Copernican system

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Copernican system

Copernican system, first modern European theory of planetary motion that was heliocentric, i.e., that placed the sun motionless at the center of the solar system with all the planets, including the earth, revolving around it. Copernicus developed his theory in the early 16th cent. from a study of ancient astronomical records. He retained the ancient belief that the planets move in perfect circles and therefore, like Ptolemy, he was forced to utilize epicycles to explain deviations from uniform motion (see Ptolemaic system). Thus, the Copernican system was technically only a slight improvement over the Ptolemaic system. However, making the solar system heliocentric removed the largest epicycle and explained retrograde motion in a natural way. By liberating astronomy from a geocentric viewpoint, Copernicus paved the way for Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Newton's embracing theory of universal gravitation, which describes the force that holds the planets in their orbits.


See E. Rosen, Copernicus and His Successors (1995); T. S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (1997).

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Copernican system

(kŏ-per -nă-kăn) A heliocentric system of the Solar System that was proposed by Nicolaus Copernicus and eventually published in 1543 in his book De Revolutionibus . It uses some of the basic ideas of the Ptolemaic system, including circular orbits and epicycles, and was no more accurate in its predictions. Copernicus, however, maintained that the planets move around the Sun (in the relative positions accepted today), the Sun's position being offset from the center of the orbits. The apparent motions of celestial bodies such as the Sun were explained in terms of the rotation of the Earth about its axis and also the Earth's orbital motion.

The planetary motion can be represented by two uniform circular motions: one is an epicyclic motion of the planet about a point D on the circular orbit; the other, unlike that of the Ptolemaic system, is a uniform circular motion of D about the center, C, of the orbit. This requires that the rate of motion of D about C is exactly half that of the epicyclic rate of motion with respect to a fixed direction.

There was a strong and prolonged reaction – especially by the Church – to the Copernican system, which effectively displaced the Earth as the center of the Universe. There was also a sudden revival in astronomical observation in order to test the theory, notably by Tycho Brahe. Tycho's detailed observations, which showed the inadequacies of the Copernican system, were used in the formulation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion. The heliocentric cosmology became firmly established after Galileo had made telescopic observations of the phases of Venus.

Copernican System

(kŏ-per -nă-kăn) The youngest stratigraphic system of the Moon. It includes the freshest lunar craters, formed during the last billion (109) years approximately, many of which have preserved rays. The period began with the formation of the crater Copernicus. The Eratosthenian System (for which Eratosthenes is the type crater) covers the earlier period extending from about 3.15 to 1 billion years ago. It includes slightly older more degraded craters with no visible rays, in addition to most of the youngest mare deposits. See also Imbrian System; Nectarian System.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006

Copernican system

[kə′pər·nə·kən ‚sis·təm]
The system of planetary motions according to Copernicus, who maintained that the earth revolves about an axis once every day and revolves around the sun once every year while the other planets also move in orbits centered near the sun.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Van Helden, "Galileo, Telescopic Astronomy, and the Copernican System," in The General History of Astronomy, ed.
First, Hume treats the Copernican system as a methodological improvement over the systems inherited from the "antients" because it provides a nice example of explanatory reductionism; different visible effects can be accounted for by the same simple principle-it is in this sense that a scientific theory can be "simple and natural" to Hume.
"You must understand that the great majority of people thought the Copernican system was completely ridiculous," he explained.
However, the issue that divided Tycho and Kepler, the truth of the Copernican system, rested upon a deeper disagreement regarding the proper role of the astronomer.
The discovery of DNA and the more recent development of powerful new technologies have certainly revolutionized our understanding of the inner workings of life and allowed us to probe deep into the machinery of living organisms, much as the Copernican system and Galileo's telescope helped revolutionize astronomy.
The schoolchild version is that Galileo was a brilliant scientist, whose invention of the telescope enabled him to see the truth in the Copernican system, which put him in conflict with the politically powerful, who persecuted him.
[34] Bax was won over by Marx's economic theory which he described as "comparable in its revolutionary character and wide-reaching importance to the Copernican system in astronomy." [35] Nonetheless, he still wanted to support it with an idealist metaphysic and a positivist ethic.
Was the Church worried about the Copernican system, that prima facie seems to contradict the Bible?
The Copernican system needed considerable refinement before it would satisfy the scientific need for precision both in accounting for the phenomena that had thus far been observed and in predicting those that would take place in the future.
As Alexander Koyre, William Shea, and other historians of science have noted, most of Galileo's arguments were no better empirically than those of Ptolemy, and definitive confirmation of the Copernican system was found long after Galileo's death.
That is, even if the law of equal areas is shown to be true of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, the question still remains whether the annual orbital revolution belongs to the earth or to the Sun; this issue is the same as the choice between the Tychonic and the Copernican system. At this juncture, philosophical and religious considerations come into play.