Happy Birthday Nicholas!

Thank you Google for having as your doodle a drawing (in color no less) of the Solar System with the Sun at the center. For many umpteen years (that means so many you can’t count them) man thought the universe centered on good old planet Earth (after all the stars at night revolve around us, right). I have taken college courses in Astronomy and a requisite is the study of the history of Astronomy. Why, you ask, would we need to study the past to understand the present and the future? When we lay out the history we discover the thinking process that occurred to reach our present understanding of things. And in this picture (not the one of the Solar System but that of the history of Astronomy) we find that people had things wrong and we had to change our way of thinking about things.

Now, the world thought the universe centered on the Earth and Copernicus (that would be the Nicholas of Happy Birthday Nicholas, 740 years ago) said wait one minute. Let’s look at what we know, and don’t know, and see if we can discover the truth. He then developed a model that incorporated the Sun as the center of the solar system. The problem to then modern thinkers was that it did not fit the current established view.

Since I am probably boring you talking about someone so old and out of date let me continue the boredom with some of his tenets. These I have copied from Wikipedia and to whom I give credit:

1. There is no one center of all the celestial circles or spheres.
2. The center of the earth is not the center of the universe, but only of gravity and of the lunar sphere.
3. All the spheres revolve about the sun as their mid-point, and therefore the sun is the center of the universe.
4. The ratio of the earth’s distance from the sun to the height of the firmament (outermost celestial sphere containing the stars) is so much smaller than the ratio of the earth’s radius to its distance from the sun that the distance from the earth to the sun is imperceptible in comparison with the height of the firmament.
5. Whatever motion appears in the firmament arises not from any motion of the firmament, but from the earth’s motion. The earth together with its circumjacent elements performs a complete rotation on its fixed poles in a daily motion, while the firmament and highest heaven abide unchanged.
6. What appear to us as motions of the sun arise not from its motion but from the motion of the earth and our sphere, with which we revolve about the sun like any other planet. The earth has, then, more than one motion.
7. The apparent retrograde and direct motion of the planets arises not from their motion but from the earth’s. The motion of the earth alone, therefore, suffices to explain so many apparent inequalities in the heavens.

Pretty heady reading but it is very succinct in saying, hey folks, this is how the world really revolves. So I invite you to read his tenets and then tonight (if you have clear skies) go out and just spend time looking at the universe and spend enough time to allow the sky to move, to rotate in its dance. Maybe, if you are lucky, you will have some passing clouds to join in and add to the dance.

Finally, I believe in God. The funny thing is I have not seen any science that would dissuade me in my belief and what I see in the natural world, and in science, does nothing to lessen the belief that He is the Creator of it all and the One who puts all things into their dance, a dance so incredible that I can only find awe in it all.


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