History

Astronomy in the Renaissance

Astronomy in the Renaissance

The sixteenth century was a drastic turn in all areas of knowledge, literature and art.

After a dark and quite uncultured millennium, Europe turned its gaze to the classics, especially of ancient Greece. It is the Renaissance.

In 1492 America was discovered and navigation was greatly expanded, which began to require better naval instruments, as well as an improvement in terrestrial and stellar mapping techniques, which meant an important stimulus for the study of geography, the astronomy and mathematics.

In astronomy, the contributions of Nicholas Copernicus supposed a radical change and a new impulse for a science that was asleep. Copernicus critically analyzed Ptolemy's theory of a geocentric Universe and demonstrated that planetary movements can be better explained by attributing a central position to the Sun, rather than the Earth.

In principle, not much attention was paid to the Copernicus (heliocentric) system until Galileo discovered evidence of the movement of the Earth when the telescope was invented in Holland. In 1609 he built a small refracting telescope, directed it towards the sky and discovered the phases of Venus, indicating that this planet revolves around the Sun. He also discovered four moons revolving around Jupiter.

Convinced that these planets did not revolve around Earth, he began to defend the Copernicus system, which led him to an ecclesiastical tribunal. Although he was forced to deny his beliefs and writings, this theory could not be suppressed.

From a scientific point of view, Copernicus's theory was only an adaptation of planetary orbits, as Ptolemy conceived them. The ancient Greek theory that planets revolved in circles at fixed speeds remained in the Copernicus system.

The most important observer of the 16th century was Ticho Brahe, who had the gift of observation and the money to build the most advanced and precise equipment of his time. From 1580 to 1597, Tycho observed the Sun, the Moon and the planets in his observatory located on an island near Copenhagen and then in Germany.

His observations, which were the most accurate available, would give the deceased the tools to determine the laws of the celestial movement, given by his assistant and one of the greatest scientists in history: Johannes Kepler.

But the most important fact of the Renaissance was not these discoveries, but the change of attitude and mentality in scientists. The experimentation began to become philosophically respectable in Europe, and it was Galileo who ended the theory of the Greeks and effected the revolution.

Galileo was a convincing logical and great publicist. He described his experiments and his views so clearly and spectacularly, that he conquered the European scholarly community. And their methods were accepted, along with their results.

Galileo was the first to perform timed experiments and to use measurement in a systematic way. Its revolution consisted of placing induction above deduction, as the logical method of Science. Galileo can therefore be considered the father of modern science since his ideas were based on experiments.

◄ PreviousNext ►
Scientific astronomyModern astronomy