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An Astronomical Unit is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun. In 2012,
the International Astronomical Union defined the distance to be 149,597,870,700 meters.
Historical Background: Tycho Brahe estimated the distance between the Sun and the Earth at 8
million kilometers (5 million miles).

Here, I have tried to explain our Planet system in a Simple language, Technically. It is
a collection from various sources. Hope, you like these and can understand the
Planet system around us.

Solar System
AGE 4.568 billion years

Location Local Interstellar Cloud, Local Bubble,

Orion Cygnus Arm, Milky Way

No. of planets 8 Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars,

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

No. of known dwarf planets 5 (IAU) Ceres, Pluto, Haumea,

Makemake, Eris, hundreds of other possibilities

Orbital speed 220 km/s

Orbital period 225250 Myr

The overall structure of the charted regions of the Solar System consists of the Sun, four relatively
small inner-planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) surrounded by a belt of rocky asteroids, and
four gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) surrounded by the Kuiper belt of icy objects.

Most of the planets in the Solar System possess secondary systems of their own, being orbited by
planetary objects called natural satellites, or moons (two of which are larger than the planet
Mercury), or, in the case of the four gas giants, by planetary rings; thin bands of tiny particles
that orbit them in unison. Most of the largest natural satellites are in synchronous rotation, with
one face permanently turned toward their parent.

Kepler's laws of planetary motion describe the orbits of objects about the Sun. Following Kepler's
laws, each object travels along an ellipse with the Sun at one focus. Objects closer to the Sun
(with smaller semi-major axes) travel more quickly because they are more affected by the Sun's
gravity. On an elliptical orbit, a body's distance from the Sun varies over the course of its year. A
body's closest approach to the Sun is called its perihelion, while its most distant point from the
Sun is called its aphelion.

In modern times, Earth's perihelion occurs around January 3, and the aphelion around July 4

First let us get a contemporary picture of the location of our solar system in the Milkiway galaxy.

A Galaxy is a huge group of stars, dust, gas, and other celestial bodies bound
together by gravitational forces. There are spiral, elliptical, and irregularly shaped
galaxies. Galaxies contain anywhere from 100,000 to 3,000,000,000,000 stars.
There are three major types of galaxies: spiral (with arms), elliptical (no arm), and
irregular (without rotational symmetry). Galaxies radiate a continuous spectrum of
energy. Some radiate radio waves, X rays, and infrared, and ultraviolet (UV)
The Earth, Sun and the rest of our solar system are a tiny part of the Milky Way
Galaxy, a spiral galaxy.
The Milky way Galaxy is just one galaxy in a group of galaxies called the Local
Group. Within the Local Group, the Milky Way Galaxy is moving about 300 km/sec
(towards the Constellation Virgo).

The Solar System is located in the Milky Way galaxy, a barred spiral galaxy with a diameter of
about 100,000 light-years containing about 200 billion stars. Milkiway is estimated to be about
50000 light years in its diameter. The Sun resides in one of the Milky Way's outer spiral arms,
known as the OrionCygnus Arm or Local Spur. The Sun lies between 25,000 and 28,000 light
years from the Galactic Centre.

The Milkiway consists of a large number of stars and other matter. The stars visible to our naked
eye are generally within a few hundred light years around us. Some giant stars are located nearly
1000 light years are also visible to naked eye. Thus most of the 10000 stars visible to us are very
near our solar system.
In the illustration below, the center of Milkiway Galaxy is in the direction of Moola nakshatra.
Thus bulk of the Milkiway matter is concentrated, as seen from earth, near stars Jyeshtha, Moola,

The speed of Sun within the galaxy is about 220 kilometres per second (140 mi/s), so that it
completes one revolution every 225250 million years. This revolution is known as the Solar
System's galactic year. The solar apex, the direction of the Sun's path through interstellar space, is
near the constellation Hercules in the direction of the current location of the bright star Vega.
Gravitational Forces on the Planets
The planet with the strongest gravitational attraction at its surface is Jupiter.
Although Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are also very massive planets, their
gravitational forces are about the same as Earth. This is because the gravitational
force a planet exerts upon an object at the planet's surface is proportional to its mass
and to the inverse of the planet's radius squared.
A Day on Each of the Planets
A day is the length of time that it takes a planet to rotate on its axis (360). A day on
Earth takes almost 24 hours.
The planet with the longest day is Venus; a day on Venus takes 243 Earth days. (A day
on Venus is longer than its year; a year on Venus takes only 224.7 Earth days).
The planet with the shortest day is Jupiter; a day on Jupiter only takes 9.8 Earth
hours! When you observe Jupiter from Earth, you can see some of its features change.
The Average Orbital Speed of the Planets
As the planets orbit the Sun, they travel at different speeds. Each planet speeds up
when it is nearer the Sun and travels more slowly when it is far from the Sun (this is
Kepler's Second Law of Planetary Motion).


Mercury (0.4 AU from the Sun) is the closest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet in the Solar
System (0.055 Earth masses). Mercury has no natural satellites


Venus (0.7 AU from the Sun) is close in size to Earth (0.815 Earth masses) and, like Earth, has a
thick silicate mantle around an iron core, a substantial atmosphere, and evidence of internal
geological activity. However, it is much drier than Earth, and its atmosphere is ninety times as
dense. Venus has nonatural satellites. It is the hottest planet, with surface temperatures over

Venus has no magnetic field that would prevent depletion of its substantial atmosphere, which
suggests that its atmosphere is frequently replenished by volcanic eruptions.


