Using the Web

1.
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Go to the Web page “This Week’s Sky at a Glance” (http://skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance) on Sky & Telescope magazine’s website. Which planets are visible in your sky this week? Why are Mercury and Venus visible in the morning before sunrise or in the evening just after sunset? Before telescopes, how did people know the planets were different from the stars?
2.
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Look up the dates for the next opposition of Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn. One source is the NASA “Sky Events Calendar” (http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SKYCAL/SKYCAL.html). Check only the “Planet Events” box in “Section 2: Sky Events”; and in Section 3, generate a calendar or table for the year. As noted in Connections 3.1, opposition means that the planet will be opposite the Sun in the sky, so it will rise at sunset and set at sunrise. It is also during opposition that the planet is closest to Earth and you can observe retrograde motion. If you are coming up on an opposition, take pictures of the planet over the next few weeks. Can you see its position move in retrograde fashion with respect to the background stars?
3a.
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Refer to the website from question 2 to find the current observational positions of all the planets.

a. Which ones are in or near to conjunction, opposition, or greatest elongation?
b. Which are visible in the morning sky? In the evening sky?
c. Sketch the Solar System with Earth, Sun, and planets as it looks from “above.”

Check your result using NASA’s “Solar System Simulator” (http://space.jpl.nasa.gov): Set it for Solar System as seen from above, and look at the field of view of 2°, 5°, and 30° to see the inner and then the outer planets. Does the simulator agree with your sketch?
3b.
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Which are visible in the morning sky? In the evening sky?
3c.
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Sketch the Solar System with Earth, Sun, and planets as it looks from “above.” Check your result using NASA’s “Solar System Simulator” (http://space.jpl.nasa.gov): Set it for Solar System as seen from above, and look at the field of view of 2°, 5°, and 30° to see the inner and then the outer planets. Does the simulator agree with your sketch?
4.
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Go to the Museo Galileo website (http://brunelleschi.imss.fi.it/telescopiogalileo/index.html), and view the exhibit on Galileo’s telescope. What did his telescope look like? What other instruments did he use? From the museum page you can link to short videos (in English) on his science and his trial (http://catalogue.museogalileo.it). Why is Galileo considered the first modern scientist? Why is his middle finger on display in the museum?
5.
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Go to the online “Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia” (http://exoplanet.eu/catalog-all.php), and find a planet with an orbital period similar to that of Earth. What is the semimajor axis of its orbit? If it is very different from 1 AU, then the mass of the star is different from that of the Sun. Click on the star name in the first column to see the star’s mass. What is the orbital eccentricity? Now select a star with multiple planets. Verify that Kepler’s third law applies by showing that the value of P2/A3 is about the same for each of the planets of this star. How eccentric are the orbits of the multiple planets?

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