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 Solar  System
AST  103  -­‐  Fall  2010
WCH  H107  -­‐  TR  2:00  p.m.

Lecture 02 - The View From Earth

1.The Scientific Method

2. The Celestial Sphere

• Constellations
• Celestial Coordinates
3. The Seasons
 “I  o0en  say  that  when  you  can  measure  something  
and  express  it  in  numbers,  you  know  something  
about  it.  When  you  cannot  measure  it,  when  you  
cannot  express  it  in  numbers,  your  knowledge  is  of  
a  meager  and  unsa@sfactory  kind.”
                                 —Lord  Kelvin
What  is  Science?
• Science  is  the  body  of  knowledge  that  describes  the  
order  within  nature  and  the  causes  of  that  order.

• Science  is  an  ongoing  ac@vity  that  represents  the  

collec@ve  efforts,  findings  and  wisdom  of  the  
human  race  since  prehistory.  

• Science  gathers  knowledge  about  the  world  and  

organizes  and  condenses  it  into  testable  laws  and  
• The  Greeks  were  the  first  to  apply  mathema@cs  to  
the  study  of  nature.

• Around  250  B.C.  Aristarchus  was  first  to  argue  that  

the  Earth  orbits  the  Sun,  a0er  calcula@ng  that  the  
Sun  is  larger  than  the  Earth.

• Around  200  B.C.  Eratosthenes  es@mated  the  

diameter  of  the  Earth  to  within  5%  of  the  correct  

• Around  150  A.D.  Ptolemy  developed  a  model  to  

predict  the  mo@on  of  the  stars  and  planets
Mathema:cs  -­‐  The  Language  of  Science

• Science  and  Mathema@cs  were  reunited  again  some  

400  years  ago  during  the  European  Renaissance.

• Isaac  Newton’s  groundbreaking  work  of  Op@cs  and  

gravity  showed  that  scien@fic  ideas  are  precise  
when  expressed  mathema@cally.

• Mathema@cs  reveals  the  rela@onships  between  

various  scien@fic  concepts  and  allows  a  clarity  of  
Scien@fic  Measurements
• Measurement  is  the  founda@on  of  scien@fic  

• The  more  accurately  we  can  measure  the  proper@es  

of  nature,  the  more  we  can  discover  and  

• As  a  result,  scien@sts  con@nually  look  for  ways  to  

improve  accuracy  and  errors  in  measurements.
The  Large  Hadron  Collider
The  James  Webb  
Space  Telescope
1.  The  Scien@fic  Method
• The  Scien@fic  Method  is  a  general  set  of  principles  
which  describe  the  way  scien@sts  work.

1.  Observe
2.  Ques@on  -­‐  create  a  hypothesis
3.  Predict  -­‐  testable  consequences  of  the  hypothesis
4.  Test  Predic@on  -­‐  compare  predic@on    to  observa@on
5.  Draw  a  Conclusion  -­‐  formulate  rules,  modify  hypothesis,  
refine  test,  make  new  predic@ons
The  Scien@fic  Actude
• The  scien@fic  actude  is  one  of  inquiry,  
experimenta@on  and  humility  -­‐  a  willingness  to  
admit  error.

• Experimenta@on  determines  what  is  correct  in  

science,  not  philosophical  debate  or  tradi@on.

• O0en  the  greatest  advances  in  science  have  been  

made  by  those  who  could  devise  the  best  
experiments,  or  ask  the  most  insighdul  ques@ons.
• Consequently,  good  scien@sts  are  experts  at  
changing  their  minds.

• They  are  willing  to  update  their  views  as  new  

knowledge  is  obtained.

• Scien@sts  con@nually  test  for  erroneous  beliefs.

• This  leads  many  non-­‐scien@sts  to  view  science  as  
indeterminate  and  even  contradictory  and  
Scien@fic  Defini@ons

• Hypothesis: An educated guess made in describing

the results of an experiment or observation.

• Law: A hypothesis that has been repeatedly tested

and not contradicted.