Mars (1.5 AU from the Sun) is smaller than Earth and Venus (0.107 Earth masses). It possesses an
atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide Its red colour comes from iron oxide (rust) in its soil. Mars
has two tiny natural satellites (Deimos and Phobos)


Jupiter (5.2 AU), at 318 Earth masses, is 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets put together. It
is composed largely of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter has 67 known satellites.

Saturn (9.5 AU), distinguished by its extensive ring system, has several similarities to Jupiter,
such as its atmospheric composition and magnetosphere. Saturn has 62 confirmed satellites; two
of which, Titan and Enceladus, show signs of geological activity, though they are largely made of
ice. Titan, the second-largest moon in the Solar System, is larger than Mercury and the only
satellite in the Solar System with a substantial atmosphere.


Uranus (19.2 AU), at 14 Earth masses, is the lightest of the outer planets. Uniquely among the
planets, it orbits the Sun on its side; its axial tilt is over ninety degrees to the ecliptic. It has a
much colder core than the other gas giants and radiates very little heat into space. Uranus has 27
known satellites.


Neptune (30 AU), though slightly smaller than Uranus, is more massive (equivalent to 17 Earths)
and therefore more dense. It radiates more internal heat, but not as much as Jupiter or Saturn.
Neptune has 14 known satellites.

Earth orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 150 million kilometers every 365.2564 mean
solar days, or one sidereal year. From Earth, this gives an apparent movement of the Sun
eastward with respect to the stars at a rate of about 1/day, which is one apparent Sun or Moon
diameter every 12 hours. Due to this motion, on average it takes 24 hoursa solar dayfor
Earth to complete a full rotation about its axis so that the Sun returns to the meridian.

Ecliptic (krntivrtta)
(The name "ecliptic" is derived from being the region where eclipses occur)

The path the Sun appears to make amongst the stars is known as the ecliptic. Just like the
Celestial Equator, it would make a large circle on the Celestial Sphere. In fact the ecliptic is a big
circle that is tilted 23.5 relative to the circle made by the Celestial equator. This is shown in
The apparent motion of the Sun amongst the stars is due to the motion of the Earth around the Sun
and our changing viewpoint. The stars that we would see behind the Sun in January would be
different from the stars we would see behind the Sun in February, March, and every other month,
since we are changing the location from which we view the Sun.


you were to map out the path of the Sun relative to the stars, you would see it as a curved line on
the Celestial Sphere. Take a look at Figure 1 to see the path relative to the Celestial Equator. This
image is of a flattened out Celestial Sphere, and the dates mark the locations of the Sun relative to
the stars over the course of the year

Figure - The path of the Sun, the ecliptic, shown relative to the background stars and the Celestial
Equator (dec=0).

Ecliptic and Earth

Earth orbits around the Sun with Earths equator inclined at 7.155 to Suns equator.

Ecliptic and planets

Most planets go in orbits around the sun which are almost in the same plane as the Earth's orbital
plane, differing by a few degrees at most. As such they always appear close to the ecliptic when
seen in the sky. Mercury with an orbital inclination of 7 is an exception. Pluto, at 17, was
previously the exception until it was reclassified a dwarf planet

Interplanetary medium
The vast
Inclination Inclination
Name to ecliptic to Sun's equator
Mercury 7.01 3.38
Terrestrials Venus 3.39 3.86
Mars 1.85 5.65
Jupiter 1.31 6.09
Saturn 2.49 5.51
Gas giants
Uranus 0.77 6.48
Neptune 1.77 6.43

majority of the volume of the Solar System consists of a near-vacuum known as the interplanetary
medium. However, along with light, the Sun radiates a continuous stream of charged particles (a
plasma) known as the solar wind. This stream of particles spreads outwards at roughly 1.5 million
kilometres (932 thousand miles) per hour.

Earth's magnetic field stops its atmosphere from being stripped away by the solar wind. Venus and
Mars do not have magnetic fields, and as a result, the solar wind causes their atmospheres to
gradually bleed away into space.


The celestial sphere is an IMAGINARY ROTATING sphere of gigantic radius, concentric and
coaxial with the Earth. All objects in the sky can be thought of as lying upon the sphere. Projected
from their corresponding geographic equivalents are the celestial equator and the celestial poles.
The celestial sphere projection is a very practical tool for positional astronomy.

The celestial sphere is divided by projecting the equator into space. This divides the
sphere into the north celestial hemisphere and the south celestial hemisphere. The
directions toward various objects in the sky can be quantified by constructing a
celestial coordinate system.
Stars will rise in the east, culminate on the north-south line (meridian) and set in the
west. On the next night a particular star will rise again, but with our normal clocks
running a 24 hour 0 minutes cycle, it will do so 4 minutes earlier.


