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The Mysterious Death of 16th-Century Danish Astronomer Tycho Brahe

After a week of sample-taking and tests, Brahe’s remains were reinterred Friday in the crypt of Our Lady Before Tyn Church in Prague’s medieval Old Town Square, following a rousing Mass attended by an assortment of dignitaries, stargazing fans and archeologists, including Professor Jens Vellev, a self-styled Danish Indiana Jones who has traveled the globe seeking to demystify his hero. Revered in both the Czech Republic and in his native Denmark, Brahe catalogued more than 1,000 new stars and his astronomical observations helped clear the way for later breakthroughs by his assistant, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler. But it is the questions surrounding Brahe’s death that have captured the imagination of generations of sleuths and stumped historians for centuries. Brahe, who sported a distinctive gold and silver prosthetic nose — having lost the bridge of his real nose in a duel — was long thought to have died after his bladder burst. Legend has it that 11 days before his death he attended the banquet of a nobleman and was too polite to leave the table to go to the toilet.

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