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On those dates, day and night are of equal duration. ") In the fall (in the Northern Hemisphere), as the Sun crosses from the Northern into the Southern Hemisphere, we have the autumnal equinox (on September 21). The vernal equinox occurs in northern spring, on or near March 21, as the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving north. Because of its association with the end of winter and the start of a new growing season, the vernal equinox was particularly important to early astronomers and astrologers.

Explain the simple geometric reasoning that allows astronomers to measure the distances and sizes of faraway objects. Nature offers no greater splendor than the starry sky on a clear, dark night. Silent and jeweled with the constellations of ancient myth and legend, the night sky has inspired wonder throughout the ages—a wonder that leads our imaginations far from the confines of Earth and the pace of the present day, and out into the distant reaches of space and cosmic time itself. Astronomy, born in response to that wonder, is built on two of the most basic traits of human nature: the need to explore and the need to understand.

Summarize the role of Renaissance science in the history of astronomy. Explain how the observed motions of the planets led to our modern view of a Sun-centered solar system. Sketch the major contributions of Galileo and Kepler to the development of our understanding of the solar system. State Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Explain how Kepler's laws enable us to construct a scale model of the solar system, and explain the technique used to determine the actual size of the planetary orbits. State Newton's laws of motion and universal gravitation and explain how they account for Kepler's laws.

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Astronomy Today Chaisson McMillan, Prentice-Hall, Inc.

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