Earth in its orbit around the Sun causes the Sun to appear on the celestial sphere
moving over the ecliptic (red), which is tilted on the equator (blue).
Sky maps are designed so that when held over your head and aligned with north, the
stars in the sky match the stars on the map. On the sky map the Horizon is the the
circular edge where the stars stop, and Zenith (the point directly overhead) is at the
center of the sky map. The line in the sky from the north point on the horizon, through
zenith, and on to the south point on the horizon is called the Meridian.

Notice that East

and West in the
sky (and hence
on the sky map)
compared to how
they are usually
presented on
Earth maps.
Earth maps are
thought of as
looking down on the globe, and Sky Maps are designed to be used looking up at the
sky. This reversal in direction-of-view results in the reversal of east and west. Notice
that if you are looking at the sky facing south, east will be on your left exactly as it is
displayed on the Sky Map.
As the Earth rotates from west to east around its axis once every 23 hours 56 minutes,
the Celestial Sphere and all objects on it appear to rotate from East to West around the
celestial poles in the same time. This is the DIURNAL MOTION.
The path that a star takes over a day is a diurnal circle. Diurnal circles are parallel to
the celestial equator, and (except for the celestial equator) are small circles.

Notice that
the diurnal
circles near
the celestial
pole never
hit the
horizon. The
stars near
the pole
just circle
the pole
once per day. Stars near the pole that don't set are called Circumpolar stars.
The Celestial Co-Ordinate System

The equatorial coordinate system is centered at Earth's center, but fixed relative to distant stars
and galaxies. The co-ordinates are based on the location of stars relative to Earth's equator if it
were projected out to an infinite distance. The equatorial describes the sky as seen from the solar

The ecliptic system describes the planets' orbital movement around the sun, and
centers on the barycenter of the solar system (i.e. very close to the sun). The
fundamental plane is the plane of the Earth's orbit, called the Ecliptic Plane. The
system is primarily used for computing the positions of planets and other solar system
bodies, as well as defining their orbital elements.
Celestial Equator
Earth's equator projected out into the celestial sphere is called the Celestial Equator.
The Celestial Equator, tilted at 23.5 to the Ecliptic, currently intersects the Ecliptic
at 5 sidereal Pisces, which is called the vernal point (VP) (March) and 5 sidereal
Virgo (@2000 A.D.), which is called the Anit-VP (September).
North Celestial
Pole (NCP) &
South Celestial
Pole (SCP)

The whole
sphere seems
to rotate about
an axis
through its
center. We see
this axis as
two centers of rotation (and hence fixed points) in the sky: the north celestial pole
(NCP) and the south celestial pole (SCP). (The south celestial pole is diametrically
opposite the NCP, and hence visible only in the southern hemisphere of the Earth.) Of
course really the sky is not rotating; rather the Earth is rotating. The apparent
rotation centers in the sky are just the projection of the Earth's rotation axis into the
Exactly between these two centers of rotation we sketch the imaginary line of the
celestial sphere's equator. The celestial equator is just the projection of the Earth's
equator into the sky.
Earth's North and South Celestial Poles, which are Earth's poles projected into the
heavens, are labelled NCP and SCP. They move very slowly through the heavens as
well due to Earth's precession. Earth's NCP currently lies in Ursa Minor, near the
star Polaris, and enters the ecliptic at 5 sidereal Gemini (2000 AD). Earth's SCP lies
in Octans and enters the ecliptic at 5 sidereal Sag (2000 AD)
In the northern hemisphere, the NCP is relatively easy to find in the sky, as it is near
(within 1) a relatively bright (magnitude=2) star: Polaris. Polaris is at the far end of
the handle of the "Little Dipper" in the constellation Ursa Minor. To make things even
easier, the "Big Dipper" (part of the constellation Ursa Major) can be used to find the
"Little Dipper". The two stars that form the lip of the bowl of the "Big Dipper" --
known as the "Pointers" -- point the way to Polaris: If you follow the line (green in
the below figures) made by connecting the two Pointer stars, you will run into the
"Little Dipper" and its brightest star Polaris. (Polaris is about 30, or two hand-
spans, away from the top pointer star.) Since the stars have constant relative
positions, this method works any time you can see the Pointers. Of course, once
you've found the NCP, you've also found the direction true north. Here are a couple of

While each
day the Sun
(and the
sphere) circles
our sky
moving from
east to west,
the Sun is also
relative to the stars. The Sun's motion through the constellations is much slower and
in a direction opposite to the rotation of the celestial sphere: The Sun moves about 1
east per day on the celestial sphere. Over a year the Sun completes a great circle on
the celestial sphere. The path of the Sun on the celestial sphere is called theecliptic.
The ecliptic is inclined about 23.5 compared to the celestial equator.
The moments, two each year, when the Sun moves between hemispheres are
calledequinoxes; one happens around March 21, the other around September 21. The
spring equinox (when the Sun moves from the southern hemisphere to the northern
hemisphere) is called the vernal equinox

This is what
the ecliptic
looks like on
the sky map.
Note that
equator is
labeled, from
the vernal
equinox going
east, 1h, 2h,
3h... this is the
Ascension (described below). The eastward ecliptic is labeled 15, 30, 45 ... this is
"celestial longitude" often denoted by the Greek letter lambda: . The Sun slowly
moves east on the ecliptic, increasing its celestial longitude by about 1 per day.
Notice that the Sun's motion on celestial sphere in the opposite direction that the
celestial sphere rotates. Thus on the sky map, if we stopped the sphere's rotation while
the Sun was on the surface facing you, the Sun would be slowly creeping to your left:
eastward. Since the creep of the Sun along the ecliptic (one rotation per year) is so
much slower than the daily rotation of the whole celestial sphere (one rotation per
day), the Sun is seen to move from east to west in our sky.



