Q25: Record the wavelength of each colored line according to the scale given.

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2 or 2.9 nm/mm. Do this for the 3 pairs of lines we used in the previous question, average your results, and record your final scale factor. Show your work! Q30: If you had a friend measure the distances, would her/his results differ from yours? Why or why not? If they did differ, would they differ a lot or a little? Explain your reasoning. In science, we can never hope to have absolute precision, or absolute accuracy. It is perfectly acceptable to have large uncertainties, as long as we let the reader know our estimate of those uncertainties so that an intelligent evaluation of the results can be made. As scientists, we strive to perfect our experiments and observations in order to improve the precision and accuracy of our results. Q31: I have used both terms "accuracy" and "precision." These two words do not mean the same thing. How does an "accurate" measurement differ from a "precise" measurement? The Earth, the Sun, and the Constellations of the Zodiac A. Motions of the Earth The Earth is constantly in motion. It spins on its axis. It also orbits around the Sun, with an average distance from the Sun of about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). A third motion of the Earth, known as precession, is less widely known. The Earth bulges slightly at the equator as a result of its rotation, that is, it is not quite a perfect sphere. The Sun s and Moon s gravitational pull on the Earth cause the Earth to wobble like a top, or precess. Compare the timescales on which each of these motions occurs. Time it takes Earth to complete one rotation on its axis: Time it takes Earth to complete one orbit around the Sun: 24 hours ~365 days Time it takes Earth to complete one precession cycle (Time to trace out one complete circle as it wobbles): 26,000 years (!) Recall that we learned last time that the Earth s axis points close to a particular star. Q1: What special star is this? Q2: Do you think that the Earth s axis will always point at this special star? Why or why not? Explain. It s important to realize that the Earth precesses very slowly. Over a human lifetime, its effect is generally quite negligible. Thus we can use the same pole star for our

3 entire lifetimes, and teach it to our children who can teach it to their children. But as we ll see later in the lab, precession must be taken into account when we are comparing current observations of the sky to observations made thousands of years ago or if we wish to predict what others will see thousands of years in the future. In this lab we will explore the effect of Earth s motions on observations that we make of the Sun and the stars over the course of days and months. Precession will not come into play because it happens so slowly. But we will take note of what effect it has on what we see today versus what people saw about 2000 years ago. B. Constellations of the zodiac Some of the most famous and ancient constellations are the constellations of the zodiac. As we will see in the next part of this exercise, as the Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun appears to move against the background of stars. (This isn t necessarily obvious, since you can t see stars during the day!) The path that the Sun takes through the constellations is known as the ecliptic, which is the plane defined by Earth s orbit. The constellations that the ecliptic passes through are the constellations of the zodiac, or simply, the zodiac. For thousands of years, people all over the world have paid attention to the Sun s path through the stars. Because of the Sun s great importance to our lives, great importance was also attached in many cultures to the constellations that make up the zodiac. Q3: Do you know your astrological sign? If so, what is it? Your astrological sign is in principle the constellation that the Sun was in on the day you were born. (It is common to say the Sun (or a planet) is in a certain constellation. But it s important to understand that it is really in front of that constellation. The Sun is much, much closer to Earth than any other star!) Astrological signs, as they ve come down to us, were defined roughly 2000 years ago. At that time, there were 12 zodiacal constellations, each covering about 1/12 th of the ecliptic, so that the Sun was in each one for about a month. Since then, the Earth s precession has caused a shift in the position of the Sun on different dates. As a result, most people s sign is no longer what it would have been 2000 years ago. We ll see which constellation the Sun was actually in on your birthday in a minute. Another change that has occurred is that in the early 20 th century, astronomers from all over the world got together and agreed upon a way to divide up the whole celestial sphere into 88 constellations. You can see the names and outlines of these constellations on the celestial sphere on the lab table. Some constellations are big, while others are small, so that the amount of time the Sun spends in front of each one is different. Also as a result of this redefinition of the constellations, there is now one extra constellation that the Sun passes in front of over the course of one year.

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