Let’s All Celebrate the Universe’s Birthday!
Congratulations Universe, you don't look a day over 6923 years old.
In 1622, the Big Bang Theory was nothing more than medieval speculation, not even a sparkle in Sheldon Cooper’s eye, when German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) attempted to put an age to the life of the universe.
In 1601, after the death of Danish Tycho Brahe, Kepler was named the Imperial Mathematician to Rudolf II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; his primary responsibility was investigate the orbit of planets, most specifically, Mars. Brahe had left an extensive library of astronomical data, most of which was collected by the naked eye. Over the next 10 years, Kepler decided that the work would be most easily done following the lead of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who had invented a telescope. Galilei had used his invention to explore mountains and craters on the Earth’s moon, as well as exploring four of Jupiter’s moons. Kepler and Galileo corresponded, and the Italian sent a telescope to Kepler.
Kepler would modify Galileo’s by adding covex lenses, allowing greater magnification, thereby allowing Kepler to see further into the solar system. He would use this modified telescope for research that led to his three laws of planetary motion, the first two he published in 1609. Influenced by the Polish astronomer Nicolai Copernicus, the two 1609 laws stated that all planets revolved around the sun in elliptical orbits (not perfect circles, as was the commonly held theory at the time) and that planets “sped up” as they approached the sun. He would publish his third law in 1619, relating the time a planet took to orbit the sun to its average distance from the sun.
But as spot on as the three laws have been proven to be over time, one of the biggest astronomical “fails” in history can also be attributed to Kepler. In 1622, Kepler undertook the very large task of determining when they universe actually began. Kepler’s prediction would later be published, stating that the astronomer believed the day of birth for the universe was April 27, 4977 B.C., (according to History.com.), making the universe (at that time) to be barely 6,700 years old. We all know that the Big Bang was not a commonly accepted theory until the 20th century, which now proves that Kepler's prediction was off by at least 13 billion years. Despite being wrong about the creation of the universe, Kepler was right about a number of things and went on to create the principals of modern astronomy; principals that fueled scientists from Isaac Newton to Ben Franklin to Robert Oppenheimer.
So let’s just wish the universe a happy 6993rd birthday and allow Kepler a mulligan on this one. After all, we all know CalTech in Pasadena wasn’t built in a day.