Getting to know Johannes Kepler

Kepler was born in 1571 and was not in good health. Despite this and his parent’s poverty, he won a scholarship to the University of Tubingen, where he trained as a Lutheran minister and studied Copernicus. Despite the lack of evidence to support Copernicus’ view, Kepler defended his ideas and risked problems for himself as Martin Luther was on record as refuting it.

The Martian Problem

In keeping with his interest with the planets, when Kepler heard that Tycho Brahe was tracking the movements of the planets from his observatory in Prague, and was invited to go to work with him in 1600. He was at first given the difficult job of detailing Mars, and this work was a step towards his understanding of the solar system. Upon Brahe’s death, the following year, he noted his observations before the family could intervene.

Kepler’s First Law

This took 8 years to solve rather than the 8 days Johannes Kepler claimed it would take him. No one could ascertain why Mars seemed to move backwards. He managed to figure out that planets moved in ellipses – elongated circles – but Mars took this to the extreme. The elliptical paths became known as Kepler’s First Law.

Kepler’s Second Law

This deals with the fact that a planet moves more slowly the further away it was from the sun. He suggested that there was an unseen line linking the sun and planet and this travelled over the same area in the same length of time.

Kepler’s Third Law

Published in 1609, this showed that the time two planets take to orbit the sun connects to the distance they are away from it. This is a movement away from his other laws as it deals with the orbit of 2 rather than 1 planet. Johannes Kepler died in 1630 and as a result of the work he carried out, NASA have named their telescope in honor of him.