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Garcia, Loraine Marianne L.

October 2, 2015


Constellations are formed of bright stars which appear close to each other on the
sky, but are really far apart in space. The shapes you see all depend on your point
of view. Many societies saw patterns among the stars with gods and goddesses or
stories from their culture.
Most of the constellations with which we are familiar come from ancient Greece.
But other civilizations created their own patterns in the sky based on stories and
people that were important to them.
Many peoples noticed that the planets, the moon, and comets moved through the
sky in a different way than the stars.
Because of the rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun, we divide the
constellations into two groups. Some constellations never rise nor are set, and they
called circumpolar. All the rest are divided into seasonal constellations. Which
constellations will be circumpolar and which seasonal depends on your latitude.
Common Constellations
Latin for water carrier or cup carrier
Best viewed in: October
While one of the biggest, most famous, and oldest named constellations, Aquarius
is faint and often hard to find/see. In Greek mythology, Aquarius represented
Ganymede, a very handsome young man. Zeus recognized the lads good looks,
and invited Ganymede to Mt. Olympus to be the cupbearer of the gods. For his
service he was granted eternal youth, as well as a place in the night sky.

Despite its prominent position and large size, you

can see that Aquarius doesnt really have defining
features, nor does it contain any bright stars. The
protruding line to the right is Aquariuss right arm,
with the large downward shape being a combination
of the water flowing down out of the vase and his
right leg. While not the entire constellation, whats
drawn above is what youre most likely to see in the
night sky. You wont see this one in the city; youll
need a dark sky to find the cupbearer.
Aquila was the eagle that in Greek mythology
actually bore Ganymede (Aquarius) up to Mt. Olympus. The eagle was also the
thunderbolt carrier for Zeus.
This constellation lies in the Milky Way band,
and its most prominent star is Altair, which is
actually one of the closest naked eye stars to
the earth. The top portion of Aquila forms a
shallow inverted V, with Altair nearly the
point. This represents the head and wings of
the eagle. A line then descends from Altair,
which forms the body of the eagle.
Look towards the southern sky in the late summer, near the Milky Way band, for
Latin for ram
Best viewed in: December
While many constellations have gone through various iterations of mythological
stories, Aries has always been the ram. This constellation is one of 12
constellations that form the zodiac the constellations that straddle the suns path
across the sky (known in scienctific terms as the ecliptic). In ancient times, that
gave the constellations of the zodiac special significance.

In Greek mythology, Aries is the ram whose fleece became the Golden Fleece. The
Golden Fleece is a symbol of kingship and authority, and plays a significant role in
the tale of Jason and the Argonauts. Jason is sent to find
the fleece in order to rightfully claim his throne as king,
and with some help from Medea (his future wife), finds
his prize. Its one of the oldest stories in antiquity, and
was current in Homers time.
Aries is formed by just 4 (sometimes 5) visible stars,
which create a line from the rams head (the lowest point
in the image above) and down its back. Hamal is the
largest and most visible star, and is classified as an orange giant.
Canis Major
Latin for greater dog
Best viewed in: February
Canis Major represents the famed Greek dog Laelaps.
There are a few origin stories, but the common theme is
that he was so fast he was elevated to the skies by Zeus.
Laelaps is also considered to be one of Orions hunting
dogs, trailing behind him in the night sky in pursuit of
Taurus the bull.
Canis Major is notable because it contains the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius.
Tradition notes that the first appearance of Canis Major in the dawn sky comes in
late summer, ushering in the dog days of the season. In the night sky, it almost
looks a stick figure, with Sirius at the head, and another bright star, Adhara, at its
rear end.

No Latin meaning, its the name of a queen in Greek mythology
Best viewed in: November
Cassiopeia, in Greek mythology, was a vain queen who often boasted about her
beauty. She was the mother of Princess Andromeda, and in contrast to other figures
being placed in the sky in honor, Cassiopeia was forced to the heavenly realms as
punishment. As the story goes, she boasted that her beauty (or her daughters,
depending on the story) was greater than that of the sea nymphs. This was quite an
offense, and she was banned to the sky for all to gawk at.
With its distinctive W shape formed by five
bright stars, Cassiopeia is one of the most
easily recognizable constellations in the night
sky come fall and early winter. And because of
that, the vain queen is one of the most oftmentioned in pop culture and one of the
earliest constellations that young children
come to recognize in the sky.

Cygnus (also known as the Northern Cross)

Latinized Greek for swan
Best viewed in: September
Multiple personas take on the form of the swan in Greek mythology. At one point
Zeus morphed into a swan to seduce Leda, mother of both Gemini and Helen of
Troy. Another tale says that Orpheus was murdered and then placed into the sky as
a swan next to his lyre (the constellation Lyra, also in the drawing above).
The constellation may also have gotten its name from the tale of Phaethon and
Cycnus. Phaethon was the son of Helios (the sun god), and took his fathers sun

chariot for a ride one day. Phaethon couldnt control the reins, however, and Zeus
had to shoot down the chariot with Phaethon in it, killing him. Phaethons brother,
Cycnus (now spelled Cygnus), spent many days grieving and collecting the bones,
which so touched the gods that they turned him into a swan and gave him a place
in the sky.

The Northern Cross is really just an

asterism (recognizable pattern of
stars) within Cygnus the swan.
Deneb, the swans tail (or top point
of the cross), is one of the brightest
stars in the night sky. Youll find
Cygnus within the Milky Way, which
is why youll sometimes see the
constellation referred to as the
backbone of the galaxy. In the night
sky, the goose is looking down with
its wings spread out parallel to the horizon.
Latin for twins
Best viewed in: February
Gemini represents the twins Castor and Pollux. While the twins mother was Leda,
Castors father was the mortal king of Sparta, while Polluxs father was King Zeus
(He seduced Leda in the form of a swan, remember? These stories tend to all tie
together!). When Castor was killed, the immortal Pollux begged Zeus to give
Castor immortality, which he did by placing the brothers in the night sky for all

Castor and Pollux also

happen to be the names of
the brightest stars in the
constellation, and represent
the heads of the twins.
Each star then has a line
forming their bodies,
giving the constellation a rough U shape. The twins sit next to Orion, making
them fairly easy to find in winter.
Leo Minor is a recognized constellation, but is so small and faint that Ptolemy
didnt include it in his original list. To this day, Leo Major is solely regarded as
Latin for lion
Best viewed in: April
Leo has been a great lion in the night sky across almost all mythological traditions.
In Greek lore, Leo is the monstrous lion that was killed by Hercules as part of his
twelve labors. The lion could not be killed by mortal weapons, as its fur was
impervious to attack, and its claws sharper than any human sword. Eventually
Hercules tracked him down and strangled the great beast, albeit losing a finger in
the process.

