Johannes Kepler was a German astronomer and mathematician best known for developing three namesake laws of planetary motion. Kepler was a student and assistant of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. By analyzing Brahe’s data collected by observing Mars, Kepler was able to formulate his laws of planetary motion.
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Planets move in an elliptical orbit around the sun. The sun is a focus of the ellipse. This is a modification of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory which held that planets move in circular orbits with the sun at the center of the circle.
A line connecting a planet and the sun will sweep out equal areas in equal time. Kepler’s Second Law is a derivation of the law of conservation of angular momentum.
The square of a planet’s orbital period is proportional to the cube of its semi-major axis. It is sometimes known as the Harmonic Law, and Isaac Newton later modified it to account for universal gravitation.
Kepler’s best known work is the Mysterium Cosmographicum in it, he outlines his theory that the universe is a sphere consisting of a series of nested platonic solids.
Kepler developed a mathematical conjecture dealing with sphere packing. He determined the using either hexagonal close packing or face-centered cubic packing will result in the most efficient possible arrangement of 74.04%.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
* The Physics Classroom has a good explanation of Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion.
* Wolfram Mathworld (which is a GREAT math resource) has a nice explanation of Kepler’s Conjecture.
* How did Tycho Brahe die? Poisoned by his prosthetic nose? Died when his bladder burst after failing to relieve himself in a timely manner? Murdered by a jealous Kepler? Scientific American investigated…
* Watch a simple visual depiction of Kepler’s Laws below:
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