The Structure Of The Universe Essay

2265 words - 9 pages

The way in which we currently view the structure of the universe has been developed throughout centuries by various astronomers whose predictions and observations have all aided in the development of this model.
Aristotle based his model of the universe on Pythagorean theory which described the Earth as a sphere. His claims of a round Earth were reinforced by three observations. The first of these was that all Earthly matter moved towards the centre of the Earth, and this would consequently produce a sphere. The second observation was that if the Earth was flat, then lunar eclipses would not portray segments which possessed a curved outline. The last of these observations claimed that if or when a person travels North or South, they do not in both cases observe the same stars, nor are they positioned identically. Aristotle also hypothesised a geocentric universe. This means that a static Earth is orbited by its moon, the sun and all of the other planets-which were believed to be homocentric spheres- in perfect God-like circles. Aristotle also claimed that beyond all of the planets, the stars were embedded in a larger sphere, which too rotated. In 140 AD, this model of the universe was refined by Ptolemy who additionally included epicycles. Aristotle furthermore postulated that the world, which lay below the moon, was imperfect and corruptible whereas that which lay beyond the moon was incorruptible and designed to perfection. He supposed that the substances upon Earth consisted of four dissimilar elements- water, air, fire and earth- whereas the ‘heavens’ above were created of quintessence. This model was widely accepted as it complied with religious views and predominated over all others for close to two-thousand years. The strengths that this model possesses included the fact that it portrayed orbits in general and that it hypothesised the planets as homocentric spheres. This model also possesses weaknesses such as the assumed geocentric arrangement of the universe, the belief that only five elements existed and the use of epicycles to explain the observed retrograde motion of the planets. The accuracy and development of this model was limited due to the lack of technology and the mere use of the naked eye.
In 1514, Nicolaus Copernicus put forth a proposition of a heliocentric model of the universe. This placed the sun near the centre of the universe and at the centre of the celestial orbits of each of the planets, including Earth which orbited around the Sun in perfect circles. Copernicus further hypothesised that the Earth makes one rotation on its axis daily and one around the Sun annually. Furthermore, he claimed that the Earth’s axis was not perpendicular to the plane on which it orbited. This not only accounted for the reasoning of seasons, it also accounted for the seemingly retrograde motions of all of the planets. This model of the universe was strengthened by its correct assumption of the Sun as the centre of celestial orbits and...

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