The large, orange star underneath

Leo is actually the planet Jupiter.
Because Leo actually
looks somewhat like its namesake,
it is the easiest constellation in the
zodiac to find. A distinctive
backwards question mark forms the
head and chest, then moves to the
left to form a triangle and the lions
rear end. Regulus is Leos brightest
star, and sits in the bottom right of
the constellation, representing the
lions front right leg.

Latin for lyre
Best viewed in: August
Lyra is associated with the myth of Orpheus
the great musician (remember him from
earlier?). Orpheus was given the harp by
Apollo, and its said that his music was more
beautiful than that of any mortal man. His
music could soothe anger and bring joy to
weary hearts. Wandering the land in depression after his wife died, he was killed
and his lyre (harp) was thrown into a river. Zeus sent an eagle to retrieve the lyre,
and it was then placed in the night sky.

Lyra sort of forms a lopsided square with a tail to its brightest star, Vega, which is
one of the brightest stars in the sky. It is small, and almost directly overhead in the
summer months, but the bright Vega makes it fairly easy to find.

The lions head being held by Orion is also sometimes visualized as a shield.
Named for Orion, the mythological Greek hunter
Best viewed in: January
Orion is one of the largest and most recognizable of the constellations. It is
viewable around the world, and has been mentioned by Homer, Virgil, and even the
Bible, making it perhaps the most famous constellation.
Orion was a massive, supernaturally gifted hunter who was the son of Poseidon. It
was said he regularly hunted with Artemis (Goddess of the Hunt) on the island of
Crete, and that he was killed either by her bow, or by the sting of the great scorpion
who later became the constellation Scorpius.
Orions belt of three stars is the
easiest asterism to find, with
Rigel (bottom right) and
Betelgeuse (top left) being the
brightest two individual stars.
The two other corners form a
rough quadrangle, with his head
and bow also sometimes visible.
Orion is also unique in that you
can use him to find a variety of other constellations in the winter sky.

Latin for fish (plural)

Best viewed in: November
The two fish of the sky represent
Aphrodite and her son Eros, who turned
themselves into fish and tied themselves
together with rope in order to escape
Typhon, the largest and most vile
monster in all of Greek mythology.
Its not likely youll find Pisces in the
middle of a city, as none of its individual stars are really worth noting or
particularly bright. It forms a large V with the right fish forming a small O on
the end, and the left fish forming a small triangle on the end (the image above
doesnt connect the dots in the upper left to make it a triangle).

Scorpius is sometimes also known as just Scorpio.
Latin for scorpion
Best viewed in: July
There are a variety of myths associated with the scorpion, almost all of them
involving Orion the hunter. Orion once boasted that he could kill all the animals on
the earth. He encountered the scorpion, and after a long, fierce fight, Orion was
defeated. It was such a hard-fought battle that it caught the eye of Zeus, and the
scorpion was raised to the night sky for all eternity.
With many bright stars, Scorpius is fairly easy to find in the night sky. Antares, the

brightest star in the constellation, is

said to be the heart of the scorpion.
That will be the easiest star to locate,
but is sometimes confused with Mars
because of its red-orange coloring. To
the right of the heart are 3-5 stars that
form the head. To the left are a long
line of stars that curve into a sideways
or upside-down question mark.
Latin for bull
Best viewed in: January
Taurus is a large and prominent fixture in the winter sky. As one of the oldest
recognized constellations, it has mythologies dating back to the early Bronze Age.
There are several Greek myths involving Taurus. Two of them include Zeus, who
either disguised himself as a bull or disguised his mistress as a bull in multiple
escapades of infidelity. Another myth has the bull being the 7th labor of Hercules
after the beast wreaked havoc in the countryside.
The constellation is fairly easy to find as its most
recognizable asterism forms a very prominent V,
which represent the head and horns of the bull. The
brightest star in the constellation is Aldebaran, which
forms the bulls right eye. Five stars, fairly close
together to the naked eye, form an almost perfect small
V, with the V extending up quite a ways to two
more final stars that are the points of the horns.

Ursa Major
Latin for larger bear
Best viewed in: April
The Big Dipper is
popularly thought of as a
constellation itself, but is in
fact an asterism within
the constellation of Ursa
Major. It is said to be the
most universally
recognized star pattern,
partially because its
always visible in the
northern hemisphere. It has great significance in the mythologies of multiple
cultures around the world.
The Greek myth of Ursa Major also tells the story of Ursa Minor (below). Zeus
was smitten for a young nymph named Callisto. Hera, Zeuss wife, was jealous,
and transformed Callisto into a bear. While in animal form, Callisto encountered
her son Arcas. Being the man that he was, he was inclined to shoot the bear, but
Zeus wouldnt let that happen, and so turned Arcas into a bear as well, and placed
mother (Ursa Major) and son (Ursa Minor) permanently in the night sky.

The seven stars of the Big Dipper are easily recognized and almost always visible.
They form part of the backside and tail of the large bear. While the rest of the bear
definitely takes the shape of its namesake, its not often visible in light polluted
areas. The Big Dipper is more than just a pretty shape; the outer edge of its bowl
will always lead you to the North Star, aiding in navigation for centuries past.
Simply make a line with the two stars of the Big Dippers outer edge, extend that
line up into the sky, and at about five times the distance between the two stars you
started with, youll find the North Star.
Ursa Minor

Latin for smaller bear

Best viewed in: June
Ursa Minor is famous for containing Polaris, the North Star. Many people
erroneously think that the North Star is directly over their heads, but thats only
true at the North Pole. For most people in the Northern Hemisphere, it will be
dipped into the night sky.

