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Meet Tycho Brahe, History's Wildest Astronomer

Meet Tycho Brahe, History's Wildest Astronomer

It's tough to find anyone who worked harder than Tycho Brahe. He kept meticulous observations of the heavens, tracking planets in their entire visible orbit and cataloging more than 1,000 stars, all before the advent of telescopes. He disproved the prevailing belief that the heavens were unchanging. After his death, it was discovered that he had predicted the elliptical orbit of the planets -- all of which makes his outlandish lifestyle especially surprising. When Brahe was 20, he and a fellow student got into a duel over who was the better mathematician. Brahe lost his nose in the duel and wore a bronze prosthetic for the rest of his life. He was fabulously wealthy and once purchased a pet elk, who died after getting drunk and falling down the stairs at one of Brahe's elaborate parties. Another time, Brahe refused to leave a banquet to use the bathroom -- even after drinking to excess -- because it was considered rude to rise before your host. Experts believe that this caused his bladder to rupture and led to his death 11 days later.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. In Brahe's time, the heavens were thought to be unchangeable. Brahe used parallax to confirm that a distant supernova and a comet were beyond the earth's atmosphere. 00:52

  2. Brahe catalogued more than 1,000 new stars, and his observation showed that they didn't appear to move at all in relation to each other. 02:06

  3. Tycho Brahe discovered that the planets moved around their stars not in circles, but in ellipses. 04:21

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