02/19/2013 01:43 pm ET

Nicolaus Copernicus' 540th Birthday Is Celebrated With Google Doodle

You don't look a day over 500, Nicolaus!

Tuesday's Google Doodle, made in honor of the scientist's 540th birthday, shows the planets slowly and peacefully orbiting the Sun, celebrating Copernicus's most famous discovery: that the planets do, in fact, circle the Sun rather than the Earth, as had been previously theorized. Head over to Google to watch the bodies in motion.

Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473 in Poland. He studied both astrology and astronomy in a time when both were considered valuable sciences.

At the time, the Ptolemaic model of the universe, in which the Sun and planets revolved around the Earth, was considered to be correct. Copernicus was the first to create a comprehensive heliocentric (Sun-centered) model of the solar system, and he wrote and published a book explaining his ideas. Curiously, Tuesday's Doodle places Google's logo (in addition to the Sun) at the center of the Solar System.

Copernicus's view was not taken very seriously until validated by the observations of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in the early 17th century, at a time when the idea was considered heretical by the Catholic Church.



Google Doodle Slideshow