Ptolemaic System

= Ptolemaic system =

(Source: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocentric_model| Geocentric Model] )

In the Ptolemaic system, each planet is moved by five or more spheres: one sphere is its deferent. The deferent was a circle centered around a point halfway between the equant and the earth. Another sphere is the epicycle which is embedded in the deferent. The planet is embedded in the epicycle sphere. The deferent rotates around the Earth while the epicycle rotates within the deferent, causing the planet to move closer to and farther from Earth at different points in its orbit, and even to slow down, stop, and move backward (in retrograde motion). The epicycles of Venus and Mercury are always centered on a line between Earth and the Sun (Mercury being closer to Earth), which explains why they are always near it in the sky. The Ptolemaic order of spheres from Earth outward is:

#Moon
#Mercury
#Venus
#Sun
#Mars
#Jupiter
#Saturn
#Fixed Stars
#Sphere of Prime MoverThe deferent-and-epicycle model had been used by Greek astronomers for centuries, as had the idea of the eccentric (a deferent which is slightly off-center from the Earth). In the illustration, the center of the deferent is not the Earth but X, making it eccentric (from the Latin "ex-" or "e-" meaning "from," and "centrum" meaning "center"). Unfortunately, the system that was available in Ptolemy's time did not quite match observations, even though it was considerably improved over Aristotle's system. Sometimes the size of a planet's retrograde loop (most notably that of Mars) would be smaller, and sometimes larger. This prompted him to come up with the idea of an equant. The equant was a point near the center of a planet's orbit which, if you were to stand there and watch, the center of the planet's epicycle would always appear to move at the same speed. Therefore, the planet actually moved at different speeds when the epicycle was at different points on its deferent. By using an equant, Ptolemy claimed to keep motion which was uniform and circular, but many people did not like it because they did not think it was true to Plato's dictum of "uniform circular motion." The resultant system which eventually came to be widely accepted in the west was an unwieldy one to modern eyes; each planet required an epicycle revolving on a deferent, offset by an equant which was different for each planet. But it predicted various celestial motions, including the beginnings and ends of retrograde motion, fairly well at the time it was developed.


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Ptolemaic system — (also Ptolemaic theory) ► NOUN ▪ the formerly held theory that the earth is the stationary centre of the universe …   English terms dictionary

  • Ptolemaic system — n. the theory, systematized by Ptolemy, postulating the earth as the center or fixed point of the universe, around which the celestial bodies move …   English World dictionary

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  • Ptolemaic system — The dominant, geocentric system of astronomy before Copernicus . Ptolemy was an astronomer, mathematician, and geographer who flourished between AD 127 and 148 in Alexandria. His masterpiece is known by its Arabic title of the Almagest, a… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Ptolemaic system — (also Ptolemaic theory) noun Astronomy, historical the theory that the earth is the stationary centre of the universe, with the planets moving in epicyclic orbits within surrounding concentric spheres. Compare with Copernican system …   English new terms dictionary

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