Getting to know Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe lived between December 14, 1546 and October 24, 1601. He was a Danish astronomer and scientist. Tycho’s discoveries and observations in the development of astronomical instruments and in measuring and fixing the positions of stars made history. His observations are considered the most accurate prior to the discovery and development of the telescope. Tycho Brahe is best recognized for his solar system study and creating perfect positions of over 777 fixed stars.

Early life

Tycho was born to a father who was a privy councilor and later on the governor of the castle of Helsingborg. At an early age, Tycho was kidnapped by his wealthy and childless uncle who raised him at his own castle in Tostrup, Scania, Denmark. Tycho’s early education included the study of law at the University of Copenhagen (1559 to 1562).

Tycho and astronomy

Numerous circumstances turned Tycho from the field of law to that of astronomy. One of these was the total eclipse of the sun that was predicted for 21 st August, 1560. The 14 year old Tycho was fascinated by the prediction and when it came to be, his life turned around for good. As the record of his later discoveries and observations show, Tycho never forgot the eclipse of the sun. His time was best spent in the classroom and outside at night watching the stars. He got his first astronomical book (Almagest of Ptolemy) from his math teacher and a lot of practical skills from his other teachers who helped him make small globes on which he could plot small star positions. As well, he received compasses and cross-staffs that helped him approximate the angular division between the stars.

In 1562, his uncle helped him join the University of Leipzip where he studied until 1565. In the month of August, 1563, Tycho made his initial observation of Jupiter and Saturn. Shortly after, he found out that the current almanacs and ephemerides that record stellar and planetary positions were seriously incorrect. So he got more committed to the study of the heavens so as to correct the existing Copernican tables. Between 1565 and 1570, Tycho Brahe explored all over Europe, and took more studies at Wittenberg, Rostock, Basel and Augsburg.

While in school, he obtained more mathematical and astronomical instruments and then settled in Scania in 1571. Then he opened a small observatory on an asset that was owned by his relative. This is where his third most recognized astronomical event took place. On November 11 th , 1572, Tycho saw a new star that was brighter than Venus where no star was expected to exist. He observed this star and determined that it lay beyond the moon and deduced that it was in the field of the fixed stars. He published his observations in De nova stella in 1573 and this made him one of the most recognized European astronomers.