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Astronomy 101: Kepler's laws

In this episode, learn about the basic scientific rules that govern the motion of planetary orbits.

Johannes-Kepler
Johannes Kepler // copy of anonymous 1610 portrait

German astronomer Johannes Kepler was born in December 1571, and throughout his 59 years of life, he contributed immensely to science. He is most well-known, however, for his three laws of planetary motion. This work stemmed from a collaboration with Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Kepler mathematically analyzed some 20 years of precise planetary observations that Brahe collected. He determined how the solar system’s planets move the way they do and laid the foundation for Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity. What we now call his three laws are theories that are universal, verifiable, and precise — and they don’t just govern the motion of the planets, but also comets, asteroids, and other minor bodies orbiting the Sun.

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