Collection: Kepler’s Equation

In orbital mechanics, Kepler’s equation relates various geometric properties of the orbit of a body subject to a central force. It was first derived by Johannes Kepler in 1609. Kepler proposed an iterative solution to the equation. The equation has played an important role in the history of both physics and mathematics, particularly classical celestial mechanics.

Prior to Kepler, Nicolaus Copernicus proposed in 1543 that the Earth and other planets orbit the Sun. The Copernican model of the Solar System was regarded as a device to explain the observed positions of the planets rather than a physical description.
Kepler sought for and proposed physical causes for planetary motion.

His work is primarily based on the research of his mentor, Tycho Brahe. The two, though close in their work, had a tumultuous relationship. Regardless, in 1601 on his deathbed, Brahe asked Kepler to make sure that he did not “die in vain,” and to continue the development of his model of the Solar System. Kepler would instead write the Astronomia nova, in which he rejects the Tychonic system, as well as the Ptolemaic system and the Copernican system. Some scholars have speculated that Kepler’s dislike for Brahe may have had a hand in his rejection of the Tychonic system and formation of a new one.

By 1602, Kepler set to work on determining the orbit pattern of Mars, keeping David Fabricius informed of his progress. He suggested the possibility of an oval orbit to Fabricius by early 1604, though was not believed. Later in the year, Kepler wrote back with his discovery of Mars’s elliptical orbit. The manuscript for Astronomia nova was completed by September 1607, and was in print by August 1609.

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