You can see the Big Dipper sitting prominently

below Ursa Minor. This also gives a great
visualization of how to use the Big Dipper to find
the North Star.
Ursa Minor is better known as the Little Dipper.
Its visualized as a baby bear, with an unusually
long tail. It can be distinguished from the Big Dipper not only by size, but by the
emphasized curvature of the tail. When youve found the North Star at the end of
the bears tail using the Big Dipper, its then easy to identify the rest of the

A Planet is a celestial body distinguished from the fixed stars by having an
apparent motion of its own (including the moon and sun), especially with reference
to its supposed influence on people and events.

The planets
Below is a brief overview of the eight primary planets in our solar system, in order
from the inner solar system outward:

The closest planet to the sun, Mercury is only a bit
larger than Earth's moon. Its day side is scorched by
the sun and can reach 840 degrees Fahrenheit(450 Celsius), but on the night side,
temperatures drop to hundreds of degrees below freezing. Mercury has virtually no
atmosphere to absorb meteor impacts, so its surface is pockmarked with craters,
just like the moon. Over its four-year mission, NASA's MESSENGER
spacecraft has revealed views of the planet that have challenged astronomers'
Discovery: Known to the ancients and visible to the naked eye
Named for: Messenger of the Roman gods
Diameter: 3,031 miles (4,878 km)
Orbit: 88 Earth days
Day: 58.6 Earth days
The second planet from the sun, Venus is terribly hot,
even hotter than Mercury. The atmosphere is toxic. The
pressure at the surface would crush and kill you.
Scientists describe Venus situation as a runaway
greenhouse effect. Its size and structure are similar to Earth, Venus' thick, toxic
atmosphere traps heat in a runaway "greenhouse effect." Oddly, Venus spins slowly
in the opposite direction of most planets.

The Greeks believed Venus was two different objects one in the morning sky
and another in the evening. Because it is often brighter than any other object in the
sky except for the sun and moon Venus has generated many UFO reports.
Discovery: Known to the ancients and visible to the naked eye
Named for: Roman goddess of love and beauty
Diameter: 7,521 miles (12,104 km)
Orbit: 225 Earth days
Day: 241 Earth days

The third planet from the sun, Earth is a waterworld,
with two-thirds of the planet covered by ocean. Its
the only world known to harbor life. Earths
atmosphere is rich in life-sustaining nitrogen and
oxygen. Earth's surface rotates about its axis at
1,532 feet per second (467 meters per second) slightly more than 1,000 mph
(1,600 kph) at the equator. The planet zips around the sun at more than 18 miles
per second (29 km per second).
Diameter: 7,926 miles (12,760 km)
Orbit: 365.24 days
Day: 23 hours, 56 minutes
The fourth planet from the sun, is a cold, dusty place. The dust, an iron oxide,
gives the planet its reddish cast. Mars shares similarities with Earth: It is rocky, has
mountains and valleys, and storm systems ranging from localized tornado-like dust
devils to planet-engulfing dust storms. It snows on Mars. And Mars harbors water

ice. Scientists think it was once wet and warm, though today its cold and desertlike.
Mars' atmosphere is too thin for liquid water to exist on the surface for any length
of time. Scientists think ancient Mars would have had the conditions to support
life, and there is hope that signs of past life possibly even present biology
may exist on the Red Planet.
Discovery: Known to the ancients and visible to the naked eye
Named for: Roman god of war
Diameter: 4,217 miles (6,787 km)
Orbit: 687 Earth days
Day: Just more than one Earth day (24 hours, 37 minutes)

The fifth planet from the sun, Jupiter is huge and
is the most massive planet in our solar system. Its
a mostly gaseous world, mostly hydrogen and
helium. Its swirling clouds are colorful due to
different types of trace gases. A big feature is the Great Red Spot, a giant storm
which has raged for hundreds of years. Jupiter has a strong magnetic field, and
with dozens of moons, it looks a bit like a miniature solar system.
Discovery: Known to the ancients and visible to the naked eye
Named for: Ruler of the Roman gods
Diameter: 88,730 miles (428,400 km)
Orbit: 11.9 Earth years
Day: 9.8 Earth hours

The sixth planet from the sun is known most
for itsrings. When Galileo Galilei first studied
Saturn in the early 1600s, he thought it was an
object with three parts. Not knowing he was
seeing a planet with rings, the stumped
astronomer entered a small drawing a
symbol with one large circle and two smaller ones in his notebook, as a noun in
a sentence describing his discovery. More than 40 years later, Christiaan
Huygens proposed that they were rings. The rings are made of ice and rock.
Scientists are not yet sure how they formed. The gaseous planet is mostly hydrogen
and helium. It has numerous moons.
Discovery: Known to the ancients and visible to the naked eye
Named for: Roman god of agriculture
Diameter: 74,900 miles (120,500 km)
Orbit: 29.5 Earth years
Day: About 10.5 Earth hours

The seventh planet from the sun, Uranus is an oddball. Its the only giant planet
whose equator is nearly at right angles to its orbit it basically orbits on its side.
Astronomers think the planet collided with some other planet-size object long ago,
causing the tilt. The tilt causes extreme seasons that last 20-plus years, and the sun
beats down on one pole or the other for 84 Earth-years. Uranus is about the same
size as Neptune. Methane in the atmosphere gives Uranus its blue-green tint. It
has numerous moons and faint rings.
Discovery: 1781 by William Herschel (was thought previously to be a star)
Named for: Personification of heaven in ancient myth
Diameter: 31,763 miles (51,120 km)
Orbit: 84 Earth years
Day: 18 Earth hours
The eighth planet from the sun, Neptune is known for
strong winds sometimes faster than the speed of sound.
Neptune is far out and cold. The planet is more than 30
times as far from the sun as Earth. It has a rocky core.
Neptune was the first planet to be predicted to exist by
using math, before it was detected. Irregularities in the orbit of Uranus led French
astronomer Alexis Bouvard to suggest some other might be exerting a gravitational
tug. German astronomer Johann Galle used calculations to help find Neptune in a
telescope. Neptune is about 17 times as massive as Earth.
Discovery: 1846
Named for: Roman god of water
Diameter: 30,775 miles (49,530 km)
Orbit: 165 Earth years
Day: 19 Earth hours

