Little Bits of History

August 8

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 8, 2017

1576: The cornerstone for Uraniborg is laid. Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman born in 1546 who became famous for his astronomical discoveries. Not just an astronomer, Brahe was also an astrologer and alchemist who was impressed with the world of empirical facts which led him to make astoundingly accurate observations about the world in which he lived. He received a comprehensive education and when the current instrumentation was not up to his own standards, he invented new ones so his observations were not distorted by inadequate tools. Having said that, he was the last of the great astronomers to make his observations without the use of telescopes since these were not invented until after his death in 1601 at the age of 54.

Uraniborg was a Danish astronomical observatory and alchemical laboratory established and run by Brahe. It was built on Hven, an island then owned by Denmark. It was dedicated to Urania, the Muse of Astronomy and the name translates to “The Castle of Urania”. It was the first specifically built observatory in modern Europe. As mentioned above, telescopes weren’t invented until 1604 so this observatory lacked what is today considered to be basic equipment. The main building was a square, about 50 feet per side and made of red brick. There were two semicircular towers erected on the north and south sides so the overall footprint was rectangular. Gardens were planted to specific measurements in order to make the Uraniborg promote the health of the occupants, an early feng shui.

The sun and Jupiter were to have increased influence over the observatory due to this careful building. The main floor had four rooms, one for Brahe and his family and the other three for visiting astronomers. The north tower held the kitchen while the southern one was a library. The second floor had three rooms, one large one for visiting royalty. James VI of Scotland visited in 1590. There were two more rooms of equal size but smaller than the royal room. On the second level, both towers held instruments used for studying the skies. The third floor held eight rooms for students. A third tower, like cupola, was added to the roof of the third floor, and the widow’s walk afforded an even wider view of the sky.

Soon after Uraniborg was built, it was expanded underground with Sterneborg or Star Castle in which Brahe was able to keep important instruments away from the elements and to allow other observers to make separate observations and then compare them with their peers. Brahe had a patron., protector, and friend in King Frederick. The king died in 1588 and his 11 year old son came to the throne and a regency council ruled until 1596, Christian IV’s coronation date. Brahe fell out of favor with the new King and abandoned Uraniborg in 1597 and left the country. The institution was destroyed after Brahe’s death and the Round Tower of Copenhagen was built on the site in 1642. Today, the grounds of Uraniborg are being restored.

It was not just the Church that resisted the heliocentrism of Copernicus.

Now it is quite clear to me that there are no solid spheres in the heavens, and those that have been devised by the authors to save the appearances, exist only in the imagination.

When, according to habit, I was contemplating the stars in a clear sky, I noticed a new and unusual star, surpassing the other stars in brilliancy. There had never before been any star in that place in the sky.

I conclude, therefore, that this star is not some kind of comet or a fiery meteor… but that it is a star shining in the firmament itself one that has never previously been seen before our time, in any age since the beginning of the world. – all from Tycho Brahe



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