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Physics 101 Astronomy

Laboratory #1

Spring 2012

Lab 1: General Motions in the Sky

As you can recall from the prelab there were several types of apparent motion in the sky
and therefore any theory of the universe has to explain those motions. In this lab you
need to determine what factors affect how you see the night sky, and what you see in it.
The first thing to do is to become familiar with Starry Night software, so lets get started!
Start Starry Night Pro:
1. Launch Starry Night Pro from the Dock at the bottom of the screen.
2. You should now have a view of the night sky from Crawfordsville at sometime.
3. You will see several controls for the time, the rate at which time passes, start, stop,
forward, backwards, the altitude and location. These controls are all located within the
current viewing window. Above the window, you can see several menus. Take sometime
to explore what the controls do.
Things to find out in this lab period:
1. What constellations are circumpolar as viewed from Crawfordsville, Anchorage, and
Miami? Can you identify any trends?
2. Measure the sidereal and synodic periods of the moon. Observe the moon through at
least ten cycles to determine these periods. Why is using ten cycles more precise than
using one?
3. How far does Venus get from the sun in the sky? One way to do this would be to set
the time to noon, the view southward, and turn off the Daylight (View > Hide
Daylight). These settings should let you advance forward in time by days, and view
Venus moving around near the Sun. How long is it from its greatest western separation
from the sun (greatest elongation), to when it is most easterly relative to the sun? When it
gets back most westerly that is its synodic period. How long is its synodic period?
4. Now go back to today at noon, and. Change the time step from 1 sidereal day.
Now advance one step at a time. Which way does the sun move relative to the stars?
Why?
5. Now go back to tonight at midnight, and leave the view to the south. Leave the time
step at one sidereal day and watch for planets as the year passes. What is their general
motion? Are then any oddities? Note the planet, dates, and times of any oddities. What
planets did you see? Are any missing?
For each the five main areas to explore, include the following:
1. A statement of the question you are examining.
2. The method you are using.
4. Your data and observations, with printouts and sketches as needed.
5. Your conclusions, drawn from the observations.

Physics 101 Astronomy

Laboratory #1

Spring 2012

Also, please explain if your observed synodic period of Venus matches its orbital period
of 224.7 days. Should it? Try computing this formula for the orbital period:
1
1
1
=

!!"#\$%&' !!"#\$%&' 365.25

Where the periods and 365.25 are in units of days. Does the result agree?