Pluto (Dwarf Planet)

Once the ninth planet from the sun, Pluto is unlike other planets in many respects.
It is smaller than Earth's moon. Its orbit carries it inside the orbit of Neptune and
then way out beyond that orbit. From 1979 until early 1999, Pluto had actually
been the eighth planet from the sun. Then, on Feb. 11, 1999, it crossed Neptune's
path and once again became the solar system's most distant planet until it was
demoted to dwarf planet status. Pluto will stay beyond Neptune for 228 years.
Plutos orbit is tilted to the main plane of the solar system where the other
planets orbit by 17.1 degrees. Its a cold, rocky world with only a very
ephemeral atmosphere. NASA's New Horizons mission performed history's first
flyby of the Pluto system on July 14, 2015.[Related: New Horizons' Pluto Flyby:
Latest News, Images and Video]
Discovery: 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh
Named for: Roman god of the underworld, Hades
Diameter: 1,430 miles (2,301 km)
Orbit: 248 Earth years
Day: 6.4 Earth day

What is retrograde motion?

Sometimes the planets appear to change direction in the sky. This retrograde
motion is entirely an illusion caused by the Earth passing the slower moving outer
Sometimes, the planets seem to move backwards!
Typically, the planets shift slightly eastward from night to night, drifting slowly
against the backdrop of stars. From time to time, however, they change direction.
For a few months, theyll head west before turning back around and resuming their
easterly course. This is retrograde motion. Though it baffled ancient

astronomers, we know now that retrograde planets are an illusion caused by the
motion of Earth.

You can test this the next time you pass a car on the highway. As you approach the
slower car, it is clearly moving in the same direction you are. Right as you pull
along side and pass it, however, the car appears to move backwards for just a
moment. As you continue pulling away, the car resumes its forward motion.
The same thing happens as Earth passes the slower moving outer planets. When we
pass Jupiter, for example, the gas giant appears to reverse course in the sky for a
couple of months.
This makes the planets appear to move very strangely. Ancient astronomers went to
complicated lengths to try and explain these motions. They envisioned each planet
not only orbiting the center of the solar system (which to them was Earth) but also
spinning around a moving point on their orbit. Imagine whipping a ball on a length
of string around your hand while you rotated in place. Astronomers like
Copernicus and Kepler finally set us all straight when they realized Earth orbited
the sun.
Suddenly, the retrograde motion made a lot more sense!
A schematic of how astronomers envisioned the motion
of the planets before Copernicus. The Earth sat near the
center of the universe. The planets moved around a small
circle (the epicycle) which in turn moved along a larger
circle (the deferent). The deferent was centered on a point (X)
midway between the Earth and another spot called the equant. This complicated
setup was needed to explain the complex motions of the planets. Credit:
Wikipedia user Fastfission.
Retrograde illusions on other planets can lead to very strange phenomena. On
Mercury, for example, the sun sometimes moves in retrograde! As the planet
speeds through its closest approach with the sun, its orbital speed overtakes its
rotational speed. An astronaut on the surface would see the sun partially rise, then
dip back below the horizon, then rise again before resuming its east-to-west trek
across the sky. Once a year, Mercury gets two sunrises on the same day!

But retrograde movement isnt always an illusion.

There are real retrograde motions in the solar system. Venus rotates in the opposite
direction from every other planet! If the clouds ever parted, the Venusians would
see the sun rise in the west and set in the east.
Some moons also have retrograde orbits around their planets. Most of the large
moons orbit in the same direction their planet spins. But not Triton, the largest
moon of Neptune. And among the smaller asteroid-like moons that swarm about
the giant planets, many have retrograde orbits.
A photomosaic from Voyager 2 of Neptunes largest
moon, Triton. The moon orbits Neptune opposite the
direction that the planet rotates. Does this mean that
Triton came from the Kuiper Belt and was eventually
captured by the ice giant? Credit: NASA / Jet
Propulsion Lab / U.S. Geological Survey
A retrograde orbit most likely means the moon was
captured after the planet formed. Triton probably came out of the Kuiper Belt, the
region of icy debris beyond Neptune where Pluto lives. Perhaps a collision in the
belt sent Triton careening inward toward the sun. A close encounter with Neptune
could have slowed it down and forced it to settle into a backwards orbit around the
distant planet.
In the past decade, astronomers have also discovered planets in other solar systems
with retrograde orbits. These exoplanets orbit their suns in the opposite direction
from how the star rotates. This is puzzling because planets form out of debris disks
that orbit young stars, disks which share the stars rotation. The only way to get a
planet orbiting backwards is either by a near-collision with another planet or if
another star once passed too close to the system. Close encounters tend to disrupt
Retrograde motion refers to the occasional backwards motion of the planets. It is
entirely an illusion caused by the moving Earth passing the outer planets in their
orbits. Real retrograde motionsof planet rotation, orbiting moons, and planets in
other solar systemsare a sign of long forgotten collisions and captures. They are

one way that astronomers piece together the history of our solar system, and the
systems of other stars in our galaxy!

Geocentric Theory
The geocentric model, also known as the Ptolemaic
system, is a theory that was developed by
philosophers in Ancient Greece and was named
after the philosopher Claudius Ptolemy who lived
circa 90 to 168 A.D. It was developed to explain
how the planets, the Sun, and even the stars orbit
around the Earth. The geocentric theory has existed
even before Ptolemy though. This model has been
described in various early Greek manuscripts, and as early as
the 4th century B.C. Plato and Aristotle were writing about the geocentric model.

As the Greeks noticed discrepancies between the way planets moved and the basic
geocentric model, they began adjusting the model and creating variations on the
original. In these models, planets and other celestial bodies move in circles that
have been superimposed onto circular orbits around the Earth.
The Ptolemaic system, the most well-known versions of the geocentric model, was
a complex interaction of circles. Ptolemy believed that each planet orbited around a
circle, which was termed an epicycle, and the epicycle orbits on a bigger circlethe
deferentaround the Earth. The center of the deferent is not the Earth, but a point
near the midpoint of the distance between Earth and the equant. The equant was
Ptolemys solution to some of the discrepancies that the geocentric model could
not explain. The equant can be defined as the point at which an epicycles center
always seems to move at the same speed. When an epicenter was at a different
point on its deferent, then the planet moved at a different speed. To further
complicate matters, each planet had a different equant. A diagram of the Ptolemaic
system looks like a mess of overlapping circles.

