Happy Birthday To Nicolaus Copernicus

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This astronomical clock in Old Town Square in Prague was constructed in 1410, some 60 years before Nicholas Copernicus was born in nearby Poland, from Wikipedia, photo by Hzenilc

Who Was Copernicus?

Copernicus was a Polish astronomer, who revolutionized the study of astronomy, when he theorized that the sun, and not the earth, was the center of our solar system. If Nicolaus were alive today he would be 540 years old. Copernicus’ observations were quite astounding for his day and age, even though they were not published until just a few months before he died in 1543.

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Nicolaus Copernicus portrait from Town Hall in Toruń, Poland – (from 1580), image from Wikipedia – artisit unknown

The Copernicus Revolution

Copernicus first devised his revolutionary ideas in the 30 to 40 years before he died. Today, it is widely believed that the Polish scientist delayed publishing his heliocentric theory for so long to avoid undergoing the harsh criticism and ridicule that his ideas might precipitate. Strangely enough, his belief in a sun-centered solar system met with little opposition in the first few years following his death.

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This image, obtained during the late commissioning phase of the GeMS adaptive optics system, with the Gemini South AO Imager (GSAOI) on the night of December 28, 2012, reveals exquisite details in the outskirts of the Orion Nebula. Gemini Observatory/AURA

Galileo Defends Copernicus

This situation soon changed and so for at least a hundred years, Copernicus was made the scapegoat of scientific theory, especially by the church in Rome. However, it was Galileo that took the brunt of the criticism some 90 years later, when he supported Copernicus’ theory. For this, Galileo had to face charges of heresy and eventually recanted on the idea that the earth orbited around the sun.

Finally, in 1835, some 300 years after Copernicus first considered the possibility that the earth revolved around the sun, did the Roman church finally drop their censoring of Copernicus and his revolutionary ideas.

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The old astronomical clock with the newly added (1800s) calendar of Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, from Wikipedia, photo by Krzysiu “Jarzyna” Szymański
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