To denote the positions of objects in the sky, astronomers use a system based on the
celestial sphere -- two measurements RIGHT ASCENSION and DECLINATION.
Right ascension (abbreviated RA) is similar to longitude and is measured in hours,
minutes and seconds eastward along the celestial equatorwith VERANL
EQUINOX as the ORIGIN. The distance around the celestial equator is equal to 24
hours.The right ascension of the vernal equinox is 0h 0m 0s.
1 hr=15 ; 1 min=15 ; 1 sec=15
Declination is similar to latitude and is measured in degrees, arcminutes and
arcseconds, north or south of the celestial equator. Positive values for declination
correspond to positions north of the equator, while negative values refer to positions
south of the equator. The declination of the north celestial pole is 90 0' 0" and the
south celestial pole's declination is -90 0' 0". Declination at the equator is 0 0' 0".
Right ascension and declination are like longitude and latitude on the surface of the
Earth except that they are measured with respect to the celestial spherewith the vernal
equinox as the origin.

advantage of the equatorial coordinate system is that it expresses the position of a star
or galaxy in a way that is independent of the observer's position on Earth. However,
the right ascension and declination of a given object change slowly over time, mainly
due to a phenomenon called PRECESSION. This happens because both the ecliptic
and the equator are slowly moving, as a result of tidal forces from the Sun, Moon and
planets. The main effect is from the Moon and (to a lesser extent) the Sun, which
makes the celestial pole orbit around the ecliptic pole once every 26,000 years. So
along with the RA and Dec of an object, you will usually see the date, expressed in
years, when those coordinates were approximately valid. This date, or "epoch",
defines the precessing equator and equinox used to construct the star catalog.
Common examples are B1950.0 and J2000.0, where the B and J stand for slightly
different sorts of year.

The Ecliptic Co-ordinate System is a celestial co-ordinate system commonly used for
representing the positions and orbits of Solar System objects. Because most planets
(except Mercury), and many small solar system bodies have orbits with small
inclinations to the ecliptic, it is convenient to use it as the fundamental plane. Its
primary direction is towards the vernal equinox, and it has a right-handed convention.
Ecliptic longitude or celestial
longitude (symbol:
geocentric ) measures the
angular distance of an object
along the ecliptic from the
primary direction. Like right
ascension in the equatorial
coordinate system, the
primary direction (0 ecliptic longitude) points from the Earth towards the Sun at the
vernal equinox of the Northern Hemisphere. Because it is a right-handed system,
ecliptic longitude is measured positive eastwards in the fundamental plane (the
ecliptic) from 0 to 360.
Ecliptic latitude or celestial
latitude (symbol:geocentric ),
measures the angular distance
of an object from the ecliptic
towards the north (positive) or
south (negative) ecliptic pole.
For example, the north
ecliptic pole has a celestial
latitude of +90.

coordinates as
seen from
outside the
longitude (red)
is measured
along the
ecliptic from
the vernal
equinox. Ecliptic
latitude (yellow) is measured perpendicular to the ecliptic.

les are two points

in the heavens that
lie exactly
perpendicular to
the ecliptic
Poles are two points
in the heavens that lie
exactly perpendicular
to the ecliptic plane. They are the "North Ecliptic Pole" (NEP) and
"South Ecliptic Pole" (SEP). Because the Star Chart is a rectangular map of the
celestial sphere, these points are stretched out to create the entire top and entire
bottom of the chart.

Planets move west to east in the heavens--right to left in the Star Chart. Most planets
lie close to the plane of the ecliptic, but many of the asteroids lie north and south of
the ecliptic because their orbits around the sun are tilted with respect to Earth's orbital
plane (the ecliptic).
The Galactic Equator

The Galactic Equator, a great circle in our celestial sphere shown as the violet line in the map
below, is defined by the spinning disc of our galaxy. The Galactic Equator is tilted at a 60 angle
to the ecliptic and intersects the ecliptic at 5 sidereal Sagittarius, the galactic equatorial node
(GEN), also called the "Gate of God," and 5 sidereal Gemini, the anti-GEN, called the "Gate of
Man." The constellations which lie along this great circle are the "Galactic Constellations."

The Center of our Galaxy lies along the galactic equator just south of the Gate of God.
Galactic Center (GC) enters the ecliptic at about 2 sidereal Sag.
The North and South Galactic poles, which are perpendicular to the galactic plane
(galactic equator) are labeled NGP and SGP. The NGP lies in the constellation Coma
Berenices, which lies 30 north of the ecliptic, above the head of the Virgin. The NGP
enters the ecliptic at 5 sidereal Virgo. The SGP lies in the constellation Sculptor, 30
south of the ecliptic, and enters the ecliptic at 5 sidereal Pisces.


