Starry Skies Moving Away (Theory Zero)

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Likewise for where it goes down at sunset. Rather, it slowly shifts N-S along the horizon, moving to its southern-most position on Dec 21 the shortest day of the year, or Winter Solstice and to its northern-most position on Jun 21 the longest day of the year, or Summer Solstice.

The different rising points are what create the different lengths of the day throughout the year. In other words, the Sun has two motions, unlike the stars. In addition to rotating across the sky every day, the Sun also moves against the starry background. The early Greeks considered the stars to be fixed to a crystalline sphere which simply rotated around the Earth. So, they figured the Sun must be on a second sphere attached to the inside of the starry sphere, rotating once per year around a second axis which was itself set at an angle to the rotation axis of the starry sphere.

Such an arrangement could make the Sun rise and set daily, plus rotate yearly around the inside of the starry sphere, plus move N-S along the horizon, in the just manner observed. For one thing, it moves against the starry background far more swiftly.

The place on the horizon where the Moon rises each day shifts N-S, like the Sun, but the Moon completes a full cycle in only Also, the Moon does not follow exactly the same track every cycle, as the Sun does. After one year the Sun always returns to exactly the same spot against the starry background, but after It very slowly, over a span of about 19 years, weaves back and forth across an area which appears to circle the heavens like a belt.

This belt is also known as the zodiac. Most ancient peoples studied the heavens carefully, because it was felt that the heavenly objects could affect the Earth. If nothing else, they certainly created the seasons and made the tides. However, ancient civilizations either made no effort to explain what they saw, or they ascribed it to supernatural causes. With one great exception.

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Roughly around B. The Greeks were fascinated by mathematics and by numbers, and they wanted to explain the motions of the heavenly objects in terms of geometry. The Greeks concluded that all the heavenly objects were attached to giant crystalline spheres which rotated around the Earth in perfect, uniform motion.

This was partly because uniform rotation at first glance seems to describe the heavenly motions pretty well, and partly because the concept that the Heavens were composed of perfect spheres just seemed right to them.

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What else could the Heavens be built of except the most perfectly symmetric shape? NOTE -- It is important to realize that theories in science are not "right" or "wrong" so much as they are useful or not useful. Visualizing the heavens as a giant sphere which surrounds the Earth is an idea that has its uses even today, and in any case, the real importance of the Greek ideas is not whether they were "right" or "wrong", but rather, the fact that the Greeks had physical ideas in the first place.

The most important idea of physics is that there is such a thing as physics. Perhaps the most critical difference between scientific and nonscientific concepts is that the scientific ones have consequences. If you decide that the Moon is being pushed around the sky by gods, then nothing the Moon does can surprise you because you have already made up your mind that it is all unfathomable anyway. Or, to use a more modern analogy, if you have already decided that an unexplained light in the sky was caused by UFOs from the planet Zargon, then nothing you say has to make any sense, because you can just claim that it was caused by unknown super-science.

On the other hand, if you have a specific, physics-based model for how the Moon moves, then you are in a position to notice deviations from that model, and to ponder on what it means. The crystalline-sphere model is a scientific model, because it has consequences. For example, if the Sun is moving uniformly, then it should be the case that the times between the summer solstice, the autumnal equinox, the winter solstice, and the vernal equinox are all equal. That is, all four seasons should be exactly the same length.

Also, the apparent circular shape of the Sun, a planet, or the moon when seen in the sky or through a telescope. Doppler effect: Named after C. Doppler, the apparent change in wavelength of sound or light caused by the motion of the source, observer or both. Light waves emitted by a moving object as received by an observer will be blueshifted compressed if approaching, redshifted elongated if receding.

A similar effect occurs with sound waves. How much the frequency changes depends on how fast the object is moving toward or away from the receiver. See also cosmological redshift. Double star: Two stars that appear near each other in the sky. Dust is most evident by its absorption, causing large dark patches in regions of our Milky Way Galaxy and dark bands across other galaxies. Eccentricity: A value that defines the shape of an ellipse or planetary orbit. The eccentricity of an ellipse is the ratio of the distance between the foci and the major axis. An eccentric ellipse is long and narrow.

The lower the eccentricity, the closer the ellipse is to a circle. Also the orbit of Earth, if it could be seen in the sky. The constellations through which the ecliptic passes are called the constellations of the Zodiac. Ecliptic co-ordinates are useful when specifying positions in the solar system and especially positions relative to the Sun. Ecliptic latitude: The angular distance of an object relative to the ecliptic, expressed in degrees.


