The 5 Greatest Astronomers of All Time
Astronomy is one of the oldest of the natural sciences. Some of its origins can still be found in astrology. The greatest astronomers of all time each lived in different time periods and built upon the knowledge of their predecessors. It is still to be seen what more there is to be discovered.
Hipparchus (B.C. 146-127)
Hipparchus is widely believed to be one of the greatest astronomers of antiquity. Some view him as one of the founders of astronomy. He is credited for inventing trigonometry, in which he used to develop the first known star catalogue. Other contributions of Hipparchus include discovering the procession of Earth’s rotation axis, findings on the positions and motions of the moon and sun, and measuring the distance to the moon during a solar eclipse. He created a system to determine the brightness of a star that is currently used. Only one of his many writings is still in existence today.
Nicolaus Copernicus (A.D. 1473-1543)
Despite common belief at the time, Copernicius set out to prove that the sun is stationary and is the center of the universe. His book, “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres,”, described a concept in which the distances of the planets from the sun, bore a direct relationship to the size of the orbits as proof that Earth rotates around the sun. His ideas sparked controversy as it went directly against the teachings of the church, which taught that the sun revolved around Earth. The scientific community largely agrees that Copernicus is one of the greatest astronomers of all time and is seen as the initiator of the scientific revolution.
Galileo Galilei (A.D. 1564-1642)
The scientific revelation of the 17th century began with the invention of the telescope. Galileo had the insight to improve upon this technology, constructed a twenty-powered instrument in which he was able to observe the moon, and discovered four satellites of Jupiter. The telescope allowed him to be the first to view the ring around Saturn, observe the phases of Venus as it orbited around the sun. Being one of the greatest astronomers of all time, Galileo is known to be the father of modern observational astronomy as well as the father of modern physics.
William Herschel (1738-1822)
Herschel is known as one of the world’s greatest astronomers due to crucial discoveries he made after building his own large reflecting telescopes. He is credited with discovering over eight hundred binary systems and over twenty-four hundred deep sky objects while observing the binary systems of stars. Herschel discovered the planet Uranus and two of its moons. Herschel was the first to recognize that the solar system moves through space. He accidentally discovered infrared radiation.
Edwin Hubble (1889-1953)
Hubble’s discovery of galaxies outside of our own Milky Way makes him one of the greatest astronomers that ever lived. As he observed the universe through the Hooker telescope, he established that the galaxy included approximately one hundred billion stars of about billions of light years. Hubble observed that there are many separate galaxies moving away from each other. This led to Hubble’s Law, which states that the farther away a galaxy is from the Milky Way, the faster it is moving away from earth.
As you gaze upon a bright starry sky, remember the hard work of the greatest astronomers that has led us to be more knowledgeable of the universe we live in. It is in their work that scientists have been able to discover things like the law of gravity and the theory of relativity.