Tycho Brahe is famous for his incredibly accurate astronomical and planetary observations. Though Tycho did not have the technology of a telescope, he invented his own idea of the solar system (the “Tychonic System”). Additionally, Tycho developed astronomical instruments and accurately observed more than 700 stars. His discovery in 1572 of a new supernova in the Cassiopeia constellation inspired poems by Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare.
Tycho was only aged 12 when he began to study at the University of Copenhagen. His passion for astronomy initially was sparked when he witnessed a total eclipse of the sun on the exact date that it was predicted to happen in 1560. Several years later, Tycho observed an overlapping (conjunction) of Jupiter and Saturn. When he realized that the prediction tables for this event were extremely inaccurate, he was inspired to make more accurate observations of the heavens.
Around age 30, the king of Denmark and Norway gave Tycho an island and funding to build his own observatory and laboratory to record celestial events. Tycho then designed his own astronomical instruments to study the stars. Through their collected observations, Tycho and his assistants from all over Europe substantially corrected nearly every known astronomical record. Tycho’s publications on his observations of the new star of 1572 and comet of 1577 also led to the discovery that the galaxy is changeable. Tycho’s passion for accurate observations and improved instruments of measurement became his life’s work.
Tycho came up with his own theory of the solar system, the Tychonic System, which combined aspects of the two prevailing theories of the time-- that the planets orbited around the sun (Copernican model) and that everything orbited around the earth. Tycho correctly thought that the moon orbited the earth and that the planets orbited around the sun, but he incorrectly believed that the sun orbited around the earth. However, his theory laid the foundation for modern astronomy, which Tycho’s assistant, Johannes Kepler, built upon. Kepler greatly respected Tycho’s methods and accurate observations and used Tycho’s astronomical data to develop his laws of planetary motion.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Tycho’s faith intertwined with his work. In fact, he refused to adopt the heliocentric model of the solar system (that the earth revolves around the sun) because he thought that this theory violated both physical laws and the authority of the Bible, which he said portrays the earth as being at rest, not rotating and revolving. Tycho often combined both scientific and biblical arguments in his studies.
In a lecture on astronomy, Tycho defended some aspects of astrology (how celestial bodies influence humans and the natural world), but also stated that man’s fate is not settled by the stars because God’s will could alter it and that God made man to conquer that influence.
A written description of Tycho’s observatory said that at the entrance, there was a portal with this inscription on it: “Consecrated to the all-good, great God and Posterity.”