An animated Google Doodle today celebrates Nicolaus Copernicus, the Renaissance astronomer who pushed forward the (at the time) radical idea that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe. Instead, he theorized Earth and other planets revolve around the sun.
In the animated logo, planets orbit around Google’s solar system. The sun takes the place of Google’s second “o”, which is yellow on days when Google’s regular logo appears on its homepage.
Copernicus’ began developing his theory of a heliocentric universe in the early 1500s and published his model in 1543 in “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” (“On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”) – a model which wouldn’t replace the Earth-centric Ptolemaic, or geocentric, model for another 200 years.
He died on May 24, 1543, supposedly the same day he received an advanced copy of his book, which the Catholic Church deemed as forbidden reading for nearly three centuries.
But Copernicus’ theory was neither the first of its kind, nor the final word on the sun as the geometric center. Ancient Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos is credited as the first to identify the sun as the center of the solar system, and Johannes Kepler would later follow (and correct) Copernicus’ work, proving that the planets orbits were elliptical, rather than perfect circles.
In 2004, Copernicus was the inspiration of an April Fool’s Day joke from Google, which announced it was interviewing candidates for engineering positions at the Copernicus Center, a lunar hosting and research center, set to open in the spring of 2007.