Sunday, December 5, 2010

Astronomer and Alchemist Tycho Brahe had a Fantastic Mustache


Tycho Brahe (14 December 1546 – 24 October 1601), born Tyge Ottesen Brahe, was a Danish nobleman known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations. Coming from Scania, then part of Denmark, now part of modern-day Sweden, Tycho was well known in his lifetime as an astronomer and alchemist.

In his De nova stella (Of new stars) of 1573, he refuted the theory of the celestial spheres by showing the celestial heavens were not in an immutable or unchanging state of perfection as previously assumed by Aristotle and Ptolemy. His precise measurements indicated that "new stars" (now known as novae or supernovae), in particular that of 1572, lacked the parallax expected in sub-lunar phenomenon, and were therefore not "atmospheric" tail-less comets as previously believed, but occurred above the atmosphere and moon. Using similar measurements he showed that comets were also not atmospheric phenomena, as previously thought, and must pass through the supposed "immutable" celestial spheres.

Tycho Brahe was granted an estate on the island of Hven and the funding to build the Uraniborg, an early research institute, where he built large astronomical instruments and took many careful measurements, and later Stjerneborg, underground, when he discovered that his instruments in the former were not sufficiently steady. Something of an autocrat on the island he nevertheless founded manufactories such as paper-making to provide material for printing his results. Something akin to a research institute was founded which John Napier attended. After disagreements with the new Danish king in 1597, he was invited by the Bohemian king and Holy Roman emperor Rudolph II to Prague, where he became the official imperial astronomer. He built the new observatory at Benátky nad Jizerou. Here, from 1600 until his death in 1601, he was assisted by Johannes Kepler. Kepler later used Tycho's astronomical results to develop his own theories of astronomy.

As an astronomer, Tycho worked to combine what he saw as the geometrical benefits of the Copernican system with the philosophical benefits of the Ptolemaic system into his own model of the universe, the Tychonic system.

Tycho is credited with the most accurate astronomical observations of his time, and the data were used by his assistant, Johannes Kepler, to derive the laws of planetary motion. No one before Tycho had attempted to make so many planetary observations.

text via wikipedia

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