Today in History – December 27, 1571 – Birth of Johannes Kepler. When Kepler made his calculations from measurements taken by Tycho Brahe and himself, at the turn of the seventeenth century, they had to create many of the instruments that they used.Â The types of tedious observations and measurements taken by Brahe and Kepler had never been attempted before. Thus when Kepler first published his results in 1609, writing what would later become the first two laws of planetary motion, he was in the best position to determine whether the Ptolemaic Earth-centered system was correct or the Copernican heliocentric system.
In 2009 NASA plans to launch the Kepler Mission, a space telescope designed to search for other planets outside our own solar system. To date, astronomers have only been able to find gas-giant planets, such as our own Jupiter, with the current technology. The Kepler mission will place a telescope in space that will focus on a specific area long enough to be able to find the presence of smaller Earth-like planets. Once one has been located, the telescope will be able to study it well enough to determine whether or not it would be able to sustain life.
400 years after Kepler published the results of his studies of the planets from relatively crude observations, NASA will have sent a telescope into space to find and study planets outside our own solar system.
For more information, see the Engineering Pathway’s related resources planetary motion and Kepler’s Laws or general astronomy. Or visit the Aerospace Engineering Education or the Engineering Mechanics Education community sites.