Renaissance astronomers made many discoveries about our solar system. From the time of the ancient Greeks, people believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe and all of the planets and stars, including the sun, revolved around our tiny planet. But Renaissance astronomers used mathematical measurements and charted nightly observations to prove that wasn’t the case. They measured the movements of the planets over time and learned that the planets were actually revolving around the sun. Not many people believed them. In fact, Galileo Galilei, was put on trial for sharing this idea.
In 1543, Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, through observation and mathematical calculations, realized that the movement of the planets was better explained if the Earth and other planets moved around the sun. He also noted that the Earth spins on an axis.
In 1571, 23 year old Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, built his own observatory on an island in Denmark. There he recorded his observations of the planets and the stars. *Here’s some Brahe gossip that your students will love: As a young man, Tycho Brahe got into a sword fight with a classmate. The classmate accidentally cut off half of Tycho’s nose. To cover the injury, Tycho Brahe glued a gold nose onto his face every morning.
In 1600, Johannes Kepler of Germany met Tycho Brahe and became his assistant. Kepler applied mathematics to Brahe’s research. This gave a clearer, more data driven, concept of how the planets moved in space. Kepler is known for the three laws of planetary motion and his theory of the planets moving in elliptical orbits.
1n 1610, Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei, improved the design of the telescope. He used it to observe the craters on the moon. He saw four of Jupiter’s moons. And he noticed the oval rings around Saturn. After studying the solar system for a long time, Galileo agreed with Copernicus—the Earth and the other planets were in orbit around the sun. He wrote a book about the motion of the planets around the sun. This theory was different from the belief long held by the Roman Catholic church—that the Earth was at the center of the universe. They put Galileo on trial and locked him up. He was 69 years old.
THE SOLAR SYSTEM MOBILE CRAFT
The Solar System Mobile craft is very easy to make. It will give your students an idea of where the planets are in relation to the sun, the size of the planets compared to the sun, and the colors of the planets. You can even have your students draw the moons (satellites) orbiting around each planet.
We printed the sun on yellow paper and the solar system on purple paper. This saved time on coloring.