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An Article to Help Your Child Discover Planet Earth

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An Article to Help Your Child Discover Planet Earth

Children love to learn the cool facts about the planet that they inhabit, yet ancient astronomers were only aware of the five planets, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. These were the ones that they were able to watch in the night sky without a telescope.

They didn't know about Pluto, Uranus or Neptune and they certainly had no idea that our wonderful Earth was also a planet.

So how was our planet discovered?

It came about because people of the time, had little else to do but spend time star gazing and looking at the sky. This lead to them noticing some weird objects that weren't fixed in the same way as stars were.  It was the wandering of these objects that led them to be called planets, taken from the Greek word for wanderers.

No one could understand why these mysterious heavenly bodies moved or what they actually were, but people could see the, Sun, Moon, stars and planets crossed the sky whereas where they were (the Earth) didn't appear to move anywhere.

Aristarchus, an ancient thinker, worked out that as the sun was much larger than the earth, it had to be the centre of things and he taught that although it was only the Sun that appeared to move across the sky, the Earth spun around the Sun.

Later, about 150 AD, Ptolemy who was thought to be wise man, as well as geographer and astronomer, decided that Aristarchus was wrong and that the Earth was the centre of everything.

He thought the Earth spinning was a really silly story.  After all, wouldn't we all be giddy? Would birds get left behind and animals be spun off? If you dropped a stone, wouldn't it fall straight down?

Ptolemy tried to explain the wandering of the planets with a complicated theory, which was not questioned for more than a thousand years.

However, when Nicolaus Copernicus studied the sky in the early 1500's, his observations made it difficult to believe Ptolemy's theory. He believed that it made far more sense for the Earth to be spinning as it orbited the Sun and that it also was a planet.

At this point, the Earth was no longer considered the centre of the Universe. Copernicus also concluded:

The Earth never stops moving.
We don't notice the Earth moving because it is so large.
Clouds move.

Despite these conclusions, Copernicus was cautious and didn't publish this theory until he was dying in 1543.  Interestingly, when another astronomer backed up this theory, a few years later, he was burned at the stake.

Over the years, the famous astronomers continued to battle as to whether the Earth or the Sun was actually the centre of things.

Tycho Brahe believed that most planets orbited the Sun, but that the Sun orbited our planet, Earth.  Kepler, found that everyone was confused because planets orbited in ovals, not circles as was they had thought previously.  HE deemed that all the planets including our orbited the Sun and that the Sun emitted mysterious rays, which kept the planets from flying out of the universe.

In 1609, Galileo looked at the sky with a telescope and saw, the rings around Saturn, the moons orbiting Jupiter and that the Moon was lumpy.

In 1687 the genius Isaac Newton, came up with his Law of Gravity, proving that everything did in fact orbit the Sun and therefore confirmed Aristarchus's theory.

 

 

 

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