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Astronomy - Astronomy, Observations and Techniques | The Observer's Guide to Planetary Motion - Explaining the Cycles of the Night Sky

The Observer's Guide to Planetary Motion

Explaining the Cycles of the Night Sky

Ford, Dominic

2014, XIII, 240 p. 76 illus., 25 illus. in color.

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  • The first almanac that not only tabulates positions but also explains the orbital mechanics that dictate how the planets and stars move as observed from Earth
  • Equips readers with an authoritative point of reference for complete lists of celestial events of interest to amateur astronomers for many years
  • Assists in planning observing sessions, local society events or ‘sky diary’ talks, by providing a long-term forecast of which celestial events will be the best or most dramatic
To the naked eye, the most evident defining feature of the planets is their motion across the night sky. It was this motion that allowed ancient civilizations to single them out as different from fixed stars. But how does the geometry of the Solar System give rise to the observed motions of the planets and their moons?

Although the motions of the planets may be described as simple elliptical orbits around the Sun, they must be observed from a particular vantage point--the Earth, which spins daily on its axis and circles around the Sun each year, resulting in more complicated patterns. The Observer’s Guide to Planetary Motion provides accurate tables of the best time for observing each planet, together with other notable events in their orbits, helping amateur astronomers plan when and what to observe.


Along the way, many questions are answered: Why does Mars take over two years between apparitions (the times when it is visible from Earth) in the night sky, while Uranus and Neptune take almost exactly a year? Why do planets appear higher in the night sky when they’re visible in the winter months? Why do Saturn’s rings appear to open and close every 15 years? This book places seemingly disparate astronomical events into an understandable three-dimensional  structure.

Content Level » Popular/general

Keywords » Astronomical observations - Deep-sky motions - Ellipitcal orbits - Inner planets - Orbital mechanics - Orbits of the planets - Outer planets - Physical geometry of the Solar System - Planetary motion - Regular orbital cycles

Related subjects » Astronomy, Observations and Techniques - Popular Astronomy

Table of contents 

The Motion of the Planets.- The Outer Planets.- The Inner Planets.- Mars.- The Moon.- The Deep Sky.

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