Despite its difficulties and complexity, the geocentric model survived well into the
16th century. One reason why the geocentric model held sway for so many years
was because it fit in with a number of observations that the Greeks made. Those
observations included the fact that things fall toward Earth and that according to
Venus brightness it stays roughly the same distance away from the Earth. As
theories evolved and more evidence was uncovered though, the geocentric model
was slowly replaced by models developed by Copernicus and other astronomers.
Copernicus proposed a heliocentric model of the solar system a model where
everything orbited around the Sun. Today, with advancements in science and
technology, the geocentric model seems preposterous. Simple tools, such as the
telescope which helped convince Galileo that the Earth was not the center of the
universe can prove that ancient theory incorrect.
The celestial sphere is an imaginary sphere of gigantic radius with the earth
located at its center. The poles of the celestial sphere are aligned with the poles of
the Earth. The celestial equator lies along the celestial sphere in the same plane that
includes the Earth's equator.
An astronomer can only see half the sky at a time, that is, only half the sky is
above the horizon at any time. But the sky keeps moving as the earth rotates. Just
as the sun rises and sets every day, so does every star in the sky each night. The
celestial sphere is a large sphere surrounding the earth and with it we can keep
references to where celestial bodies lie in the sky.
North Celestial Pole (NCP) and the South
Celestial Pole (SCP) - these are just the north
and south poles extended into space.
Celestial Equator - The earth's equator, but at
a much greater radius. If the earth's equator
was a rubber band, then the celestial equator
is the same rubber band just stretched away
from the earth.
Horizon - The horizon changes depending on your position on earth.

Zenith- The point on the celestial sphere directly overhead.

Meridian- The line that extends from the north point on the horizon upwards
through the zenith and then downward to the south point on the horizon.

We can locate any object on the celestial sphere by giving it two coordinates,
called the Right Ascension and the Declination. These are called celestial
Analogous to the longitude on Earth, the Right Ascension of an object on the
celestial sphere is measured along the celestial equator, as the angular
distance to some fiducial direction for with R.A. = 0 degrees. By convention,
this fiducial direction is the point on the celestial where the Sun is found on
the first day of spring (the vernal equinox).
Analogous to the latitude on Earth, the Declination of an object on the
celestial sphere is measured northward or southward from the plane
containing the equator. The declination of the equator is 0 degrees, the North
Celestial Pole, +90 degrees, the South Celestial Pole, -90 degrees.
Stars and galaxies have (almost) fixed positions in Right Ascension and
Declination. The Sun and planets, on the other hand, move among the distant stars
so that their coordinates change throughout the year. Because of the Earth's yearly
orbital motion, the Sun appears to circle the ecliptic.

Parallax is a displacement
or difference in the apparent
position of an object viewed
along two different lines of
sight, and is measured by the
angle or semi-angle of
inclination between those two
lines. The term is derived from the Greek word (parallaxis), meaning

"alteration". Nearby objects have a larger parallax than more distant objects when
observed from different positions, so parallax can be used to determine distances.
Astronomers use the principle of parallax to measure distances to the closer stars.
Here, the term "parallax" is the semi-angle of inclination between two sight-lines
to the star, as observed when the Earth is on opposite sides of the Sun in its orbit.
These distances form the lowest rung of what is called "the cosmic distance
ladder", the first in a succession of methods by which astronomers determine the
distances to celestial objects, serving as a basis for other distance measurements in
astronomy forming the higher rungs of the ladder.
Parallax also affects optical instruments such as rifle
scopes, binoculars, microscopes, and twin-lens reflex cameras that view objects
from slightly different angles. Many animals, including humans, have
two eyes with overlapping visual fields that use parallax to gain depth perception;
this process is known as stereopsis. In computer vision the effect is used
for computer stereo vision, and there is a device called a parallax rangefinder that
uses it to find range, and in some variations also altitude to a target.
A simple everyday example of parallax can be seen in the dashboard of motor
vehicles that use a needle-style speedometer gauge. When viewed from directly in
front, the speed may show exactly 60; but when viewed from the passenger seat the
needle may appear to show a slightly different speed, due to the angle of viewing.
The idea of placing the sun at the center of the
universe was not a particularly new one. But few
either saw advantage to it and many considered it
physically impossible (it was inconsistent with
Aristotelian physics). That started to change with a
polish physician, lawyer, artist and astronomer
Nicholas Copernicus (1473 - 1543).
Copernicus was aware of earlier writings which suggested a moving earth. He,
however, seemed to be motivated by two main suggestions. One, he believed that
the earth was not a particularly fit object to be the center of the universe but that
the sun was a more divine object and thus more fit for the center. Second,
Copernicus very much disliked the concept the equant. He thought it an

abomination and a betrayal of the concept of circles. He appears to have been

aware of works by Arabic mathematicians who, in an attempt to reconcile the
Quran (which suggested the earth moved) with the Ptolemaic system removed the
equant in favor of additional epicycles. Copernicus, likewise, used epicycles in his
calculations but no equant.
What really set Copernicuss heliocentric model apart was its simplicity. It did no
better than Ptolemys model at predicting the planets but it was easier to use and
handle. While few actually read Copernicuss deathbed publication of his work De
Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres),
it did gain a few fans (such as Galileo).
Observations Explained
Copernicuss model handled the basic observations:
Like the geocentric model, the earth was believed to be round.
The earth rotated, and thus the stars, sun, and planets appeared to move
around the earth
Mercury and Venus were closer to the sun than the earth and so always
appeared near the sun.
As the earth passed Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn during opposition, the planets
would appear to undergo retrograde motion.
Inertia and Mass
Newton's first law of motion states that "An object at rest stays at rest and an object
in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless
acted upon by an unbalanced force." Objects tend to "keep on doing what they're
doing." In fact, it is the natural tendency of objects to resist changes in their state of
motion. This tendency to resist changes in their state of motion is described
as inertia.
Inertia: the resistance an object has to a change in its state of motion.
Newton's conception of inertia stood in direct opposition to more popular
conceptions about motion. The dominant thought prior to Newton's day was that it
was the natural tendency of objects to come to a rest position. Moving objects, so it

was believed, would eventually stop moving; a force was necessary to keep an
object moving. But if left to itself, a moving object would eventually come to rest
and an object at rest would stay at rest; thus, the idea that dominated people's
thinking for nearly 2000 years prior to Newton was that it was the natural tendency
of all objects to assume a rest position.

