The weather still looks to be dry through the next week with temperatures that will run a little on the warmer side of average, but also with variable amounts of clouds that are going to find it hard to produce any precipitation from. High temperatures will range from the upper 40s to the lower 50s through the middle of next week, with overnight lows staying in the 20s.

winter-solstice

Thursday was the first day of winter (the Winter Solstice officially began last Thursday 8:28 am local) when the sun dropped to its lowest distance against our celestial equator.

It is always difficult to try and describe the solstices and equinoxes, since from our perspective the sun seems to be spinning around us here on earth, as opposed to the other way around, hence the problems the scientific and religious communities had with Copernicus’ heliocentric model. If you watch the sky for a day, it seems obvious that we are stationary, and everything else is just turning around us. But if you are more patient than that, and really pay attention to what happens in our sky over the course of a year, then it becomes apparent that things aren’t really that simple. Not only does the sun appear in a slightly different position in the sky each day at noon, but a few of those pesky stars (which are in actuality planets) keep moving around as well

copernicus

Back in the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus was a keen observer of the motions of the planets and the sun, as well as being a pretty sharp mathematician. The odd movements of those celestial bodies caused him to resurrect a theory that had actually been around for centuries, but never quite caught on in “civilized quarters.” It was a radical theory that the earth wasn’t actually the center of the universe… but rather the sun is. We’ll ignore the fact that he didn’t quite get it all right… after all, while our little sun is the center of our solar system, it isn’t even close to the center of our galaxy, much less the known universe. But it was still a radical departure from the common thought of the day, and Copernicus delayed release of his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium until shortly before his death.

heliocentric

Copernicus was hesitant to release his heliocentric (sun centered) theory of the solar system because he feared the reaction of his scientific colleagues. The latter is actually a fairly common reaction to any revolutionary advance in scientific thought. According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, legend has it that the very first printed copy of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was brought to him on his deathbed. He allegedly awoke from a coma, looked at the culmination of his life’s work lying in his hands, and then died peacefully.

As you might expect, the scientific community still had a hard time changing one of its primary paradigms. It wasn’t until Kepler and Galileo picked up on the theory that it really gained any traction, and even then it took a while before it was universally accepted. But Copernicus finds himself in good company by that measure. When Alfred Wegener first proposed his theory of plate tectonics in the early 1900s, he was roundly ridiculed until well after his death. His best revenge was that he was right all along.

 

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