1) Drawin
g shows
centre -

WRONG Actually the galactic center is nearly 6 south of the ecliptic.

2) Similarly, the drawing shows the celestial equator and the NCP being centred on the
GC -- WRONG -- The celestial equator is centered on the Earth, not the galactic
center. The north celestial pole lies about 27 away from the galactic equator.
Effects of precession

The Earth's axis rotates slowly westward about the poles of the ecliptic, completing
one circuit in about 26,000 years.This effect, known as PRECESSION, causes the
coordinates of stationary celestial objects to change continuously, ifrather slowly.
The Celestial Equator and the vernal points move westward (to the right) through the
ecliptic at a rate of about 1 per 72 years with respect to the Galactic Equator, to the
sidereal signs, and to the stars--all which remain fixed in the heavens--due to Earth's
25,000-year precessional cycle. Precessional movement is east to west in the heavens,
the opposite direction of planetary movement.

Therefore, equatorial coordinates (including right ascension) are inherently relative to

the year of their observation, and astronomers specify them with reference to a
particular year, known as an epoch. Coordinates fromdifferent epochs must be
mathematically rotated to match each other, or to match a standard epoch.

The currently used standard epoch is J2000.0, which is January 1, 2000 at 12:00 TT.
The prefix "J" indicates that it isa Julian epoch. Prior to J2000.0, astronomers used the
successive Besselian Epochs B1875.0, B1900.0, andB1950.0.

Nakshatras ......Definition:
Naksha- means to approach and Tra means to guard.
The Sanskrit word Nakshatra is the term for lunar mansion in Hindu Astrology
and means that which does not decay. A Nakshatra is one of 27 (sometimes
also 28) sectors, identified by the prominent star(s) in them, that
the Moon passes through during its monthly cycle, along the ecliptic.The 27
Nakshatras represent consciousness and each Nakshatra represents a particular
quality of consciousness.
Each of the nakshatras is governed as 'lord' by one of the nine Graha in the
following sequence: Ketu (South Lunar Node), Shukra (Venus), Ravi or
Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Rahu (North Lunar Node), Guru
or Brihaspati(Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) and Budha (Mercury). This cycle repeats
itself three times to cover all 27 nakshatras.
Bharateeya Jyotishya shaastra states that each Nakshatra name corresponds to a
group of stars called star mansions or Asterisms.
The concept is that moon visits these mansions in his trajectory around earth.
Each nakshatra represents a division of the ecliptic (of 13 degree 20 minutes)
similar to the zodiac signs. The mansion associated with a given date
corresponds to the constellation which the Moon is passing through at that time.
Each nakshatra is further subdivided into quarters PADAS, each of 3 degree
and 20 minutes. NOTE: 4 * 3 20 = 13 20.

The starting point for the nakshatras is the point on the ecliptic directly opposite to the
star Spica called Chitr in Sanskrit. It is called Meshdi or the "start of Aries", this is when the
equinox where the ecliptic meets the equator was in Aries (today it is in Pisces, 28 degrees
before Aries starts. Hence, all our Rashis as per Western Stars shall be one before, Ex: Taurus
Rashi shall be shifted to Aries only as per Western Stars, Lunar stars remain same ). The
difference between Mehdi and the present equinox is known as Ayana denoting by how much
of a fraction of degrees & minutes the ecliptic has progressed from its fixed (sidereal) position.
Given the 25,800 year cycle for the precession of the equinoxes, the equinox was directly
opposite Spica in 285 CE.
The ecliptic is divided into each of the nakshatras eastwards starting from this point.

The number of nakshatras reflects the number of days in a sidereal month (modern value:
27.32 days), that the width of a nakshatra is traversed by the moon in about one day.
However, as per the present association of stars with these Nakhatras, several of them are as
far as 25 away from the ecliptic where as Moon travels only about 5 on either side of the ecliptic.
The Nakshatras were designed to keep track of the moons path in the night sky.
They were also probably used for time keeping over days.

LUNAR MONTH...........During the traversal of Moon around the Earth, the Moon is close to
some of the fixed stars. Twenty-seven groups of stars that fall on the path of the Moon are
identified. In 27.3 days, that is, Moons one sidereal revolution, Moon travels through 27 stars that
were said to form the 27 Nakshatras...........Hence, on an average Moon travels one Nakshatra
every day. The star, which is
Closest to the Moon on its path, is called Moons Nakshatra.

Note that the Sidereal period of the Moon (from Full/New moon to the next full/new moon is 29
days and the Lunar month is defined by this period. Hence in one Sidereal (normal) month, the
moon will travel 27 Nakshatras and repeat two more.