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Distances north of the ecliptic are positive; distances south are negative. The ecliptic latitude of the Sun is always zero. Ecliptic longitude: The angular distance of an object eastward from the vernal equinox, measured in degrees along the ecliptic. The ecliptic longitude of the Sun is zero when the Sun is on the vernal equinox and increases through the year by very nearly one degree per day. Ejecta: Material that is ejected.

Used mostly to describe the content of a massive star that is propelled outward in a supernova explosion. Also used to describe the material that is blown radially outward in a meteor impact on the surface of a planet or moon. Electron degeneracy: Occurs when electrons are compressed into a very tiny volume. Electron degeneracy is the force that supports a white dwarf against its own gravity, preventing it from collapsing.

A neutron star is supported by neutron degeneracy. If a star is massive enough, not even neutron degeneracy can support its weight. The result is a black hole. Ellipse: An oval. The fact that the orbits of the planets are ellipses and not perfect circles was discovered by Johannes Kepler, working with the careful observations by Tycho Brahe. Elliptical galaxy: Ellipsoidal agglomerations of stars outside our galaxy which usually do not contain much interstellar matter.

One of the two major types of galaxies, the other being a spiral galaxy. Epoch: The particular date for which astronomical positions in a book or table are accurate. The two times can vary by as much as 16 minutes over the course of a year. Event horizon: The distance from a black hole within which nothing can escape. Once a particle has entered this horizon, nothing can prevent it from hitting the singularity in a very short amount of proper time.

In this sense, the event horizon is considered the point of no return. Evolved star: A star near the end of its lifetime, when most of its fuel has been used up. Extragalactic: Outside of, or beyond, our own galaxy. Field of view: The angular width of sky that can be seen with an optical instrument. Field of view is measured in degrees, arcminutes, and arcseconds.

Flux: A measure of the amount of energy given off by an astronomical object over a fixed amount of time and area. Flux measurements make it easy for astronomers to compare the relative energy output of objects with very different sizes and ages.

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Foucault pendulum: A pendulum that varies in the direction of its swing as the Earth rotates. Used to demonstrate that it is Earth that rotates and not the sky. Frequency: The property of a wave that describes how many wave patterns or cycles pass the observer in a given period of time. Frequency is often measured in Hertz Hz , where a wave with a frequency of 1 Hz passes by at one cycle per second. The Moon is full two weeks after new moon. The full moon rises at sunset and sets at sunrise when Earth is between the Moon and the Sun. Fusion: The process by which atomic nuclei collide so fast that they stick together, form new atoms, and emit a large amount of energy.

In the center of most stars, hydrogen fuses into helium. Galactic co-ordinate system: The system of specifying positions in the sky that uses the plane of the Milky Way as the fundamental reference plane. Galactic halo: A spherical region surrounding the center of a galaxy.

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In terms of cosmological distances, objects in the halo of our galaxy are relatively close. Galaxy: A component of our universe made up of gas and a large number usually more than a million of stars held together by gravity. Galaxy cluster: A system of galaxies containing from a few to a few thousand member galaxies that are all gravitationally bound to each other.

Galilei, Galileo : An Italian scientist renowned for his contributions to physics, astronomy, and scientific philosophy.

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He is regarded as the chief founder of modern science. He developed the telescope, with which he found craters on the Moon and discovered the largest moons of Jupiter. Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church for his view of the cosmos, which was based on the heliocentric theory of Copernicus. Gamma ray: The form of electromagnetic radiation with the highest energy and the shortest wavelength.

Any photon having an energy greater than about , electronvolts eV. In comparison, visible light has an energy of 1. Gamma-ray burst GRB : A burst of gamma rays from space lasting from a fraction of a second to many minutes. There is no clear scientific consensus as to their cause.

Recently, a determination of their distances, placed the origins of the bursts in other galaxies. General Relativity: The geometric theory of gravitation developed by Albert Einstein, incorporating and extending the Theory of Special Relativity to accelerated frames of reference and introducing the principle that gravitational and inertial forces are equivalent. The theory has consequences for the bending of light by massive objects, the nature of black holes, and the fabric of space and time. Giant molecular cloud GMC : M assive clouds of gas in interstellar space composed primarily of hydrogen molecules two hydrogen atoms bound together , though also containing other molecules observable by radio telescopes.

These clouds can contain enough mass to make several million stars like our Sun and are often the sites of star formation.

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Globular cluster: A huge spherical cluster containing tens of thousands of stars. The stars of a cluster were born together and travel through space together. M13 and M22 are familiar examples. Gravitational collapse: Occurs when a massive body collapses under its own weight. For example, interstellar clouds collapse to become stars until the onset of nuclear fusion stops the collapse. Gravitationally bound: Objects held in orbit about each other by their gravitational attraction. Gravity: A mutual physical force attracting two bodies. Greatest eastern elongation: The greatest angular distance to the east of the Sun reached by Mercury or Venus.

