What does our Solar system really watch like? If us were to in which method fly ourselves over the aircraft where the Sun and the planets are, what would certainly we see in the facility of the Solar System? The answer took a while for astronomers to figure out, bring about a debate between what is well-known as the geocentric (Earth-centered) model and also the heliocentric (Sun-centered model).

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The ancients interpreted that over there were specific bright points that would appear to move amongst the lift stars. While that exactly uncovered the “naked-eye” planets (the planets you have the right to see without a telescope) is lost in antiquity, we do know that cultures all end the human being spotted them.

The old Greeks, because that example, considered the planets to include Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — and also the Moon and the Sun. The earth was in the facility of it every (geocentric), through these planets revolving approximately it. So crucial did this end up being in culture that the work of the week were named after the gods, stood for by these seven moving points the light.


All the same, no every Greek thought that the earth was in the middle. Aristarchus of Samos, follow to NASA, was the an initial known human to say the the sunlight was in the facility of the universe. The proposed this in the 3rd century BCE. The idea never ever really recorded on, and lay dormant (as far as we have the right to tell) for several centuries.

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Earth is at the center of this version of the universe created by Bartolomeu Velho, a Portuguese cartographer, in 1568. Credit: NASA/Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Because european scholars relied ~ above Greek sources for their education, because that centuries most human being followed the teachings that Aristotle and Ptolemy, follow to the Galileo project at Rice University. But there to be some things that didn’t do sense. For example, Mars occasionally appeared to move backward with respect come the stars prior to moving front again. Ptolemy and others explained this making use of a system called epicycles, which had actually the planets relocating in small circles in ~ their greater orbits.

But through the fifteen and sixteenth centuries, astronomers in Europe were dealing with other problems, the job added. Eclipse tables were coming to be inaccurate, sailors required to store track of your position when sailing the end of vision of floor (which resulted in a new method to measure up longitude, based partly on specific timepieces), and also the calendar date from the time of Julius Caesar (44 BCE) no longer was specific in describing the equinox — a difficulty for officials came to with the timing of religious holidays, generally Easter. (The timing problem was later on solved through resetting the calendar and also instituting more scientifically rigorous leap years.)


While 2 15th-century astronomers (Georg Peurbach and also Johannes Regiomontanus) had already consulted the Greek texts for clinical errors, the project continued, it was Nicolaus Copernicus that took the understanding and also applied it to astronomy. His observations would revolutionize our thinking of the world.

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Retrograde movement of Mars. Image credit: NASA

Published in 1543, Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the changes of the Heavenly Bodies) outlined the heliocentric universe similar to what we recognize today. Amongst his ideas, follow to Encyclopedia Britannica, was that the planets’ orbits should be plotted v respect to the “fixed point” Sun, that the earth itself is a world that turns on one axis, and also that when the axis alters directions through respect to the stars, this reasons the phibìc Pole star to adjust over time (which is now recognized as the precession the the equinoxes.)

Putting the sunlight at the center of our Solar System, other astronomers started to realize, streamlined the orbits for the planets. And it helped describe what to be so weird about Mars. The factor it backs up in the skies is the earth has a smaller sized orbit than Mars. When earth passes through Mars in that is orbit, the planet appears to walk backwards. Climate when earth finishes the pass, Mars shows up to relocate forwards again.


Other supports because that heliocentrism started to emerge as well. Johannes Kepler’s rules of activities of the planets (based on job-related from him and Tycho Brahe) are based upon the heliocentric model. And in Isaac Newton’s Principia, the scientist explained how the motions happen: a force referred to as gravity, which shows up to it is in “inversely proportional come the square of the distance between objects”, follow to the university of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Artist’s conception that the Kepler space Telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Newton’s gravity concept was later on supplanted by that of Albert Einstein, who in the at an early stage 20th century proposed that gravity is instead a warping that space-time by enormous objects. That said, heliocentric calculations overview spacecraft in their orbits today and the model is the best way to describe how the Sun, planets and other objects move.

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Universe today has posts on both the heliocentric model and also the geocentric model, and also Astronomy actors has an illustration on the facility of the universe.