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Google honors heliocentric pioneer Copernicus

This screen grab shows the Google doodle honoring the 540th birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus. This screen grab shows the Google doodle honoring the 540th birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus.
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(RNN) – Today we know the sun is center of the solar system thanks to Nicolaus Copernicus, who is responsible for challenging the Roman Catholic Church in the name of science.

Google has celebrated his 540th birthday today with a doodle.

Copernicus challenged geocentric, or Earth as the center of the solar system, ideas with the publication of On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres in 1543.

Copernicus, born Feb. 19, 1473, was not the first to present a heliocentric, or sun-centered, theory of the solar system, but his model was explained in greater detail and with better accuracy than the work of Greek astronomer Aristarchus. Aristarchus' theory was presented in 270 B.C., but the theory was rejected centuries later by the Roman Catholic Church, which was a staunch supporter of geocentrism.

Copernicus dedicated Heavenly Spheres to Pope Paul III, who was the reigning pontiff at the time. Nevertheless, his theory was considered heretical because it went against the church's teachings because of an interpretation of Psalm 93 that the Earth was "immovable and firm." Copernicus died shortly after the book's publication, and the church banned it for 300 years.

In addition to a sun-centered solar system, Copernicus asserted the moon orbited Earth, stars don't move and only appear to because the Earth is moving, planets don't revolve around a fixed point, stars are much further away from Earth than the sun and the Earth's orbit is spherical.

Copernicus' ideas we later expanded and improved on by Johannes Kepler, who modified the theory to include elliptical orbits, which was later confirmed by Galileo Galilei. Isaac Newton used his research on gravity to explain heliocentrism in 1687, but it wasn't until 1758 that the Roman Catholic Church began to soften its stance.

In 1822, Pope Pius VII allowed heliocentric books to be published in Rome.

Google's doodle contains an animated model of the solar system with the sun taking the place of the second O in its logo. Six planets revolve around the sun, including the Earth, which has the moon revolving around it.

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