When a planet is at its eastern elongation, it sets after the Sun and is at its best visibility in the evening sky. Herschel, William : Sir William Herschel was a renowned astronomer who first detected the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum in Hertz, Heinrich : A German physics professor who performed the first experiments that generated and received electromagnetic waves, in particular radio waves.

In his honor, the unit with which we measure the frequency of these waves is called a hertz. Hubble, Edwin P. The Hubble Space Telescope is named in his honor. Advances in cosmology have shown that since the Universe is self gravitating, H 0 is not truly constant.

Astronomers thus seek its current value. The farther away a galaxy is, the faster it is receding from us. The constant of proportionality is the Hubble constant, H 0. Huygens, Christiaan : A Dutch physicist who was the leading proponent of the wave theory of light. Hydrogen: The lightest and most abundant element in the universe. A hydrogen atom consists of one proton and one electron. Hydrogen comprises about 75 percent of the Sun, but only a tiny fraction of Earth.

The outer planets cannot pass between Earth and the Sun and therefore cannot come to inferior conjunction. Infrared: Electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths that are longer than those the red end of the visible-light spectrum and shorter than microwaves roughly between 1 and microns. Very little infrared light reaches the surface of the Earth, although some can be observed by high-altitude aircraft such as the Kuiper Observatory or telescopes on high mountaintops such as the peak of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Interstellar medium: T he gas and dust between the stars that fills the plane of the galaxy.

For centuries, scientists believed that the space between the stars was empty. It was only in the last century that observations of interstellar material suggested that it is not uniformly distributed through space, but rather has its own unique structure. Ions: An atom with one or more electrons stripped off or added, giving it a net positive or negative charge. Ionic gas: Also known as ionized gas. Gas whose atoms have lost or gained electrons, causing them to be electrically charged. In astronomy, this term is most often used to describe the gas around hot stars where the high temperature causes atoms to lose electrons.

It is used to simplify the calculation of the time interval between two events. For example, P. Kepler, Johannes : A German astronomer and mathematician. Kuiper Belt: The Kuiper Belt lies outside the orbit of Neptune at a distance from the Sun of 30 to AU and contains an estimated 35, objects with diameters greater than kilometers 60 miles. The first Kuiper Belt object was detected in There are five, labeled L1 through L5. The first three lie along the centerline between the centers of mass between the two masses: L1 is on the inward side of the secondary, L2 is on the outward side of the secondary, and L3 is on the outward side of the primary.

L4 and L5, the so-called Trojan points, lie along the orbit of the secondary around the primary, sixty degrees ahead and behind of the secondary. L1 through L3 are points of unstable equilibrium; any disturbance will move a test particle there out of the Lagrange point. These points are stable because centrifugal pseudo-forces work against gravity to cancel it out. Lambda: See cosmological constant. Latitudes south of the equator are expressed in degrees South or as negative degrees.

Light: The common term for electromagnetic radiation, usually referring to that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Other bands of the EM spectrum, however, are also often referred to as different forms of light. Light-year: The distance light travels in one year. One light-year is approximately 9,,,, kilometers 5,,,, miles. Limb: The outer edge of the apparent disk of a celestial body. Limiting magnitude: The magnitude of the dimmest object that can be seen through any optical instrument including the eye.

The limiting magnitude of an instrument varies with light conditions. Light pollution: The brightening of the night sky due to artificial light. Light pollution makes it impossible to view many dim objects that can only be seen in a very dark sky. Locked rotation: The condition in which a moon has the same period of rotation as its period of revolution around its parent body.


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This means that the moon always shows the same face to its parent. Our Moon is in locked rotation around Earth. Luminosity: An expression of the true brightness of a star as compared to the Sun. Sirius, for example, has a luminosity of Rigel has a luminosity of about 50, Lunar eclipse: An eclipse of the Moon caused when the Moon moves partially or wholly into the shadow of Earth and grows dark for up to a few hours.

A lunar eclipse can be seen by everyone on the side of Earth facing the Moon. Magnetic pole: Either of the two regions in a magnetic field at which the field is most intense. The two regions have opposing polarities, which we label north and south, after the two magnetic poles on Earth. Magnitude: An expression of the brightness of a star or other celestial object as it appears from Earth, according to a system devised by Hipparchus B. Also known as apparent magnitude to distinguish it from absolute magnitude. The larger the magnitude, the fainter the star.

