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So ... What Do You Think Now?

The pictures below are prominent people who have influenced scientific thinking over the years. Each image is from a NASArelated site. Click any picture to see the source image.

Throughout history humans have had varying ideas about the nature of the universe. Even today, with all of the advancements in science, there are people who still hold to ideas that are in direct contradiction to today's science. For example, there is a group of people known as The Flat Earth Society, who teach that Earth is flat and has five sides.

Scientists throughout history have used real evidence to develop the current model of our universe and, more specifically, our solar system. Using the Internet, research ways that the following prominent astronomers and mathematicians have shaped our view of the universe. Answer the questions about each person and think about how each person used the scientific method.


Claudius Ptolemy

  1. Ptolemy based his description of the universe on the work of whom?
  2. Draw a diagram in which you illustrate the Ptolemaic, geocentric model of the universe.
  3. Imagine you know nothing about the universe. List three pieces of evidence you can see on a daily basis that might point to a geocentric model of the universe.

Nicolaus Copernicus

  1. Describe the sun in relation to the heliocentric system developed by Copernicus.
  2. Name three people whose work supported the heliocentric model.

Johannes Kepler

  1. How many laws of planetary motion did Johannes Kepler discover?
  2. Who is Tycho Brahe?
  3. Describe Kepler’s first law of Planetary Motion.

Galileo Galilei

  1. What scientific tool, still widely used in astronomy today, was Galileo one of the first to use?
  2. Diagram how light travels through both a refracting telescope and a reflecting telescope. Describe the difference in how each is used to make observations.
  3. When Galileo began teaching, what was the prominent theory regarding the organization of the universe?
  4. How did Galileo confirm the teachings of Nicolaus Copernicus?
  5. Why was Galileo sentenced to life imprisonment?
  6. Have you ever heard a new idea that you thought did not make sense because of what you already knew?  Describe your reaction and relate that to people at the time of Galileo.  
  7. What law did Isaac Newton formulate based on Galileo's information?

How Did These Scientists Come to their Findings?

While Galileo is known for pioneering the experimental scientific method, each of the men above used the scientific method in one way or another. Only when scientists use the scientific method are their findings credible. Describe how each of the men above used parts of the scientific method to develop their models.

Check your answers.



After finishing the webquest, separate into groups by astronomer and debate each astronomer’s point of views.

Review science lab safety rules here.

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE Earth Systems Science core.


Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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