The Evolution of Mathematics of Celestial Motion
Through Aristotle’s crystalline spheres, the Copernican Revolution, and Newton’s understanding of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion; it becomes clear that mathematics was the driving force that guided us through the evolution of celestial motion. One of the first to theorize the motion of both terrestrial and celestial bodies was Aristotle around 330BCE. To this philosopher, the universe had always been eternally geocentric. On Earth the concept of motion was, not only linear but, relatable to the material that was in motion. Aristotle theorized that the world was composed of only four basic building blocks; Air, Fire, Water, and Rock. Grouped into pairs, Air and Fire moved linearly upward while Water and Rock moved linearly downward. Though elegant in their simplicity, these rules of linear motion were confined between the Earth and the Moon, to what Aristotle called the “sublunar realm.” Anything beyond this was referred to as the “translunar realm” which consisted of any celestial body; the Moon, Sun, planets, and all of the Stars. Instead of the obeying the laws of linear motion, this realm operated on the bases of uniform circular motion. Each celestial body was set within its own “crystalline sphere” which was unmoved and never changing; the size of these spheres was directly proportional to the body’s rotational period. This sudden change in physics was attributed to a fifth element known as aether which spanned the entirety of the translunar realm. Because of Aristotle’s relatively simple view of the universe’s problems were bound to be found. One such problem was the unexplainable retrograde motion of Mars, which seemingly backtracked its way across the sky. Regarding this retrograde motion, a mathematical solution to the “Mars Problem” was discovered in 140AD by adding a complex system of smaller spheres rotating on an epicycle found on the present crystalline spheres. Known as the...
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