Why Did People Believe Earth Is The Center Of The Solar System When It’s Obvious The Sun Is?

In days gone past, many people believed that the Earth was flat, but years passed and attitudes have since changed.

Later, people would believe that the Earth was the center of the solar system, and some believed that the Sun is actually the center point of the solar system. Both of these belief systems would be considered wrong. 

You may now be wondering, so what is the center of the solar system? You could also be asking how we would determine what the center of the solar system is. 


These are the questions that we are here to answer for you! So, let’s look a little deeper into our solar system, and which point is at the center of it. 
Why Did People Believe Earth Is The Center Of The Solar System When It’s Obvious The Sun Is

What is the center of the solar system?

If you think that the Sun is the center of the solar system, then you would be wrong. The center of the solar system is actually a point that we call barycenter.

The barycenter in our solar system is indeed very close to the Sun, which is most likely why so many people refer to the Sun as the center of our solar system, however this is an approximation. 

What is a barycenter?

A barycenter is the central point within the solar system, used to pinpoint where the center is. The phrase barycenter literally refers to the point which is the center of mass within any system.

Therefore, the center of mass in our solar system is very close to the Sun, because the Sun is an astronomical object that has the largest mass in our solar system. 

However, the center of the solar system is not actually the Sun, it is the barycenter. 

Where is the barycenter?

The barycenter is a point within space that in most cases is not found within the sun. Typically, it is outside of the Sun, and the Sun simply orbits around it. This is largely down to Newton’s third law. 

This law states that every single action has an equal and opposite reaction, therefore if the Sun exerts a gravitational force and pulls upon the other planets (including Earth), then this is reciprocated to a lesser extent by the planets.

Therefore, the Sun can never truly be in the exact middle and center point of our solar system, as gravity pulls it.

Why did people believe earth is the center of the solar system when it’s obvious the sun is?

In the past, studies were different to what they are now, and some information may have been based on approximations rather than actual scientific fact.

That being said, many early scientists believed that what appeared to be movement around the Earth from the Sun meant that the Sun rotated the Earth. 

People may have believed that the Earth was the center of the solar system possibly because it is in our human nature to believe that we are the center of the universe.

As children, humans tend to experience the world, believing that it revolves around them, whereas parents have to teach children to mature, and understand that the universe is not about their needs and desires, but they must find their place within the world. In reality, it is all about perspective. 

Many early scientists believed that Earth was the be all and end all of the universe, they saw the Sun rise every day in the East and set in the West, and took that to mean that the Sun moved around planet Earth.

In addition, they saw the stars and planets appearing the move across the night sky, and these patterns were recorded and seen as cycles- which implied that there was revolution. 

In actuality, later scientists such as Galileo and Nicolaus Copernicus came to know that the Earth actually moves around the Sun, and not the other way around, and therefore could not be the center of the universe.

This was discovered after the Greeks developed pictures of the stars that showed celestial patterns, and that they rotated around Earth with the Sun.

This led the way to Ptolemy, who developed a complex series of circles called epicycles, which more accurately reproduced the celestial patterns that could be observed. 

It was then that a scholar from Poland, Nicolaus Copernicus suggested that it was the Sun that was the stationary center of the universe, and Earth, planets and stars simply moved around it.

Later, Galileo would develop the telescope, where he could observe planets like Venus, showing phases, and deduced that this planet orbited the Sun.

He also discovered that many other planets were revolving around the Sun, and not Earth, which further backed up Copernicus’ claims.  

As previously stated, the Sun is not actually the center of the solar system. There is a myriad of information concerning space and our planets, and this information is constantly changing with new studies and new scientific discoveries.

At the time when these first celestial discoveries were made, it was generally believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, and disproving or disagreeing with this sentiment could land you guilty of heresy. 

For instance Galileo attracted a lot of attention from the Inquisition, and was forbidden to publish his work, found guilty of heresy and sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life.

This was actually a very lenient sentence at the time, as other philosophers such as Giordano Bruno had previously been burnt at the stake for suggesting similar ideas.

It was far more widely accepted that humans were the center of the universe, and that planet Earth was more highly important in the solar system than any other planet or celestial body, which is why many people may have believed that Earth was the center, rather than the Sun. 

Summary

In the past, many people believed that Earth was in fact the center of the solar system, which aligned with the belief systems that were prevalent at the time.

Nowadays, many people understand that the Sun is the center of our solar system, which technically is true, but actually the barycenter is the term for the central point in our solar system, as this point is not always exactly at the same location as the Sun.

Although it was believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, our technology and knowledge becomes stronger, as scientists can now dispel misconceptions from the past and provide new information about our universe every day.

Gordon Watts

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