Understanding Our Universe


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  • Answer: C Explanation: Choices B and D don’t make sense. The point of this question is to get the students to realize that the apparent motion on the sky is opposite from the actual motion of the Earth.
  • Answer: A Explanation: The Earth would still take the same amount of time (i.e., the same number of seconds) to orbit the Sun, so the seasons would still occur twice a year. Choices B and C are incorrect because the Moon’s orbit would be unaffected. We only see one hemisphere of the Moon because its orbital and rotation periods are the same. The cycle of lunar phases would take the same amount of time as it does now. Choice D is incorrect because an observer at the north pole would have the same view as now.
  • Answer: C Explanation: The Sun would always be on the equator and, therefore, would deliver the same amount of sunlight to each point of Earth all year long.
  • Understanding Our Universe

    1. 1. CHAPTER 2 Patterns in the Sky— Motions of EarthUnderstanding Our UniverseFIRST EDITIONPalen | Kay | Smith | Blumenthal © 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company
    2. 2.  Our focus: • Daily rotation of Earth • Annual orbit of Earth • Monthly orbit of the Moon • Consequences of the above • Behavior of all Solar System planetary orbits
    3. 3.  As viewed from above the North Pole, Earth rotates counterclockwise on its axis. One rotation takes 24 hours.
    4. 4.  The celestial sphere is a projection of Earth’s axes and equator into space. A useful fiction. Points on the sphere do not correspond to actual distances.
    5. 5.  It rotates around the north and south celestial poles each day. Celestial equator: midway between. Ecliptic: path of the Sun, inclined 23.5 degrees to equator.
    6. 6.  At Earth’s North Pole, we would see half the celestial sphere. The north celestial pole is directly overhead.
    7. 7.  Stars rotate counterclockwise in 24 hours. No star rises or sets: all are circumpolar. Observers can never see the south celestial pole.
    8. 8.  At Earth’s equator, all stars rise and set. The celestial poles are on the northern and southern horizons. Observers can see the whole celestial sphere as it rotates.
    9. 9.  At an intermediate latitude on Earth, one pole is above the horizon. The angle to the horizon equals the latitude.
    10. 10.  Some stars are circumpolar. Some stars rise and set. Some stars are never visible.
    11. 11.  Earth’s orbit is nearly circular. The average distance to the Sun is called the astronomical unit, or AU. 1 AU = 150 million km.
    12. 12.  The Sun’s motion on the ecliptic reflects Earth’s orbit around the Sun. As Earth moves, the Sun is seen against different constellations—the zodiac.
    13. 13.  Earth’s axis is not perpendicular to the ecliptic plane. Instead, it is at an angle of 23.5 degrees. This is why there are seasons.
    14. 14.  Two reasons for the seasons, due to this 23.5-degree tilt: • The angle of sunlight is more direct in summer. » Energy is more concentrated. • The sun is in the sky longer in the summer. Southern Hemisphere experiences the opposite situation of the Northern Hemisphere.
    15. 15.  Summer solstice: • Sun most directly in direction of North Pole (June 21). • Longest day. Autumnal equinox: • Sun on the celestial equator (Sept. 23). • Equal hours of day and night.
    16. 16.  Winter solstice: • Sun most directly opposite the direction of North Pole (December 22). • Shortest day. Vernal equinox: • Sun on the celestial equator (March 21). • Equal hours of day and night.
    17. 17.  Currently the north celestial pole is near the bright star Polaris. Earth’s axis orientation changes over a period of 26,000 years. Location of the poles slowly shifts.
    18. 18.  We only see one face of the Moon. Synchronous rotation. Completes one full rotation in one full orbit around Earth. • “Near side” and “far side,” NOT “light side” and “dark side.”
    19. 19.  The Moon shines because of reflected sunlight. Half of the Moon is always bright. The phase is determined by how much of the bright side we see.
    20. 20.  New Moon: Moon between Earth and the Sun. Waxing crescent Quarter: Moon at right angles with Earth and the Sun. Waxing gibbous Full Moon: Moon on opposite side of Earth from the Sun.
    21. 21.  Solar eclipses happen at new Moon. Moon passes between Earth and the Sun. Only a small portion of Earth can witness each one.
    22. 22.  Three types: • Total: the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s light. • Partial: only part is blocked. • Annular: the Sun appears as a bright ring surrounding the Moon.
    23. 23.  Lunar eclipses happen at full Moon. Earth is between the Sun and the Moon. Visible over a wider area of Earth. Last a lot longer than solar eclipses.
    24. 24.  Eclipses do not occur every month because the Moon’s orbit is tilted about 5 degrees with respect to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. • If not, there would be a solar eclipse every new Moon and a lunar eclipse every full Moon.
    25. 25.  Copernicus realized the Solar System was heliocentric—centered on the Sun. Planets exhibit apparent retrograde motion due to their distances from Earth. • Appear to turn around.
    26. 26.  Kepler’s 1st Law: Planet orbits are ellipses. Each ellipse has two foci. The Sun is at one focus of a planet’s elliptical orbit.
    27. 27.  An ellipse has a size, described by the semimajor axis. The longest length is twice the length of the semimajor axis.
    28. 28.  Each orbit has a shape and a size. The eccentricity describes how elongated the ellipse is and how far the foci are separated.
    29. 29.  Kepler’s 2nd Law: the Law of Equal Areas. The line between the Sun and the planet “sweeps” out equal areas in equal times.
    30. 30.  Consequences: • A planet will go fastest when closest to the Sun. • It will go slowest when farthest from the Sun. Applies to only one planet at a time.
    31. 31. Kepler’s 3rd Law Consequences: • Distant planets take longer to orbit the Sun. • Distant planets travel at slower speeds.
    32. 32. The Sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Which wayis Earth rotating?A. Toward the westB. Toward the northC. Toward the eastD. Toward the south
    33. 33. If Earth rotated in 12 hours but its orbit were the same,which of the following would NOT be true?A. Each season would happen twice per year.B. We would still see only one hemisphere of the Moon.C. The cycle of lunar phases would last as long as it does now.D. Observers at the North Pole would only see one half of the celestial sphere.
    34. 34. If the ecliptic were aligned with the celestial equator, whatwould happen to the seasons?A. Nothing. They would be the same as now.B. Each season would last longer.C. We would not have seasons at all.D. Can’t tell from the information given.
    35. 35. AstroTourThe Celestial Sphere and the Ecliptic Click here to launch this AstroTour (Requires an active Internet connection.)
    36. 36. AstroTour View from the PolesClick here to launch this AstroTour (Requires an active Internet connection.)
    37. 37. AstroTour The Earth spins and revolvesClick here to launch this AstroTour (Requires an active Internet connection.)
    38. 38. AstroTourThe Moon’s Orbit, Eclipses, PhasesClick here to launch this AstroTour (Requires an active Internet connection.)
    39. 39. AstroTour Kepler’s lawsClick here to launch this AstroTour (Requires an active Internet connection.)