Brighter stars have smaller numbers, and the brightest stars and planets have negative magnitudes. One magnitude difference is equal to a brightness difference of 2. Main Belt: A collection of thousands of rocky and metallic bodies revolving more or less together between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, roughly 2. Most asteroids are part of the Main Belt. Mass: A measure of the total amount of material in a body, defined either by the inertial properties of the body or by its gravitational influence on other bodies.

This occurs when all the bodies involved in the massing have similar ecliptic longitudes. Matter: A word used for any kind of stuff that contains mass. Meridian: The imaginary line in the sky that extends from the southern point on the horizon through the zenith to the northern point on the horizon, bisecting the sky into an eastern and western half. Objects are at their highest when they cross the meridian.

The Sun is on the meridian at noon, local time. Also a line on the surface of Earth or another body that extends from pole to pole. Messier, Charles : The 18th-century French astronomer who compiled a list of fuzzy, diffuse objects that appeared at fixed positions in the sky. Being a comet-hunter, Messier compiled this list of objects which he knew were not comets. His list is now well known to professional and amateur astronomers as containing the brightest and most striking nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies in the sky. Messier object: One of the objects in the catalog compiled by Charles Messier.

Most Messier objects are galaxies, star clusters, or nebulae. Metalicity: Elements in a star heavier than helium. Meteor: The visible streak of light produced when a meteorite falls towards the Earth and bursts into flame from the friction generated as it collides with the molecules of gas in our atmosphere. Also called a shooting star or falling star.

Meteorite: The solid particle, either stone or iron, that falls through the atmosphere to produce a meteor. Most meteorites are fragments of asteroids. Science museums display meteorites that survived their falls. Midnight Sun: The Sun when visible at midnight, which occurs only in the summer north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle. Milky Way: The galaxy that contains our solar system and all the stars we can see in the sky. Also refers to the band of faint stars visible in the sky, which is in fact the plane of our galaxy as seen from within.

Minor planet: See asteroid. Month: The period of time it takes the Moon to orbit Earth or any moon to orbit its parent planet. Nebula: A cloud of gas or dust in space, either between the stars or expelled by a star. There are many kinds of nebulae. Neutrino: A fundamental particle produced in massive numbers by the nuclear reactions in stars. Neutrinos are very hard to detect because the vast majority of them pass completely through the Earth without any interaction with the material that makes up this planet.

Neutron: A particle with approximately the same mass of a proton, but with zero charge. Commonly found in the nucleus of atoms. Neutron star : The imploded core of a massive star produced by a supernova explosion. Neutron stars typically have 1. New moon: The Moon as it appears on Earth when it is positioned between Earth and the Sun at the beginning of a cycle of lunar phases.

The new moon rises and sets with the Sun. Newton, Isaac The English cleric and scientist who discovered the classical laws of motion and gravity.

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The bit with the apple is probably apocryphal. The magnitude of this force is proportional to the product of the two masses and is also proportional to the inverse square of the distance between the centers of mass of the two bodies. The constant of proportionality is the inertial mass of the body. Dreyer in These catalogues were an early attempt to create a single list containing all the non-stellar objects known at the time. Night vision: The increased ability to see dim object, such as faint stars, due to a sensitization of the eye's 'rod' receptors.

Exposure to bright light desensitizes the rods and therefore reduces night-vision. Node: The point or points in the sky where two orbits or paths cross. Nova: A star that experiences a sudden outburst of radiant energy, temporarily increasing its luminosity by hundreds to thousands of times before fading again. Nuclear fusion: A nuclear process whereby several small nuclei are combined to make a larger one whose mass is slightly smaller than the sum of the parts. There are likely billions of comets in the Oort Cloud. The Oort Cloud is the source of non-periodic comets. Non-periodic comets are comets that swing around the Sun once and are flung off into space, never to return.

Open cluster: A diffuse association of a few dozen to a few thousand stars, all of which were created together and which travel through space together. The Pleiades in Taurus and the Beehive in Cancer are familiar examples. Opposition: The position of a planet when it is opposite the Sun in the sky. Orbit: The path of an object that is moving around a second object or a point. Parallax: The apparent shift in position of an object when it is viewed from two different points. For even the nearest stars this shift is less than one second of arc.

Parsec: The distance from Earth an object would have if its parallax were one second of arc. One parsec equals 3. Penumbra: The area traced on a planet during an eclipse where only a portion of the eclipsed light source is blocked. Observers in the penumbral shadow of a solar eclipse, for instance, see only a partial eclipse. See also umbra. Periapsis: The point in an orbit when the two objects are closet together.