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HW #1

1. Celestial sphere exercises.

(a) List the right ascension and declination of the Sun when it is located at the vernal equinox, the summer

solstice, the autumnal equinox, and the winter solstice.

Solution. From gure 1.11,

right ascension (hr) declination (deg)

vernal equinox 0 0

summer solstice 6 23.5

autumnal equinox 12 0

winter solstice 18 23.5

(b) Raleighs latitude is about 35

. Calculate the altitude of the Sun along the meridian on the rst day of

summer and on the rst day of winter.

Solution. Recall that the rst day of summer is known as the Summer solstice, and the sun is 23.5

north of the equator. Then, the summer solstices sun has an altitude of (9035) +23.5 = 78.5

north.

The rst day of winter is the Winter solstice and the sun is 23.5

of the sun on this day is (90 35) 23.5 = 26.5

north.

(c) If we can observe as close to the horizon as 10

of declinations must an object have if it is never to set below the horizon?

Solution. We know that the equator has a latitude of 0

would be the north celestial pole. As we traverse northward, the NCP moves higher and higher in

the sky. Its declination is 90

35

= 55

minimum altitude of 10

80

35

= 45

.

(d) At what latitude(s) on Earth will the Sun never set when it is summer solstice? Is there any latitude

on Earth where the Sun will never set when it is at vernal equinox? If so, where?

Solution. On the summer solstice, the sun never sets on latitudes of 90

23.5

= 66.5

. On the

vernal equinox, all points on earth have a sunset at some point (with the exception of the north and

south pole).

1

(e) The third quarter moon is transiting. What time is it (approximately)?

Solution.

On January 31, the sunrise in Raleigh occurs at 7:16 am.

(f) Estimate the sidereal time at the beginning of class on the day this problem set is due.

Solution. Assuming that this is due in Raleigh on January 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm, we know that the

UT = EST + 5 so the UT is given by January 30, 2012 at 18:30. Then, using the method found on

http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/GAST.php, we will use the fact that the sidereal time is given by

time 280.461 + 360.9856473D,

where D is the number of days since January 1, 2000 at noon. Let us rst nd D:

D = 12 years

_

365.25 days

1 y

_

+ 29 days + 6 h

_

1 d

24 h

_

+ 30 min

_

1 h

60 min

__

1 d

24 h

_

= 4412.27.

Then, plugging this in to nd the time we get that the time is

time = 1.59305 10

6

so that, dividing out multiples of 360,

time

360

= 4425.13.

Let us now nd what fraction of the day is .13: .13 360

= 46.9041

longitude (78.64

46.9041

78.64

+ 360

= 328.264

.

Then, converting this degree measurement into hours:

24 h

360

=

x h

328.264

21 h, 53 min, 3.48 s.

2

2. Comet Halley. Halleys comet has an orbital period of 76 yr and an orbital eccentricity of e = 0.9673.

(a) What is the semimajor axis of Comet Halleys orbit?

Solution. From Keplers third law,

P

2

= a

3

a = P

2

3

= 17.9422 AU.

(b) Estimate the mass of the Sun.

Solution. Assuming the mass of Halleys comet is insignicant compared to the sun, using (2.37) with

m

2

0 and m

1

= M

, with

G = 6.67428 10

11

N m

2

kg

2

a = 17.9422AU

_

1.4959787 10

11

m

1 AU

_

= 2.68411 10

12

m

P = 76 year = 2.396736 10

9

s

Then,

M

=

4

2

a

3

GP

2

1.99248 10

30

kg

which has a .1699% error from the accepted value of M

= 1.9891 10

30

kg.

(c) Calculate the distance of Comet Halley from the Sun at perihelion and aphelion.

Solution. Recall that the perihelion is the point on the orbit closest to the principle focus and the

aphelion is the farthest from the focus. We will use (2.3) with

p

= 0

= cos

p

= 1 for the

perihelion and

a

= 180

= cos

a

= 1 for the aphelion. Then, at perihelion,

r

p

=

a(1 +e)(1 e)

1 +e cos

p

= a(1 e) = 0.58671 AU

and at the aphelion,

r

a

=

a(1 +e)(1 e)

1 +e cos

a

= a(1 +e) = 35.2977 AU.

3

(d) Determine the orbital speed of the comet when at perihelion and aphelion.

Solution. First, using the fact that 1.4959787 10

11

m = 1 AU, we see

r

p

= 8.77706 10

10

m

r

a

= 5.28046 10

12

m

From (2.36), using the accepted mass of the sun,

v =

G(m

1

+m

2

)

_

2

r

1

a

_

GM

_

2

r

1

a

_

.

We get

v

p

54549.6 m/s and v

a

906.657 m/s.

