Multiwavelength Astronomy Multimedia


Detail from the frontispiece of Giovanni Battista Riccioli's Almagestum novum (Bologna, 1651)


This image depicts the slow evolution of thought about the physics of the solar system in the mid-17th century. The shield on the left represents Copernicus's view of the Universe (1543) with the Sun at the center of the Universe and all of the planets, including the Earth moving around it. Copernicus's model was opposed by the Church which held that the Earth was the center of the Universe. The shield on the right depicts Tycho Brahe's model of the Universe (1588) which reconciles the Copernican model with the early Ptolemaic model (ca. 150) in which the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars all revolve around the Earth. Brahe's model allows that the other planets revolve around the Sun, but maintains that the Earth is the stationary center of the Universe around which the Sun, dragging all of the planets with it, as well as the Moon, revolve. Brahe's shield carries more weight (tilts the balance) in this picture because the Church, a powerful arbiter of scientific thought in the 17th century, supported Brahe's model.


  • Giovanni Battista Riccioli's Almagestum novum (Bologna, 1651)
  • Concepts


From the collection of Owen Gingerich



Associated Lesson

Gamma Ray Impact

This material is based upon work supported by NASA under Grant Nos. NNX09AD33G and NNX10AE80G issued through the SMD ROSES 2009 Program.

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