Category Archives: Astronomy

Tycho Brahe 12.14.12 Thought of the Day

“I conclude, therefore, that this star is not some kind of comet or a fiery meteor… but that it is a star shining in the firmament itself one that has never previously been seen before our time, in any age since the beginning of the world.”
–Tycho Brahe

The astronomer Tycho Brahe

The astronomer Tycho Brahe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tycho Ottesen Brahe was born on this day in Knutstrop Castle, Scania, Denmark-Norway in 1546. Today is the 466th anniversary of his birth.

Noble by birth Brahe’s twin brother died before he could be baptized. Tycho’s ode to his dead brother was his first published work. At two his  uncle,  Jorgen Thygesen Brahe,  took him (perhaps kidnapped him) to live at Tosterup Castle, and Tycho became Jorgen’s heir.  At 12 he entered the University of Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetorics. There was a solar eclipse in 1560 and young Tycho was fascinated by it. He began studying astronomy. When he started at Leipzig he  began to study astronomy without permission…

but was soon forgiven after demonstrating successes. He found that old observations were very inaccurate, and started to design methods and instruments for high-precision measurement of positions of celestial bodies. [TychoBrahe]

From Leipzig he continued his academic pursuits  in  Germany, studying at Wittenberg, Rostock and Basel. In Rostock he had a famous duel with another student to determine who was the best mathematician.

Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe (Photo credit: lilspikey)

His nose was cut so badly that  for the rest of his life “he covered the scar with a plate probably made of a silver-copper alloy to imitate the colour of the skin.” [Ibid]

During this period his interest in alchemy and astronomy was aroused, and he bought several astronomical instruments.[The Galileo Project]

He returned to Scania and built a laboratory to study chemistry. In November of 1572 he turned his sights to the heavens again and observed …

a new brilliant star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Tycho’s measurements showed that it really was a distant star and not any local phenomena. This was very intriguing at that time, since the sphere of the stars was considered to be divine and perfect, hence no changes ought to take place there. Tycho observed its brightness evolve until it faded away the next year. He reported the event in his book “De stella nova”, which made him famous all over Europe. [TychoBrahe]

With his new found fame he could have studied anywhere in Europe, but he chose to return to his beloved Denmark. King Frederick II  granted him the Island of Hven.

Map of Hven from the Blaeu Atlas 1663, based o...

“…There he built his observatory, Uraniburg, which became the finest observatory in Europe.” [The Galileo Project] He designed new instruments and developed a nightly program of observations.

Tycho Brahe's Stjerneborg observatory on the i...

Tycho Brahe’s Stjerneborg observatory on the island of Hven, restored. 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The observatory was visited by many scholars, and Tycho trained a generation of young astronomers there in the art of observing. [Ibid]

He left Hven after he had an argument with King Christian IV and, after traveling for several years, wound up in Prague.

Tycho Brahe died 24th October 1601 of a urinary bladder infection. It has long been thought that the cure (a self-induced potion that may have contained lead) was the real culprit. But that has recently been disproved.

English: Signature of Tycho Brahe.

English: Signature of Tycho Brahe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tycho Brahe ved Knutstorp, Knudstrup

Tycho Brahe ved Knutstorp, Knudstrup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Thought of the Day 11.17.12 August Mobius

August Ferdinand Möbius

August Ferdinand Möbius (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August Ferdinand Mobius was born on this day in Schulpforta, Saxony (Germany) in  1790. Today is the  222nd  anniversary of his birth.

Möbius was an only child whose father died when he was just three years old. Möbius was home schooled until he was 13 when he went to the College of Schulpforta. He went to the University of Leipzig to study Law, but  after about a half a year’s study he switch to his real calling of math, astronomy and physics.

He went on to study astronomy at the Gottingen Observatory in 1813. Then he went to Halle where he cemented his studies in mathematics.

In 1815 Moebius wrote his doctoral these on The occultation of fixed stars and began work on his Habilitation thesis… on Trigonometrical equations …he was appointed to the chair of astronomy and higher mechanics at the University of Leipzig in 1816. [Mac Tutor History — Möbius biography]

He became a full professor in astronomy at Leipzig in 1844 where he held the post of “Observer at the Observatory at Leipzig.” [Ibid]  He supervised the rebuilding of the Observatory and became the director in 1884.

Möbius published several important papers in both astronomy and math. His…

1827 work Der barycentrische Calcul, on analytical geometry, became a classic and includes many of his results on projective and affine geometry. In it … He introduced a configuration now called a Möbius Net, which was to play an important role in the development of projective geometry. [Ibid]

Möbius net [Image courtesy: Thingiverse]

He is best known for the Möbius Strip or Möbius Band — “a two-dimensional surface with only one side. ” [Mac Tutor History — Mobius biography]

Giant Möbius Strips have been used as conveyor belts (to make them last longer, since “each side” gets the same amount of wear) and as continuous-loop recording tapes (to double the playing time). In the 1960’s Sandia Laboratories used Möbius Strips in the design of versatile electronic resistors.[]

A parametric plot of a Möbius strip

A parametric plot of a Möbius strip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Möbius died at age 77 in Leipzig.


08.CaligraphicMoebius.CharlesPerry.CC.VA.10April2011 (Photo credit: Elvert Barnes)

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