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While working as Brahe's assistant, Kepler was given the task of studying and attempting to understand the orbit for planet Mars. The orbit of Mars was particularly difficult because Copernicus had correctly placed the Sun at the center of the Solar System, but had erred in his assumption of circular planetary orbits. After numerous experiments and mathematical calculations, he finally realized the obits of the planets were in fact not circular as Aristotle had previously insisted and Copernicus assumed correct, but in fact were more elliptical in shape. The fact that Mars has the most elliptical of all orbits that Kepler had data on lead to Kepler eventually formulating the correct theory for the Solar System. After Brahe's death Kepler was able to obtain all of Brahe's data and observations. Utilizing the voluminous and precise data of Brahe, Kepler was able to use his realization of the elliptical orbits of the planets to formulate his Three Laws of Planetary Motion, his most important achievement and the one history most notably remembers him for.
Kepler's first law of planetary motion is " The orbits of the planets are ellipses, with the Sun at one focus of the ellipse." The Sun is not at the center of the ellipse but is at one focus. The planet then follows the ellipse in its orbit meaning the planet-Sun distance is constantly changing as the planet goes around its orbit.
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Kepler's laws of planetary motion are what he is most remembered for, but he also had a number of other groundbreaking discoveries. He was the first to investigate the formation of pictures with a pinhole camera. He explained the process of vision by refraction within the eye and formulated eyeglasses designed for nearsightedness and farsightedness. He was also the first to explain the use of both eyes for depth perception. He continued to make strides in optics and was able to describe for the first time, real, virtual, upright, and inverted images and magnification. He then went on to explain the principles of how a telescope works and discovered the properties of total internal reflection.
Johannes Kepler not only made great discovers in his own right, but his works and publications also help inspire and influence other great thinkers. Kepler's theories on planetary motion helped Edmond Halley determine that other heavenly bodies, particularly comets, also orbit around the sun in an elliptical fashion orbits. Halley was also able to, using data from observations of a comet in 1537,1607 and 1682 to accurately predict its return in 1759. Sir Isaac Newton continued to build on Galileo's understanding of motion and falling bodies as well as Kepler's laws of planetary motion, to develop his theory of gravity, which he presented in 1687. In 1663 James Gregory inspired by Kepler's discoveries on light and his work with optics, begun working with lenses and described the first practical reflecting telescope. Kepler's study of the volumes of solids was later expounded upon and developed by Bonaventura Cavalieri and is now part of the ancestry of infinitesimal calculus. Johannes Kepler's dedication to science, knowledge seeking abilities, and pursuit of excellence have lead modern scholars to a better understanding of the universe and mathematics.
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