Mare (plural maria) means "sea," but maria on the moon are plains on the
moon. They are called maria because very early astronomers thought that
these areas on the moon were great seas. The first moon landing was in the
Mare Tranquillitatis (the Sea of Tranquility). Maria are concentrated on the
side of the moon that faces the Earth; the far side has very few of these
plains. Scientists don't know why this is
A rotation is a circular movement of an object
around a center (or point) of rotation . A threedimensional object always rotates around an
imaginary line called a rotation axis. If the axis
passes through the body's center of mass, the body is said to rotate upon itself, or
spin. A rotation about an external point, e.g. the Earth about the Sun, is called a
revolution or orbital revolution, typically when it is produced by gravity.
a. Orbital motion about a point, especially as distinguished from axial rotation: the
planetary revolution about the sun.
b. A turning or rotational motion about an axis.
c. A single complete cycle of such orbital or axial motion.
In astronomy, precession refers to any of several gravity-induced, slow and
continuous changes in an astronomical body's rotational axis or orbital path.
Precession of the equinoxes, perihelion precession, changes in the tilt of Earth's

axis to its orbit, and the eccentricity of its orbit over tens of thousands of years are
all important parts of the astronomical theory of ice ages.

Moon Phases

It's probably easiest to understand the moon cycle in this order: new moon and full
moon, first quarter and third quarter, and the phases in between.
As shown in the above diagram, the new moon occurs when the moon is
positioned between the earth and sun. The three objects are in approximate

alignment (why "approximate" is explained below). The entire illuminated portion

of the moon is on the back side of the moon, the half that we cannot see.
At a full moon, the earth, moon, and sun are in approximate alignment, just as the
new moon, but the moon is on the opposite side of the earth, so the entire sunlit
part of the moon is facing us. The shadowed portion is entirely hidden from view.
The first quarter and third quarter moons (both often called a "half moon"),
happen when the moon is at a 90 degree angle with respect to the earth and sun. So
we are seeing exactly half of the moon illuminated and half in shadow.
Once you understand those four key moon phases, the phases between should be
fairly easy to visualize, as the illuminated portion gradually transitions between
An easy way to remember and understand those "between" lunar phase names is by
breaking out and defining 4 words: crescent, gibbous, waxing, and waning. The
word crescent refers to the phases where the moon is less than half illuminated.
The word gibbous refers to phases where the moon is more than half
illuminated. Waxing essentially means "growing" or expanding in illumination,
and waning means "shrinking" or decreasing in illumination.
Thus you can simply combine the two words to create the phase name, as follows:
After the new moon, the sunlit portion is increasing, but less than half, so it
is waxing crescent. After the first quarter, the sunlit portion is still increasing, but
now it is more than half, so it is waxing gibbous. After the full moon (maximum
illumination), the light continually decreases. So the waning gibbous phase occurs
next. Following the third quarter is the waning crescent, which wanes until the
light is completely gone -- a new moon.
At special times during the year, the earth, moon, and sun do in fact "line
up". When the moon blocks the sun or a part of it, it's called a solar eclipse, and it
can only happen during the new moon phase. When the earth casts a shadow on the
moon, it's called a lunar eclipse, and can only happen during the full moon phase.

Roughly 4 to 7 eclipses happen in any given year, but most of them minor or
"partial" eclipses. Major lunar or solar eclipses are relatively uncommon.
A corona (Latin, 'crown') is an aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and
other celestial bodies. The Sun's corona extends millions of kilometres into space
and is most easily seen during a total solar eclipse, but it is also observable with a
coronagraph. The word "corona" is a Latin word meaning "crown", from the
Ancient Greek (korn, garland, wreath).

The high temperature of the Sun's corona gives it unusual spectral features, which
led some in the 19th century to suggest that it contained a previously unknown
element, "coronium". Instead, these spectral features have since been explained by
highly ionized iron (Fe-XIV). Bengt Edln, following the work of Grotrian (1939),
first identified the coronal lines in 1940 (observed since 1869) as transitions from
low-lying metastable levels of the ground configuration of highly ionised metals
(the green Fe-XIV line at 5303 , but also the red line Fe-X at 6374 ). These
high stages of ionisation indicate a plasma temperature in excess of 1,000,000
kelvin, much hotter than the surface of the sun.

Light from the corona comes from three primary sources, which are called by
different names although all of them share the same volume of space. The Kcorona (K for kontinuierlich, "continuous" in German) is created by sunlight
scattering off free electrons; Doppler broadening of the reflected photospheric
absorption lines completely obscures them, giving the spectral appearance of a
continuum with no absorption lines. The F-corona (F for Fraunhofer) is created by
sunlight bouncing off dust particles, and is observable because its light contains the
Fraunhofer absorption lines that are seen in raw sunlight; the F-corona extends to
very high elongation angles from the Sun, where it is called the zodiacal light. The
E-corona (E for emission) is due to spectral emission lines produced by ions that
are present in the coronal plasma; it may be observed in broad or forbidden or hot
spectral emission lines and is the main source of information about the corona's

