Celestial Mechanics (Encyclopedia of Science)
Celestial mechanics is a branch of astronomy that studies the movement of bodies in outer space. Using a mathematical theory, it explains the observed motion of the planets and allows us to predict their future movements. It also comes into play when we launch a satellite into space and expect to direct its flight.
Until English scientist and mathematician Isaac Newton (1642727) founded the science of celestial mechanics over 300 years ago, the movement of the planets regularly baffled astronomers or anyone who studied the heavens. This is because those bodies called planets, a word which comes from the Greek word for "wanderer," literally "wandered" about the sky in a seemingly unpredictable manner. To the early astronomers, the stars were fixed in the heavens and the Sun seemed to make the same regular journey every year, but the planets followed no such pattern. Their unpredictable behavior was especially frustrating to the ancients, and it was not until around A.D. 140 that Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemaeus or Ptolemy provided some kind of order to this chaotic situation.
(The entire section is 1824 words.)
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