Kepler eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 53 pages of information about Kepler.
a dodecahedron; the sphere including this will be Mars.  Round Mars describe a tetrahedron; the sphere including this will be Jupiter.  Describe a cube round Jupiter; the sphere including this will be Saturn.  Now, inscribe in the earth an icosahedron, the sphere inscribed in it will be Venus:  inscribe an octahedron in Venus:  the circle inscribed in it will be Mercury.”  With this result Kepler was inordinately pleased, and regretted not a moment of the time spent in obtaining it, though to us this “Mysterium Cosmographicum” can only appear useless, even without the more recent additions to the known planets.  He admitted that a certain thickness must be assigned to the intervening spheres to cover the greatest and least distances of the several planets from the sun, but even then some of the numbers obtained are not a very close fit for the corresponding planetary orbits.  Kepler’s own suggested explanation of the discordances was that they must be due to erroneous measures of the planetary distances, and this, in those days of crude and infrequent observations, could not easily be disproved.  He next thought of a variety of reasons why the five regular solids should occur in precisely the order given and in no other, diverging from this into a subtle and not very intelligible process of reasoning to account for the division of the zodiac into 360 deg..  The next subject was more important, and dealt with the relation between the distances of the planets and their times of revolution round the sun.  It was obvious that the period was not simply proportional to the distance, as the outer planets were all too slow for this, and he concluded “either that the moving intelligences of the planets are weakest in those that are farthest from the sun, or that there is one moving intelligence in the sun, the common centre, forcing them all round, but those most violently which are nearest, and that it languishes in some sort and grows weaker at the most distant, because of the remoteness and the attenuation of the virtue”.  This is not so near a guess at the theory of gravitation as might be supposed, for Kepler imagined that a repulsive force was necessary to account for the planets being sometimes further from the sun, and so laid aside the idea of a constant attractive force.  He made several other attempts to find a law connecting the distances and periods of the planets, but without success at that time, and only desisted when by unconsciously arguing in a circle he appeared to get the same result from two totally different hypotheses.  He sent copies of his book to several leading astronomers, of whom Galileo praised his ingenuity and good faith, while Tycho Brahe was evidently much struck with the work and advised him to adapt something similar to the Tychonic system instead of the Copernican.  He also intimated that his Uraniborg observations would provide more accurate determinations of the planetary orbits, and thus made Kepler eager to visit him, a project which as we shall see was more than
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Kepler from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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