The umbra (Latin for "shadow") is the innermost and darkest part of a shadow,
where the light source is completely blocked by the occluding body.
An observer in the umbra experiences a total eclipse. The umbra of a round body
occluding a round light source forms a right circular cone; to a viewer at the cone's
apex, the two bodies are equal in apparent size. The distance from the Moon to the
apex of its umbra is roughly equal to that between the Moon and Earth. Because
the Earth is 3.7 times wider than the Moon, its umbra extends correspondingly
farther, roughly 1.4 million kilometers.
The penumbra (from the Latin paene "almost, nearly" and umbra "shadow") is the
region in which only a portion of the light source is obscured by the occluding
body. An observer in the penumbra experiences a partial eclipse. An alternative
definition is that the penumbra is the region where some or all of the light source is
obscured (i.e., the umbra is a subset of the penumbra). For example, NASA's
Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility defines that a body in the umbra is
also within the penumbra.
In radiation oncology, the penumbra is the space in the periphery of the main target
of radiation therapy, and has been defined as the volume receiving between 80%
and 20% of isodose.
The angular resolving power (or resolution) of a telescope is the smallest angle
between close objects that can be seen clearly to be separate. Resolution is limited
by the wave nature of light. For a telescope having an objective lens or mirror with
diameter D and operating at wavelength , the angular resolution (in radians) can
be approximately described by the ratio...
A refracting or refractor telescope is a type of optical telescope that uses
a lens as its objective to form an image (also referred to adioptric telescope). The
refracting telescope design was originally used in spy glasses
and astronomical telescopes but is also used forlong focus camera lenses. Although
large refracting telescopes were very popular in the second half of the 19th century,

for most research purposes the refracting telescope has been superseded by
the reflecting telescope which allows larger apertures. A refractor's magnification is
calculated by dividing the focal length of the objective lens by that of the eyepiece.
Refracting telescopes contain two main lenses: the objective lens and the
eyepiece. The objective lens refracts or bends light, causing parallel light rays to
converge (or meet) at a particular point. The eyepiece positions that image in such
a way that you have both a good field of view, and so that the image is positioned
at infinity, allowing your eye to comfortably view the image for long periods of

The reflector telescope uses a mirror to gather and focus light. All celestial objects
(including those in our solar system) are so far away that all of the light rays
coming from them reach the Earth as parallel rays. Because the light rays are
parallel to each other, the reflector telescope's mirror has a parabolic shape. The
parabolic-shaped mirror focuses the parallel lights rays to a single point. All
modern research telescopes and large amateur ones are of the reflector type
because of its advantages over the refractor telescope.
1. Reflector telescopes do not suffer from chromatic aberration because all
wavelengths will reflect off the mirror in the same way.
2. Support for the objective mirror is all along the back side so they can be
made very BIG!
3. Reflector telescopes are cheaper to make than refractors of the same size.
4. Because light is reflecting off the objective, rather than passing through it,
only one side of the reflector telescope's objective needs to be perfect.

Light pollutionwhat is it and why is it important to know?

Light pollution is excessive and inappropriate artificial light. The four components
of light pollution are often combined and may overlap:
Urban Sky Glowthe brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas.
Light Trespasslight falling where it is not intended, wanted, or needed.
Glareexcessive brightness which causes visual discomfort. High levels of
glare can decrease visibility.
Clutterbright, confusing, and excessive groupings of light sources,
commonly found in over-lit urban areas. The proliferation of clutter
contributes to urban sky glow, trespass, and glare.
For most of Earths history, our spectacular universe of stars and galaxies has been
visible in the darkness of the night sky. From our earliest beginnings, the vast
spectacle arrayed across the dark sky has inspired questions about our universe and
our relation to it. The history of scientific discovery, art, literature, astronomy,
navigation, exploration, philosophy, and even human curiosity itself would be
diminished without our view of the stars. But today, the increasing number of

people living on earth and the corresponding increase in inappropriate and

unshielded outdoor lighting has resulted in light pollutiona brightening night sky
that has obliterated the stars for much of the worlds population. Most people must
travel far from home, away from the glow of artificial lighting, to experience the
awe-inspiring expanse of the Milky Way as our ancestors once knew it.
The negative effects of the loss of this inspirational natural resource might seem
intangible. But a growing body of evidence links the brightening night sky directly
to measurable negative impacts on human health and immune function, on adverse
behavioral changes in insect and animal populations, and on a decrease of both
ambient quality and safety in our nighttime environment. Astronomers were among
the first to record the negative impacts of wasted lighting on scientific research, but
for all of us, the adverse economic and environmental impacts of wasted energy are
apparent in everything from the monthly electric bill to global warming.
In refreshing contrast to some of todays complex and lingering environmental
problems, many existing solutions to light pollution are simple, cost-effective, and
instantaneous. Recognizing when outdoor lighting no longer serves its function and
becomes a pollutant is the first step toward choosing appropriate solutions.
Increased urban sky glow is responsible for the disappearance of the Milky Way
from our night skies. For professional astronomers, the increasing distance to
prime observing sites, well away from sources of air pollution and urban sky glow,
becomes more problematic as economic and environmental energy costs continue
to rise. Amateur astronomers, meanwhile, find prime observing spots eradicated by
commercial and residential development and must travel farther from home for a
clear view of the skies. Increasingly, the most important equipment needed to
enjoy the wonders of the night sky is an automobile with a full tank of gas and a
The adverse effects of light pollution extend well beyond astronomy. New research
suggests that light at night may interfere with normal circadian rhythmsthe 24hour cycle of day and night that humans have used to maintain health and regulate
their activities for thousands of years. Light trespass, occurring when streetlights or
a neighbors security light directs unwanted lighting onto our property or into our
homes, contributes to a loss of natural darkness. Wildlife, too, is harmed by the
unnecessary brightening of the night. From newly hatched sea turtles to migrating
birds, fish, frogs, salamanders, and lightning bugs, artificial night lighting disrupts
the cycles of nocturnal creatures in potentially devastating ways. While research is

