# Constellations In ancient times, constellations only referred to the brightest stars that appeared to form groups, representing mythological figures.

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1 Chapter 2: The Sky

2 Constellations In ancient times, constellations only referred to the brightest stars that appeared to form groups, representing mythological figures.

3

4 Constellations Today, constellations are well-defined regions on the sky, irrespective of the presence or absence of bright stars in those regions.

5 Orion Betelgeuze Constellations Rigel Stars are named by a greek letter (a, b, g) according to their relative brightness within a given constellation + the possessive form of the name of the constellation: Betelgeuze = a Orionis, Rigel = b Orionis

6 The Magnitude Scale Measure of the apparent brightness of an object. The higher the magnitude, the fainter the object. (Negative numbers are for the brightest objects.) The faintest stars humans can see with the unaided eye are 6 th magnitude.

7 Constellations The stars of a constellation only appear to be close to one another. Usually, this is only a projection effect. The stars of a constellation may be located at very different distances from us.

8 Stars in a Constellation Brighter stars can look closer than fainter stars. It s not possible to tell if a star is closer or farther just by looking at its brightness. All stars look like they are at the same distance, like they are on a giant dome, or sphere, in the sky. We can imagine them as being on a celestial sphere.

9 The Celestial Sphere Zenith = Point on the celestial sphere directly overhead Nadir = Point on the c. s. directly underneath (not visible!) Celestial equator = projection of the Earth s equator onto the c. s. North celestial pole = projection of the Earth s north pole onto the c.s.

10 The Celestial Sphere On the sky, we measure distances between objects as angles: The full circle has 360 o (degrees) 1 o has 60 (arc minutes) 1 has 60 (arc seconds).

11 The Celestial Sphere (II) l From geographic latitude l (northern hemisphere), you see the celestial north pole l degrees above the horizon. As you go farther north, the north celestial pole looks like it s more and more overhead, toward zenith.

12 Example: New York City: l Celestial North Pole Celestial Equator North Horizon South Horizon The Celestial South Pole is not visible from the northern hemisphere.

13 The Celestial Sphere (III)

14 Why do stars rise and set? Earth rotates west to east, so stars appear to circle from east to west.

15 Our View from Earth: Stars near the north celestial pole are circumpolar and never set. We cannot see stars near the south celestial pole. All other stars (and Sun, Moon, planets) rise in east and set in west. A circumpolar star never sets. celestial equator This star never rises. your horizon

16 Our View from Earth: Stars near the north celestial pole are circumpolar and never set.

17 Our View from Earth: Stars near the north celestial pole are circumpolar and never set. We cannot see stars near the south celestial pole.

18 Our View from Earth: Stars near the north celestial pole are circumpolar and never set. We cannot see stars near the south celestial pole. All other stars (and Sun, Moon, planets) rise in east and set in west.

19 Apparent Motion of the Celestial Sphere Looking north, you see stars circling counterclockwise around the celestial north pole.

20 Apparent Motion of the Celestial Sphere II Over the course of the night, stars rise on the east, travel from east to west (left to right if viewed from the northern hemisphere) through the southern sky, and set in the west.

21 Precession (I) Gravity is pulling on a slanted top. => Wobbling around the vertical. The Sun s gravity is doing the same to the Earth. The resulting wobbling of the Earth s axis of rotation around the vertical w.r.t. the Ecliptic takes about 26,000 years and is called precession.

22 Precession (II) As a result of precession, the celestial north pole follows a circular pattern on the sky, once every 26,000 years. It will be closest to Polaris ~ A.D ~ 12,000 years from now, it will be close to Vega in the constellation Lyra. There is nothing peculiar about Polaris at all (neither particularly bright nor nearby etc.)

23 What s the Point? Constellations are regions of the sky. The brightness of a star is measured on the magnitude scale. The higher the magnitude, the fainter the star. We see astronomical objects moving because Earth rotates. How we see them move depends on where we are on Earth. Precession changes the direction of the North Celestial Pole over time.

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