Tycho Brahe's Contribution to Astronomy

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  • 0:01 The Copernican Contribution
  • 0:30 Tycho Brahe
  • 1:20 The Parallax
  • 2:28 The Geo-Heliocentric Theory
  • 3:50 Tycho's True…
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

There was a man who did not believe Ptolemy's version of the universe nor did he believe in Copernicus's views on the universe. Who was this daring man? He was Tycho Brahe. We'll learn about him in this lesson.

The Copernican Contribution

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer now credited for finally showing the world, once and for all, that the sun does not revolve around the Earth. But Copernicus couldn't explain planetary motion. He thought planets moved in a uniform circular motion around the sun, which is not true. This created space for other astronomers to come up with their own theories as to our universe. One such famous astronomer was Tycho Brahe.

Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe was a Danish astronomer and nobleman. He was born in 1546 to an important and wealthy family. Unlike Copernicus, he was not a churchman and was known to be quite vain, haughty, and quick tempered. What else did you expect from a stereotypical nobleman? Actually, he disfigured his nose in a duel while studying at the university and wore a fake one made of metal thereafter.

Tycho studied law but was really passionate about math and astronomy instead. Unlike Copernicus, Tycho believed in a geocentric universe, a universe with Earth at its center, one where the sun revolves around the Earth. But, Tycho's idea of the geocentric universe was a bit different than Ptolemy's version.

The Parallax

In 1572, a 'new star' appeared that is now known as Tycho's Supernova. Tycho understood that this 'new star' should show parallax, the apparent shift in position of an object as a result of a change in the location of the observer. Parallax is something you experience every day without even thinking about it! It's a much harder sounding term than it actually is.

Let's say you are driving on a highway. In the far background there's a big mountain. Closer to the foreground, nearer the highway, there is a tree. You know logically that neither the tree nor the mountain can actually move. They don't have legs. They are standing still.

But, as you drive along the highway and approach the tree, it appears to be to one side of the mountain. As you pass the tree, it appears to be on the opposite side of the mountain. This is due to the parallax effect! Tycho did not see any parallax in the position of the 'star' he observed and, therefore, considered it to be important evidence against Ptolemaic theory.

The Geo-Heliocentric Theory

Tycho published a book about his thoughts on the matter that became quite popular. So popular, that the Danish king Frederick II funded a new observatory for him. In fact, the king let Tycho earn a salary by collecting rent from a coastal district. Not very surprisingly, it appears the townsfolk thought he was a pretty bad landlord. In any case, Tycho's observations and his observatory made him the most famous astronomer of his day and Denmark the center of astronomical study.

Because Tycho never measured any parallax for the stars, he thought this supported his viewpoint of a stationary Earth. Such a thought rejected the Copernican hypothesis. However, this same idea also rejected parts of the Ptolemaic model of the universe as well.

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