Ven is a small island in the Öresund strait. Its population is less than 400 inhabitants and it is situated in Landskrona Municipality in Sweden although the island was Danish in Brahe’s times. It is a very quiet place and the landscape is very beautiful but I have visited it today for another important reason (a very mathematical reason!): astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) built two observatories here between 1576 and 1596, Uraniborg and Stjerneborg. This is my second post about Brahe and I am very happy because I have had the opportunity of learning things about Brahe’s life that I didn’t know before (link to Brahe’s bithplace). Brahe was an aristocratic person who was so interested for the Astronomy. I’ve been in Uraniborg with one of my colleagues (Laura Gómez) and the staff of the museum has opened it only for us and a guide has very kind for having shown us all the details of the museum. Nowadays, the museum is inside a church and Uraniborg castle and Stjeneborg are in the gardens:
The day has been very cold and windy but this hasn’t been a problem for us. The first panel of the museum has welcomed us with a short ad about Brahe:
Tycho Brahe lived in the second half of the sixteenth century, during he era known as the Renaissance He was born into one of the most powerful families of the Danish kingdom, and he received the thorough education of a young nobleman at different German universities.
His lefelong passion was astronomy. During his lifetime the great topic of discussion was which world system is correct. Is it the earth or the sun that is motionless at the centre of the universe? Tycho Brahe doubted that it could be the sun. But he resolutely affirmed that the answer had to be sought in careful observations of the positions and movements of the heavenly bodies. During his years on Ven he methodically charted the heavens with the aid of advanced instruments. His findings paved the way for a new scientific world-view.
Tycho’s life was chequered and dramatic. During his time here on the island, Ven became a brilliant centre of European science. He was unconventional in his lifestyle and had a view of women’s ability that was unusual for the time. He was an all-rounder science, with a great talent for organization. Here he shaped the kingdom of Urania.
Welcome to the Tycho Brahe Museum!
You can learn a lot of things about Brahe’s life and his instruments in the museum. For example, there are reproductions of his quadrant and his famous sextant:
When taking measures, the quadrant was turned until it pointed towards the star. The ruler with the sight was then moved along the arc until the star was visible in the sight. The altitude of the star was read off on the scale on the arc and the direction of the star was read off on the circular scale running round the room.
So the sextant was used to measure the angular distance between stars (the stellar distance).
All the instruments were placed in the terraces of Uraniborg main building which was a not so big castle built in the higher point of the island:
For a lord like Tycho Brahe it was important to have a beautiful residence to mark his status. As soon as Tycho arrived on Ven he started building his castle. It was modelled on modern castles that he had seen on his travels in Europe. The castle that stood here was reminiscent of the masterpiece of the architect Palladio, the Villa Rotunda. […]
Tycho called his castle Uraniborg after the Greek goddess of astronomy, Urania. The building was purposefully deseigned in the service of science, and it was Europe’s first astronomical observatory.
Another of the instruments which Tycho built for his Urania was the Quadrans MAgnus Chalibeus (1588) with which it was possible to measure altitudes and the azimuth of any star.
Tycho’s achievements as an astronomer were pioneering. He sought to re-establish the high science of classical times through meticulous and direct observations of the heavenly bodies. For several decades he surveyed the heavens with the aid of advanced instruments. His measurements were unique in their accuracy, and would not be surpassed for almost three centuries.
The visit continues in the Observatory of Stjerneborg, next to Uraniborg. The weather of the island is always windy and all the instruments placed in the terraces teetered because of this strong wind. Therefore, Tycho decided to build a new observatory under the ground:
The current reconstruction of this space takes you back to times of Tycho because you can listen a recreation of one of Tycho’s nights. There are the astronomical instruments placed in the same place as four centuries ago and all the show has been thought to wrap the visitor in this scientific moment.
Here he got the best series of observations and astronomical data than any other scientist in those times.
Here he got the best series of observations and astronomical data than any other scientist in those times. Tycho Brahe was one of the most wonderful scientists of the XVIth century and we must remember that Johannes Kepler deduced his three Physic laws from Brahe’s observations in Prague. So, I have enjoyed Uraniborg and Stjerneborg a lot and I can assure you that today has been one of my most wonderful Mathematical days:
And… that’s all folks. If you visit Malmö or Copenhagen, this is one of the most scientific trips that you must do!
Localització: Ven island (map)