About Nicholas Copernicus
Nicholas (Polish spelling Nicolaus) Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473 at Torun, Poland. He was born at a time when the observation of heavenly bodies such as the sun, the moon, stars and the earth was a subject of great interest.
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Copernicus was renowned observer of heavenly bodies of his time. At the place of his permanent stay, Copernicus constructed what is known as Copernicus’ Tower. He used this tower as an observatory for looking at the heavenly bodies and observing their motion.
From his observatory in Copernicus’ Tower, Copernicus made many important observations. Some of them were related to the eclipses of the moon, the elevations of the moon above the horizon, the motion of the moon in front of the bright stars, and the positions of planets.
Copernicus did teaching and research in mathematics. He had special interest in trigonometry and astronomy.
What did Copernicus discover?
He extensively studied the motion of the earth. Copernicus discovered that the earth rotates around its axis and suggested that it is the earth that revolves around the sun. At that time, it was believed that the sun, the planets, and all other heavenly bodies revolve around the earth. The earth was thought to be at the center of the universe. Copernicus showed that the sun was fixed at the center and that the Earth, itself a heavenly body, revolves around the sun once in a year. The other neighboring heavenly bodies also revolve around the sun, but each takes a different time to complete one revolution.
Thus, Copernicus presented a Sun-centered model of the Universe (the solar system), rather than an Earth-centered Universe. This model of the planetary system presented by him is accepted even today.
Copernicus himself constructed two instruments.
- One of them was used to measure the angle, which the direction of the sun makes at noon at any place. At that time, the sun is at the greatest height above the horizon.
- The second instrument constructed by Copernicus could be used for measuring the altitude (height) of heavenly bodies anywhere in the sky.
His lifetime’s work led to the Copernican Theory. Copernicus died on 24 Mey 1543, the day his work got published in the form of a book by Osiander, a less known priest and astronomer.