• Model: A description of phenomenon based on

observation, experiment and theory, Not
necessarily true, but allows prediction.
• Fact: A close agreement by competent observers
of a series of observations of the same

• Theory: The combination of a large body of

information that encompasses well tested,
repeatable experiments and verified hypotheses
about the natural world.

• Theories cannot be proven true, but data can prove

a theory to be false.
• Theory  in  everyday  speech  is  vastly  different  than  
its  use  in  science.

• A  vast  and  verifiable  body  of  knowledge  isn’t  only  

a  theory;  if  it  passes  all  its  tests,  it  is  elevated  to  
that  status!  

• Newton’s  theory  of  gravity  and  Einstein’s  theory  of  

rela@vity,  for  example,  are  not  idle  hypotheses—
both  are  supported  by  innumerable  experiments.
Which of these often changes over time with further

1. Facts
2. Theories
3. Both of these
4. Neither of these
Both facts and theories can change over time as new
information and knowledge is obtained through
scientific investigation.

Do non-scientists usually consider facts to be
unchangeable and always true?
• A  pseudoscience  is  a  belief  or  process  which  
pretends  to  be  science  in  an  agempt  to  claim  

• The  most  important  of  its  defects  is  usually  a  lack  of  
the  carefully  controlled  and  thoughdully  
interpreted  experiments  which  provide  the  
founda@on  of  science.

• Cri@cal  thinking  is  essen@al  in  both  developing  

scien@fic  theories,  and  combacng  pseudoscien@fic  
• Some  now  accepted  ideas  in  science  were  once  
regarded  as  pseudoscience.

• Such  ideas  usually  run  counter  to  established  

theories  and  as  such  may  be  ini@ally  unpopular  
among  the  scien@fic  community.

• Scien@sts  are  as  imperfect  as  the  rest  of  us,  and  
must  be  vigilant  against  bias  and  unfounded  
2. The Celestial Sphere
An imaginary sphere centered on the observer.

•    North  Celes,al  Pole:

The point in the sky directly above the Earth’s North Pole.

•    South  Celes,al  Pole:

Directly above the Earth’s South Pole.
Celestial Coordinates
Locations on the Earth are uniquely defined using
Latitude and Longitude.

• Declination
The angle north or south of the Celestial Equator
( Range -90° to +90° ).

• Right Ascension
The Angle eastwards around the Celestial Sphere
( range 0 to 24 hours ).

1. From  the  La@n,  meaning  “stars  


2. Areas  of  the  sky  containing  

pagerns  of  stars,  named  for  an  
object,  animal  or  person.

3. The  earliest  were  defined  by  

the  Sumerians  c.2000  B.C.
Constellations (Continued)

4. The  88  constella@ons  cover  the  

en@re  celes@al  sphere  and  have  
specific  boundaries.

5. They  are  accidental  pagerns  of  

stars,  at  different  distances  from  
us  and  moving  in  different  
direc@ons  and  speeds.

6. Are  a  convenient  way  to  iden@fy  

parts  of  the  sky.
Measuring positions of Stars

Angular Separation

Angular  Separa,on:
the  angle  between  two  lines  origina@ng  from  the  eye  of  
the  observer  toward  the  two  objects.

1 degree = 60 arcminutes

1 arcminute = 60 arcseconds
3. The Seasons
The Ecliptic
The  apparent  path  of  the  Sun  on  the  celes@al  sphere.

The Zodiac
The  constella@ons  the  Sun  appears  to  travel  through  
during  the  year.
Points  on  the  celes@al  sphere  where  the  Sun  reaches  its  
northernmost  (longest  day)  and  southernmost  (shortest  
day)  posi@ons.

Points  on  the  celes@al  sphere  where  the  Sun  crosses  the  
celes@al  equator  (day  and  night  are  equal  length).
Vernal  Equinox  =  Spring
Autumnal  Equinox  =  Fall
The Sun and the Seasons
Summer is warmer than winter because:
1. Days are longer in the Summer
2. The Sun is higher in the sky in the Summer

...and NOT because of any change in the distance

between the Earth and the Sun!