, in Frauenburg Poland. He became a symbol of the brave scientist standing alone, defending his theories against the common beliefs of his time. Sadly it wasn’t until many years after Copernicus’s death that people truly began to take his work seriously. One of these people is our next astronomer, whose mother was supposedly suspected to be a witch, his name is Johannes Kepler.
Johannes Kepler was born in 1571 in Germany only to move at the age of five to Leonberg with his parents. It is said he was a sickly child whose parents were poor. His father died young so he and his mother moved into their grandfather’s inn. There he worked in the inn to help out. His education was at the local school and then a seminary nearby. He intended to be ordained at the seminary and then went on to enroll in the University of Tubingen. In his education Kepler was taught by one of the leading astronomers of his time, Michael Mastlin (1550-1631). It was here that Kepler had been taught about the geocentric system, in which all seven planets and stars moved around the sun. At the University of Tubingen Kepler studied Greek and Hebrew, because he needed to be able to read the scriptures in their original language. During his first year, Kepler received A’s in every subject except for math. “Probably Mästlin was trying to tell him he could do better, because Kepler was in fact one of the select pupils to whom he chose to teach more advanced astronomy by introducing them to the new, heliocentric cosmological system of Copernicus.” (Field, 1999) Interestingly enough Kepler learned about the preface to On the Revolutions by Copernicus, stating the book was only a ‘theory’, was not by Copernicus. It was during his time at the University that Kepler came to believe full heartedly that Copernicus’s system was correct and not Ptolemy’s. (Field, 1999)
Kepler’s religious beliefs even during his university days were different than the orthodox Lutheranism in Tubingen. This could be one of the reasons on how Mastlin persuaded Kepler to leave behind his plans to be ordained and start teaching mathematics in Graz. In 1594, Kepler became a professor of mathematics at Graz. Kepler married in 1597 to Barbara Muller and published his first works, ‘The Cosmographic Mystery. (Helden, 1995) Due to his talent shown in the work published Kepler was invited byTycho Brahe to Prague to be his assistant. Kepler accepted the position and moved to Prague in 1600. (Helden, 1995) Brahe was a very rich Danish nobleman, who built his own observatory in Prague. There he tracked the planets motions and kept the most accurate observations of the known solar system during his time. The two men both needed something the other had. Brahe for though kept his work away from Kepler. It is said that Brahe was a very suspicious man and was afraid someone else would claim his work as their own. Brahe was not on the same project as Kepler, the men had two very different ideas about the solar system. Brahe believe in Ptolemy’s geocentric system with the exception of the planets orbiting the sun and the sun orbiting the earth. Brahe set Kepler on an assignment to solve the Mars problem. A year later in 1601 Brahe died, he spoke his last words to Kepler “Let me not seem to have lived in vain.” (Helden, 1995) Kepler secretly took Brahe’s information so the data would not be lost in the estate sale. He wrote a letter of confession in 1605: "I confess that when Tycho died, I quickly took advantage of the absence, or lack of circumspection, of the heirs, by taking the observations under my care, or perhaps usurping them..." (Fowler, 2016) It was Brahe’s data that he needed to solve the Mar’s problem. He stated he would solve the problem in eight days yet it took him eight years to discover why Mar’s circle was so eccentric. Kepler was selected as Brahe’s successor as an imperial mathematician. Kepler published many books which helped advance the astronomical science, while in Prague. During 1610, Kepler heard of Galileo’s discoveries with a spyglass. Kepler quickly wrote a letter of support named, “Conversation with the Sidereal Messenger”. Later he obtained a telescope and published his observations of Jupiter’s Satellites or moons. The Jupiter observations were titled, Narration about four Satellites of Jupiter observed. Kepler was a very busy man because during this period of 1600-1611 he and his wife also had three surviving children. In 1612, Kepler was excommunicated from the church after religious intolerance had been tightened. Even with his high social status as an Imperial Mathematician how could not get the ban lifted. Also in 1612 his wife died, during that year as did his son the previous year. All through this heartache he kept working on his studies.
Kepler was forced to leave Prague when Emperor Rudolf’s health began to fail and he had to abdicate to his brother Matthias. Matthias was a catholic but he was not tolerant of Protestants. After he moved with his children to Linz (now Austria) Kepler married again, this time for necessity whereas his first marriage was for love. Kepler needed a mother for his children. Between him and Susanna Reuttinger, they had six children three of which died very early. In 1615, Kepler's own mother was accused of being a witch. Kepler himself hired many lawyers to help him defend his mother from being burned at the stake. Finally, in 1620 his mother was set free. (Helden, 1995)
In 1618 Kepler’s religious controversy’s begin to increase not only due to his astronomical publishing but also because of his very own beliefs. Many Protestants were being made to leave due to an edict. Since Kepler was a court official he was exempted from the banishment of all Protestants from the province. Even with the exemption though Kepler continued to suffer persecution and he continued to work and move the science of astronomy forward. It was around this time the Thirty Years War began, as well as Kepler was trying to print his work “Rudolphine Tables”. A rebellion broke out and destroyed the printing shop as well as much of Kepler's printed work. Kepler and his family had to leave Linz in 1626 and moved to Ulm where his work was published in 1627. (Helden, 1995) After this Kepler was left with no job, no salary and no way to support his family. He was on his way back to Prague to obtain the salary that was owed to him from his work as an Imperial Mathematician when he died. Kepler died in Regensburg in 1630. Kepler was an interesting astronomer who wholeheartedly believed in God. He believed God created the universe using mathematical equations and that God wanted his creations to understand the universe around them. Through his vast understanding of math Kepler was able to understand many discoveries of the past as well as make a number of his own. Some people even those close to Kepler could not understand his delight in math. Mastlin once said it was not right for a serious mathematician to be happy over a mere help to a calculation. Mastlin also said not to trust logarithms, a form of math, because no one understood how they worked. Kelper proved him wrong and published a proof showing how logarithms worked. Kepler also, through math and Brahe’s work, created the three laws of planetary motion. His work went on to help scientist after him such as Isaac Newton who devised his theory of gravitational pull. Interestingly enough, I’d like to note that Kepler would be amused when he learns he has a satellite named after him. The satellite is on a mission to find planets similar to our earth. (Johnson, 2016)