still ongoing, it is becoming apparent that both bright days and dark nights are
necessary to maintain healthy hormone production, cell function, and brain
activity, as well as normal feeding, mating, and migratory behavior for many
species, including humans.
Paradoxically, in addition to wasting resources, a nighttime environment that is
over-lit results in lowered visibility: direct glare from improperly shielded fixtures
is often blinding. Light spilling into the sky does not light the ground where we
need it. The redundant lighting found in many urban centers results in a clutter of
lights that contribute to sky glow, trespass, and glare while destroying the
ambiance of our nighttime environment. Our eyes, when dark-adapted, have good
natural capacity in lowlight situations. But when nightscapes are over-lit, eyes
never have a chance to become dark-adapted, and areas adjacent to brightly lit
areas become impenetrable, reducing safety. Some communities have experienced
a decrease in crime by reducing or eliminating nighttime lighting in appropriate
Light pollution wastes money and energy. Billions of dollars are spent on
unnecessary lighting every year in the United States alone, with an estimated $1.7
billion going directly into the nighttime sky via unshielded outdoor lights. Wasted
lighting in the US releases 38 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
annually; unshielded outdoor lights are directly responsible for 1.2 million tons of
carbon dioxide waste. Simply reducing and removing unnecessary lighting saves
money and energy, often at minimal expense. Over-lighting the night neither
improves visibility nor increases nighttime safety, utility, security, or ambiance.
Light pollution affects every citizen. It is a serious environmental concern that
wastes money and resources while jeopardizing wildlife, our environment, health,
and human heritage. Each of us can implement practical solutions to combat light
pollution locally, nationally, and internationally.
A spectrum (plural spectra or spectrums) is a condition that is not limited to a
specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum. The word was
first used scientifically within the field of optics to describe the rainbow of colors
in visible light when separated using a prism. As scientific understanding of light
advanced, it came to apply to the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
Spectrum has since been applied by analogy to topics outside of optics. Thus, one
might talk about the spectrum of political opinion, or the spectrum of activity of a
drug, or the autism spectrum. In these uses, values within a spectrum may not be
associated with precisely quantifiable numbers or definitions. Such uses imply a

broad range of conditions or behaviors grouped together and studied under a single
title for ease of discussion.
In most modern usages of spectrum there is a unifying theme between extremes at
either end. Some older usages of the word did not have a unifying theme, but they
led to modern ones through a sequence of events set out below. Modern usages in
mathematics did evolve from a unifying theme, but this may be difficult to
An absorption spectrum occurs when light passes through a cold, dilute gas and
atoms in the gas absorb at characteristic frequencies; since the re-emitted light is
unlikely to be emitted in the same direction as the absorbed photon, this gives rise
to dark lines (absence of light) in the spectrum.
The emission spectrum of a chemical element or chemical compound is the
spectrum of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation emitted due to an atom or
molecule making a transition from a high energy state to a lower energy state. The
energy of the emitted photon is equal to the energy difference between the two
states. There are many possible electron transitions for each atom, and each
transition has a specific energy difference. This collection of different transitions,
leading to different radiated wavelengths, make up an emission spectrum. Each
element's emission spectrum is unique. Therefore, spectroscopy can be used to
identify the elements in matter of unknown composition. Similarly, the emission
spectra of molecules can be used in chemical analysis of substances.
What is the Doppler Effect?
The Doppler effect is observed whenever the source of waves is moving with
respect to an observer. The Doppler effect can be described as the effect produced
by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in
frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent
downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding. It is
important to note that the effect does not result because of an actual change in the
frequency of the source. Using the example above, the bug is still producing
disturbances at a rate of 2 disturbances per second; it just appears to the observer
whom the bug is approaching that the disturbances are being produced at a
frequency greater than 2 disturbances/second. The effect is only observed because
the distance between observer B and the bug is decreasing and the distance
between observer A and the bug is increasing.

The Doppler effect can be observed for any type of wave - water wave, sound
wave, light wave, etc. We are most familiar with the Doppler effect because of our
experiences with sound waves. Perhaps you recall an instance in which a police car
or emergency vehicle was traveling towards you on the highway. As the car
approached with its siren blasting, the pitch of the siren sound (a measure of the
siren's frequency) was high; and then suddenly after the car passed by, the pitch of
the siren sound was low. That was the Doppler effect - an apparent shift in
frequency for a sound wave produced by a moving source.

The Doppler Effect in Astronomy

The Doppler effect is of intense interest to astronomers who use the information
about the shift in frequency of electromagnetic waves produced by moving stars in
our galaxy and beyond in order to derive information about those stars and
galaxies. The belief that the universe is expanding is based in part upon
observations of electromagnetic waves emitted by stars in distant galaxies.
Furthermore, specific information about stars within galaxies can be determined by
application of the Doppler effect. Galaxies are clusters of stars that typically rotate
about some center of mass point. Electromagnetic radiation emitted by such stars
in a distant galaxy would appear to be shifted downward in frequency (a red shift)
if the star is rotating in its cluster in a direction that is away from the Earth. On the

other hand, there is an upward shift in frequency (a blue shift) of such observed
radiation if the star is rotating in a direction that is towards the Earth.
Astronomers often use the term redshift when describing how far away a distant
object is. To understand what a redshift is, think of how the sound of a siren
changes as it moves toward and then away from you. As the sound waves from
the siren move toward you, they are compressed into higher frequency sound
waves. As the siren moves away from you, its sound waves are stretched into
lower frequencies. This shifting of frequencies is called the Doppler effect.

A similar thing happens to light waves. When an object in space moves toward us
it light waves are compressed into higher frequencies or shorter wavelengths, and
we say that the light is blueshifted. When an object moves away from us, its light
waves are stretched into lower frequencies or longer wavelengths, and we say that
the light is redshifted.
In the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, blue light has the highest
frequency and red light has the lowest. The term blueshift is used when visible
light is shifted toward higher frequencies or toward the blue end of the spectrum,
and the term redshift is used when light is shifted toward lower frequencies or
toward the red end of the spectrum. Today, we can observe light in many other
parts of the electromagnetic spectrum such as radio, infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays
and gamma rays. However, the terms redshift and blueshift are still used to
describe a Doppler shift in any part of the spectrum. For example, if radio waves
are shifted into the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, we still say that the light is
redshifted - shifted toward lower frequencies.

The light from most objects in the Universe is redshifted as seen from the Earth.
Only a few objects, mainly local objects like planets and some nearby stars, are
blueshifted. This is because our Universe is expanding. The redshift of an object
can be measured by examining the absorption or emission lines in its spectrum.
These sets of lines are unique for each atomic element and always have the same
spacing. When an object in space moves toward or away from us, the absorption or
emission lines will be found at different wavelengths than where they would be if
the object was not moving (relative to us).

The change in wavelength of these

lines is used to calculate the objects
redshift. Redshift is defined as the
change in the wavelength of the light
divided by the wavelength that the
light would have if its source was not
moving (called the rest wavelength).