Most of us, as young children, have at some point, a fascination with the Sun, the Moon, and the stars in the sky. Remember the first shooting star you ever saw, or when someone showed you how to find the Big Dipper or the “Man in the Moon”? We are so fortunate to live in times when space is open for exploration, and we are learning so much about distant galaxies, novas and super novas, and dark matter. We owe so much to a man who’s birthday is celebrated today...his 540th birthday that is. Born February 19, 1473 in Thorm, Poland, Copernicus determined that, contrary to popular opinion and accepted theories, the Earth orbited around the Sun, rather than the other way around.
Nicolaus Copernicus, a Renaissance astronomer and mathematician, was educated at the University of Padu from 1501-1503, the University of Ferrara in 1503, the University of Bologna from 1496-1500, and at Jagiellonian University from 1491-1495. Like many learned people of his time, he was what is called, a polymath. In addition to his work as an astronomer and a mathematician, he was also a doctor of the law, and a physician. He was also multilingual, a literary scholar of the classics, a translator, an artist, and he served as a governor, diplomat and economist. Copernicus is credited with formulating a comprehensive heliocentric model of our solar system. Previous to his theory, most people believed that the Sun rotated around the Earth. Copernicus postulated that it was the opposite, stating that in fact the Earth and other planets orbited around the Sun.
His book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, published in 1543 just before his death, Copernicus and his ideas ushered in what is known as the Copernican Revolution-a scientific revolution in ideas that would affect all other fields of thought, the arts and humanities. The Copernicus model of the heliocentric solar system is a design of a golden sun encircled by six planets. Nicholas Copernicus died peacefully at the age of 70 in 1543. Since Copernicus’ time, new planets have been discovered, and now a model of the Solar System includes nine planets. Enjoy learning more about this fascinating man, Nicolaus Copernicus, and spend some time gazing at the stars, building a model of the Solar System, and learning more about our interesting Universe.