All three of these scientist have made amazing contributions to astronomy as well humanity. Though the question is, does astronomy continue to make contributions towards humanity today? The answer to this question is definitely yes! Almost everything we have around us is thanks to the work of astronomers of today. From our phones to the memory foam mattress on your bed is thanks to an astronomer somewhere. Most of the items we use today have come from scientist intending to use the item in space. It just so happens that the inventions also work well here on earth too. For instance in the medical field, radio astronomers developed aperture synthesis. Technology that is used in medical tools to produce images such as cat scanners and MRI’s. (Hall, 2013) Another contribution from astronomy is how we care for our newborn babies. A thermal sensor device used to gauge whether telescopes are overheating or not is also used in neonatal nurseries. The device helps to keep newborns from getting too hot or too cold. Your foam mattress or pillow on your bed is thanks to an astronomy, NASA needed a better and safer way to secure add protect the astronauts in space. Memory foam was the answer in 1966 and everyone liked it so much they decided to market it to the public. (Simpson, 2013)

A contribution from astronomy to humanity is a way to preserve it, there is a satellite on a mission to find planets similar to ours called Kepler. Our earth will one day end up like the planets around us, so for humanity to survive we will eventually have to abandon ship and go to another planet. Thanks to astronomy’s discoveries and experiments we have a way of finding a new planet to live off of. (Redd, 2012) I know Kepler must have smiled when he noticed a satellite was named after him, to find planets giving he called the moons satellites during his time.
Even photographers have astronomers to thank for something. For instance, the film photographers still use today is thanks to astronomers. Astronomers had originally used the black and white film to study the sun. (Rosenberg, 2013) Thanks to astronomers this research paper was able to be produced, using Wi-Fi, computers and vast amounts of coding. Wi-Fi came from John O’Sullivans work in CSIRO in Australia as a radio astronomer. (Simpson, 2013) Coding is an astronomers bread and butter. Although there are many different types of coding it is said that most astronomers prefer the coding language called, IDL. This coding is used in visualization software which was developed around the seventies. Astronomers have been teaching us how to navigate from one place to another for many years. Whether it was navigating by the stars or longitude and longitude this is possible because of an astronomer. Even the little voice coming from your phone telling you to turn left in 100 feet is all thanks to astronomers. In the time of the stars, people used them to know when to plant seeds and when to harvest their crops, as well as which season was about to come. Longitude and latitude helped us navigate more precisely. Today with GPS we can get where we need to go with the fastest route available all thanks to the satellites developed by astronomers.

Another device may be not used in everyone’s life but is used by our police force is the chemical oxygen demand photometer. This instrument was created by astronomers to measure light luminosity. Police use the COD photometer to check and see if car window tint is too dark. (Rosenberg, 2013) Another place outside of your home that uses devices created by astronomers is the airport. Airports use x-ray scanners as part of their security to check bags and other items for drugs, bombs, even weapons. X-ray scanners came from x-ray telescopes which are used to understand the expansion of supernova as well as understanding the spreading of hot gasses between galaxies. (Meyers, 2013) So many inventions help move humanity forward thanks to astronomers as well as the adjoining scientist. Who knows in the next century or so we could be moving to another planet, and keeping humans alive due to an astronomers work today.

Works Cited
AuthorLastName, FirstName. Title of the Book Being Referenced. City Name: Name of Publisher, Y Biography.com Editors. "Nicolaus Copernicus." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/nicolaus-copernicus-9256984

Brown, Cynthia Stokes. "Khan Academy." Khan Academy. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/big-bang/how-did-big-bang-change/a/claudius-ptolemy
Field, J. V. "Johannes Kepler." Kepler Biography. Apr. 1999. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Kepler.html
Fowler, Michael. "Johannes Kepler." Johannes Kepler. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. .

Hall, Shannon. "How Astronomy Benefits Society and Humankind - Universe Today." Universe Today. 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. http://www.universetoday.com/106302/how-astronomy-benefits-society-and-humankind/
Helden, Albert Van. “Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)." Johannes Kepler. 1995. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. .
Johnson, Michele. "Searching for Far Out and Wandering Worlds." NASA. NASA, 7 Apr. 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. .
"Johannes Kepler Facts." Www.sciencekidz.co. Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. .

Jones, Alexander Raymond. "Ptolemy." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2016 http://www.britannica.com/biography/Ptolemy
"The Fall of the Geocentric Theory." The Fall of the Geocentric Theory. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. .
Meyers, J. D. "National Aeronautics and Space Administration." X-ray Telescopes. Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. .

Redd, Nola Taylor. "Johannes Kepler Biography." Space.com. 21 May 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. .
Rosenberg, Marissa, and Pedro Russo. "International Astronomical Union | IAU." Astronomy in Everyday Life. Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. .
Simpson, Robert. "Astronomy in Everyday Life." Orbiting Frog. 06 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. . ear. Type of Medium (e.g. Print).
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