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By J. D Huba

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It was already known that, the farther a planet is from the sun, the longer it takes to orbit the sun. Kepler’s third law of planetary motion gives the exact relationship: 16/11/10 5:45 PM Confirming Pages 13 1-13 The Solar System Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) B I O G R A P H Y As a child, Kepler, who was born in Germany, was much impressed by seeing a comet and a total eclipse of the moon. In college, where astronomy was his worst subject, Kepler concentrated on theology, but his first job was as a teacher of mathematics and science in Graz, Austria.

It seems likely from the latest measurements that the expansion will continue forever, but this conclusion is still tentative and is under active study by astronomers today. Religion and Science In the past, scientists were sometimes punished for daring to make their own interpretations of what they saw. Galileo, the first modern scientist (see biography in Sec. 5), was forced by the Roman Catholic Church in 1633 under threat of torture to deny that the earth moves about the sun. Even today, attempts are being made to compel the teaching of religious beliefs—for instance, the story of the Creation as given in the Bible—under the name of science.

1-10). According to Kepler’s first law: The paths of the planets around the sun are ellipses with the sun at one focus. The Second Law Even this crucial discovery was not enough, as Kepler realized, to establish the courses of the planets through the sky. What was needed next was a way to relate the speeds of the planets to their positions in their elliptical orbits. Kepler could not be sure a general relationship of this kind even existed, and he was overjoyed when he had figured out the answer, known today as Kepler’s second law: A planet moves so that its radius vector sweeps out equal areas in equal times.

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NRL Plasma Formulary by J. D Huba


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