No. Name Location (Sidereal Longitude) Ruler

1 Avin () 0 1320' Aries Ketu
2 Bhara () 1320' 2640' Aries (1320' 2640') Venus
3 Kttik ( ) 2640' Aries 1000' Taurus (2640' 4000' ) Sun
4 Rohi () 1000' 2320' Taurus (4000' 5320') Moon
5 Mgairas () 2320' Taurus 640' Gemini (5320' 6640') Mars
6 rdr () 640' 2000' Gemini (6640' 80 00') Rahu
7 Punarvasu () 2000' Gemini 320' Cancer (80 9320') Jupiter
8 Puya () 320' 1640' Cancer (9320' 10640') Saturn
9 le () 1640' Cancer 000' Leo (10640' 120) Mercury
10 Magh () 000' 1320' Leo (120 13320') Ketu
11 Prva Phalgun () 1320' 2640' Leo (13320' 14640') Venus
12 Uttara Phalgun () 2640' Leo 1000' Virgo (14640' 160) Sun
13 Hasta () 1000' 2320' Virgo (160 17320') Moon
14 Citr () 2320' Virgo 640' Libra (17320' 18640') Mars
15 Svt () 640' 2000 Libra (18640' 200) Rahu
16 Vikh () 2000' Libra 320' Scorpio (200 21320') Jupiter
17 Anurdh () 320' 1640' Scorpio (21320' 22640') Saturn
18 Jyeha () 1640' Scorpio 000' Sagittarius (22640' 240) Mercury
19 Mla () 000' 1320' Sagittarius (240 25320') Ketu
20 Prva ha () 1320' 2640' Sagittarius (25320' 26640') Venus
21 Uttara ha () 2640' Sagittarius 1000' Capricorn (26640' 280 ) Sun
22 ravaa () 1000' 2320' Capricorn (280 29320') Moon
23 Dhaniha () 2320' Capricorn 640' Aquarius (29320' 30640' ) Mars
24 atabhiaj () 640' 2000' Aquarius (30640' 320) Rahu
25 Prva Bhdrapad () 2000' Aquarius 320' Pisces (320 33320')Jupiter
26 Uttara Bhdrapad () 320' 1640' Pisces (33320' 34640') Saturn
27 Revat () 1640' 3000' Pisces (34640' 360) Mercury
This illustration shows the sequence of the 27 equal segments of the Nakshatras, each consisting
of 13 degrees 20 minutes, with their Sanskrit names and numbers. As seen from the earth, the
moon passes through this circle of the 27 Nakshatras in about 27 days. Thus it takes the moon
about one day to pass through one Nakshatra. The moon is shown here moving through Pushya
Nakshatra in Karka Rashi. This example also shows the sun moving through Ashvini Nakshatra in
Mesha Rashi. Each of the other planets are also moving through the 27 Nakshatras.
Ecliptic and stars

The ecliptic serves as the center of a region called the zodiac which constitutes a band of 9 on
either side. Traditionally, this region is divided into 12 signs of 30 longitude each. By tradition,
these signs are named after 12 of the 13 constellationsstraddling the ecliptic.

The ecliptic is divided into 27 Nakhatras, which are variously called lunar houses or asterisms.
These reflect the moon's cycle against the fixed stars, 27 days and 73 hours, the fractional part
being compensated by an intercalary 28th nakhatra titledAbhijit. Nakatra's computation appears
to have been well known at the time of the igveda (2nd1st millennium BCE).

The ecliptic is divided into the nakhhatras eastwards starting from a reference point which is
traditionally a point on the ecliptic directly opposite the star Spica called Citr in Sanskrit. (Other
slightly different definitions exist.) It is called Medi - "start of Aries"; this is when the
equinox where the ecliptic meets the equator was in Aries (today it is in Pisces, 28 degrees
before Aries starts). The difference between Medi and the present equinox is known
as Ayana - denoting by how much of a fraction of degrees & minutes the ecliptic has
progressed from its fixed (sidereal) position. Given the 25,800 year cycle for the precession of the
equinoxes, the equinox was directly opposite Spica in 285 CE, around the date of the Srya

The position of the vernal equinox is not fixed among the stars but due to the lunisolar precession
slowly shifting westwards over the ecliptic with a speed of 1 per 72 years. Said otherwise the
stars shift eastwards (increase their longitude) measured with respect to the equinoxes.

Using the current official constellation boundariesand taking into account the variable
precession speed and the rotation of the eclipticthe equinoxes shift through the constellations in
the Astronomical Julian calendar years (in which the year 0 = 1 B.C.E., -1 = 2 B.C.E., etc.) as

The March equinox passed from Taurus into Aries in year -1865, passed into Pisces in year -1967,
will pass into Aquarius in year 2597, will pass into Capricorn in year 4312.
The June solstice passed from Leo into Cancer in year -1458, passed into Taurus in December year
1989, will pass into Aries in year 4609.
The September equinox passed from Libra into Virgo in year -1729, will pass into Leo in year
The December solstice passed from Capricorn into Sagittarius in year -1130, will pass into
Ophiuchus in year 2269, and will pass into Scorpius in year 3597.
Figure 13 shows Sun location on March 21, 2400 BC . The Sun is on equator and is pointing to
Krittika nakshatra.