(e) How many times larger is the kinetic energy of Haleys comet at perihelion when compared to aphelion?

Solution. We know that, generally, kinetic energy is given by T =

1

2

mv

2

. Then,

T

p

T

a

=

1

2

mv

2

p

1

2

mv

2

a

= 3619.9.

4

3. A comet of mass m approaches the Sun (mass M

velocity v

0

. Find the value of b that results in the comet just grazing the Sun (radius R

).

Solution. Let r be the distance between m and the center of M

greater than R

1

2

mv

2

0

=

1

2

mv

2

GM

m

r

(1)

and conservation of momentum gives

mbv

0

= mrv (2)

Then (2) implies b =

rv

v

0

. We can solve for v in (1):

v =

_

1

2

mv

2

0

+

GMm

r

_

2

m

.

Thus,

b =

r

2

+

2GMr

v

2

0

.

Furthermore, recall = b

2

=

_

r

2

+

2GMr

v

2

0

_

and for it to just graze, we let r = R:

=

_

R

2

+

2GMR

v

2

0

_

.

As v

0

increases, decreases. This does indeed make sense because the greater its initial greater momentum,

the less likely it is to be deected, and thus, the cross-section decreases.

5

4. Virial Theorem.

(a) Write down the Virial theorem for Keplers problem.

Solution. For Keplers problem involving orbiting planets, U =

GMm

r

and T =

1

2

mv

2

so that

GM

_

1

r

_

=

1

2

v

2

_

.

Also, for a potential energy U(r) = cr

n

, we have that T =

1

2

nU(r) . For a binary orbit system,

(2.47) holds: E =

1

2

U.

(b) Write down the Virial theorem for the harmonic oscillator.

Solution. We have that U =

1

2

m

2

r

2

and T =

1

2

mv

2

so that

1

2

m

2

r

2

_

=

1

2

m

v

2

_

r

2

_

=

v

2

_

.

(c) Use the Virial theorem to estimate the temperature of the Sun. Assume the Sun is a sphere of constant

density and that it can be described as a mono-atomic gas of particles with m = 1.66 10

27

kg. Use

M

= 2 10

30

kg, R

= 7 10

8

m, and k

B

= 1.38 10

23

J/K.

Solution. First, we can write down the potential energy between the inner core (center) and outer

shell of the sun:

U =

GM

2

.

Recall from the Virial theorem that K =

1

2

U. Assuming that all of the particles of the sun have

the same kinetic energy (safe assumption since it is a sphere of constant density), we have

N =

M

m

= 1.20 10

57

particles.

So

K = NkT =

1

2

U

M

kT

m

=

GM

2

2R

T =

GM

m

2R

k

1.14693 10

7

K.

At the surface, its recorded to have 5,800 K and 1.56 10

7

K at the core and our prediction is between

the two, so it seems to make sense!

6

5. Bound and unbound systems.

(a) A particle of mass moves in a circle about a xed force center with the force law given by F =

k

r

2

.

Show that if k suddenly drops to half of its previous value, the system is unbounded.

Solution. Let us nd the escape velocity for the rst situation and the second (which will be denoted

with a prime):

E =

k

r

+

1

2

mv

2

E

=

k

2r

+

1

2

mv

2

so that the escape velocity is given by

1

2

mv

2

=

k

r

= v =

_

2k

mr

,

and for the second situation,

1

2

mv

2

=

k

2r

= v

=

_

k

mr

.

Then, the escape velocity decreases as the particle escapes, making the energy unbound.

(b) Two stars of equal mass m orbit one another. One explodes as a supernova, losing half its mass in

the process, so that the velocity of its remaining remnant does not change in the explosion. Assume

initially circular orbits, and calculate the new total energy. Is the system bound or unbound after the

explosion?

Solution. First, let us nd the initial energy. From page 48, we see that

E =

1

2

v

2

p

G

M

r

p

where the subscript p denotes perihelion. Since we are dealing with a circle, we can neglect this

subscript. Now, initially, m

1

= m

2

so

M = m

1

+m

2

= 2m

1

,

=

m

1

m

2

m

1

+m

2

=

1

2

m

1

.

Thus,

E

i

=

1

4

m

i

v

2

G

m

2

i

r

.

Then, nally, m

2

loses half of its mass so that m

2

=

1

2

m

1

and

M

f

= m

1

+m

2

=

3

2

m

1

f

=

m

1

m

2

m

1

+m

2

=

1

2

m

2

1

3

2

m

1

=

1

3

m

i

.

so that

E

f

=

1

6

m

1

v

2

1

2

Gm

2

1

r

.

Comparing the k values, it drops by a factor of 2 so that the system is now unbound after the explosion

in part a.

7

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