Figure 16
shows the
of Sun on
day of
Compare this to Figure 14 which shows Sun 4400 years later, on March 21,2000 at same equator
but Sun is onPoorva Bhadrapada. Thus Sun has Precessed by about 57 degrees in 4400 years

each sign
of the
zodiac is

composed of 30 degrees, each astrological age might be thought to last about 72 (years) 30
(degrees) = about 2160 years. This means the Sun crosses the equator at the vernal equinox
moving backwards against the fixed stars from one year to the next at the rate of one degree in
seventy-two years, one constellation (on average) in about 2160 years, and the whole twelve signs
in about 25,920 years, sometimes called a Platonic Year. However the length of the ages are
decreasing with time as the rate of precession is increasing. Therefore no two ages are of equal


Characteristics ::

Diameter 3,474.8 km
Mass 7.3491022 kg
Semi-major axis 384,400 km
Orbital period 27 d 7 h 43.7 m
Mean inclination of orbit to ecliptic 5.14 (4.99 5.30)
Mean obliquity 6.58
Mean inclination of lunar equator to ecliptic 1.543

IMPORTANT NOTE :: The EarthMoon plane is tilted up to 5.14 degrees against

the EarthSun plane. Without this tilt, there would be an eclipse every two weeks,
alternating between lunar eclipses and solar eclipses.

The Earth and Moon orbit about their barycentre (common centre of mass), which lies
about 4600 km from Earth's centre (about three quarters of the Earth's radius). The
Moon differs from most satellites of other planets in that its orbit is close to the plane
of the ecliptic, and not to the Earth's equatorial plane. The lunar orbit plane is inclined
to the ecliptic by about 5.1, whereas the Moon's spin axis is inclined by only 1.5. On
average, the Moon is at a distance of about 385000 km from the centre of the Earth,
which corresponds to about 60 Earth radii. With a mean orbital velocity of 1,023 m/s,
the Moon moves relative to the stars each hour by an amount roughly equal to its
angular diameter, or by about 0.5. The Moon differs from most satellites of other
planets in that its orbit is close to the plane of the ecliptic, and not to the Earth's
equatorial plane. The lunar orbit plane is inclined to the ecliptic by about 5.1,
whereas the Moon's spin axis is inclined by only 1.5. The orbit of the Moon is
distinctly elliptical.
The Earth's Moon is the fifth largest in the whole solar system, and is bigger than the
planet Pluto. The Moon has a nearly circular orbit (e=0.05) which is tilted about 5 to
the plane of the Earth's orbit. Its average distance from the Earth is 384,400 km. The
combination of the Moon's size and its distance from the Earth causes the Moon to
appear the same size in the sky as the Sun, which is one reason we can have total solar

Inclination ::
The mean inclination of the lunar orbit to the ecliptic plane is 5.145. The rotation
axis of the Moon is also not perpendicular to its orbital plane, so the lunar equator is
not in the plane of its orbit, but is inclined to it by a constant value of 6.688 (this is
the obliquity). One might be tempted to think that as a result of the precession of the
Moon's orbital plane, the angle between the lunar equator and the ecliptic would vary
between the sum (11.833) and difference (1.543) of these two angles. However, as
was discovered by Jacques Cassini in 1721, the rotation axis of the Moon precesses
with the same rate as its orbital plane, but is 180 out of phase (see Cassini's Laws).
Thus, although the rotation axis of the Moon is not fixed with respect to the stars, the
angle between the ecliptic and the lunar equator is always 1.543.

Ecliptic and Moon

The orbit of the Moon is inclined by about 5 on the ecliptic. Its nodal line is not fixed
either, but regresses (moves towards the west) over a full circle every 18.6 years. This
is the cause of nutation and lunar standstill. The moon crosses the ecliptic about twice
per month. If this happens during new moon a solar eclipse occurs, during full moon
a lunar eclipse. This was the way the ancients could trace the ecliptic along the sky;
they marked the places where eclipses could occur.
The Moon's orbital period is 27.322 days. Because of this motion, the Moon appears
to move about 13 against the stars each day, or about half of a degree per hour. If you
watch the Moon over the course of several hours one night, you will notice that its
position among the stars will change by a few degrees. The changing position of the
Moon with respect to the Sun leads to lunar phases.
Have you ever heard the term the 'far-side' of the Moon? Because of the effect on the
Moon of tidal forces due to the Earth, the same side of the moon always faces the
Earth. The rotation period and the orbital period of the Moon are the same. Therefore,
Earth-bound observers can never see the 'far-side' of the Moon. Tidal forces cause
many of the moons of our solar system to have this type of orbit.

Revolution in Orbit
The Moon appears to move completely around the celestial sphere once in about 27.3
days as observed from the Earth. This is called a sidereal month, and reflects the
corresponding orbital period of 27.3 days The moon takes 29.5 days to return to the
same point on the celestial sphere as referenced to the Sun because of the motion of
the Earth around the Sun; this is called a synodic month (Lunar phases as observed
from the Earth are correlated with the synodic month).. Since the Moon must move
Eastward among the constellations enough to go completely around the sky (360
degrees) in 27.3 days, it must move Eastward by 13.2 degrees each day (in contrast,
remember that the Sun only appears to move Eastward by about 1 degree per day).
Thus, with respect to the background constellations the Moon will be about 13.2
degrees further East each day. Since the celestial sphere appears to turn 1 degree
about every 4 minutes, the Moon crosses our celestial meridian about 13.2 x 4 = 52.8
minutes later each day.
The Moon has a rotational period of 27.3 days that (except for small fluctuations)
exactly coincides with its (sidereal) period for revolution about the Earth. As we will
see later, this is no coincidence; it is a consequence of tidal coupling between the
Earth and Moon. Because of this tidal locking of the periods for revolution and
rotation, the Moon always keeps essentially the same face turned toward the Earth.
The Quarter Moons occur when the Sun and the Moon are 90 degrees apart in the sky
as viewed from the Earth. The New and Full phases occur during times when the
Earth, Moon and Sun are in a straight line.
How long does it take the Moon to orbit once around the Earth? It takes about 27.3
days. Why not 29.5 days (the time for the phase cycle)?
Again, it has to do with the fact that the Earth is moving around the Sun. Take a look
at Figure 1. It shows the variation from one Full moon to the next. Remember, the
Moon has to be in a straight line with the Earth and Sun for it to be Full. It starts out
lined up with the Sun, but after 27.3 days, the Moon will have made one complete
orbit of the Earth (again be located to the left of the Earth). At this time is it Full? No,
because it is not in a perfect line with the Sun. You have to wait about 2 more days for
it to again be aligned with the Sun and for it to be Full again.

Figure 1. The
Moon makes one
complete orbit of
the Earth in 27.3
days, but it will not
be again Full until
a total of 29.5 days has passed.

One orbit of the Moon takes 27.3 Days. This would be the Moon's Sidereal
Period since it is the time for the Moon to be back in the same location relative to the
stars, and this is also the time for one orbit. How long does it take for one rotation
(spin) on its axis? Does the Moon actually spin on its axis? If you said "no," then
you're wrong. The Moon does spin on its axis, but it does it in 27.3 days. That's the
same amount of time for one orbit - what does that mean? It means that one side of
the Moon always faces the Earth - that the Moon has one side tidally locked with the

Cycle lengths ::
However, regardless of the culture, all lunar months approximate the mean length of
the synodic month, or how long it takes on average to pass through each phase (new,
half, full moon) and back again. It takes 29.53059 days (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes
and 3 seconds). The moon completes its orbit around the earth in 27.3 days (the
sidereal month), but due to the Earth's motion around the sun it has not finished a full
(synodic) cycle until it reaches the point in its orbit where the sun is in the same
A synodic month is the most familiar lunar cycle, defined as the time interval between
two consecutive occurrences of a particular phase (such as new moon or full moon) as
seen by an observer on Earth. The mean length of the synodic month is 29.53059 days
(29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 2.8 seconds). Due to the eccentric
orbit of the lunar orbit around Earth (and to a lesser degree, the Earths elliptical orbit
around the Sun), the length of a synodic month can vary by up to seven hours.
2. The draconic month or nodal month is the period in which the Moon returns to the
same node of its orbit; the nodes are the two points where the Moon's orbit crosses the
plane of the Earth's orbit. Its duration is about 27.21222 days on average.
3. The tropical month is the average time for the Moon to pass twice through the same
equinox point of the sky. It is 27.32158 days, very slightly shorter than the sidereal
month (27.32166) days, because of precession of the equinoxes. Unlike the sidereal
month, it can be measured precisely.
4. The sidereal month is defined as the Moon's orbital period in a non-rotating frame
of reference (which on average is equal to its rotation period in the same frame). It is
about 27.32166 days (27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes,11.6 seconds). The exact duration
of the orbital period cannot be easily determined, because the 'non-rotating frame of
reference' cannot be observed directly. However, it is approximately equal to the time
it takes the Moon to pass twice a "fixed" star (different stars give different results
because all have proper motions and are not really fixed in position).

A synodic month is longer than a sidereal month because the Earth-Moon system is
orbiting the Sun in the same direction as the Moon is orbiting the Earth. Therefore,
the Sun appears to move with respect to the stars, and it takes about 2.2 days longer
for the Moon to return to the same apparent position with respect to the Sun.
A draconic month is shorter than a sidereal month because the nodes move in the
opposite direction as the Moon is orbiting the Earth, one revolution in 18 years.
Therefore, the Moon returns to the same node slightly earlier than it returns to the
same star.
5 Anomalistic month ::
Like all orbits, the Moon's orbit is an ellipse rather than a circle. However, the
orientation (as well as the shape) of this orbit is not fixed. In particular, the position of
the extreme points (the line of the apsides: perigee and apogee), makes a full circle
(lunar precession) in about nine years. It takes the Moon longer to return to the same
apsis because it moved ahead during one revolution. This longer period is called the
anomalistic month, and has an average length of 27.554551 days (27 d 13 h 18 min
33.2 s). The apparent diameter of the Moon varies with this period, and therefore this
type has some relevance for the prediction of eclipses (see Saros), whose extent,
duration, and appearance (whether total or annular) depend on the exact apparent
diameter of the Moon. The apparent diameter of the full moon varies with the full
moon cycle which is the beat period of the synodic and anomalistic month, and also
the period after which the apsides point to the Sun again.

Tithi ::
The lunar day, called a tithi,-- (Tithi (Lunar Phase)-- stated a tithi is a measurement
of 12 degrees of longitudinal separation between the sun and the moon.

At new moon (amavasya) the sun and the moon are separated by zero degrees. We
can say they overlap. As they begin to separate the first tithi begins when the sun and
the moon have separated by 12 degrees. The second tithi begins when they are
separated by 24 degrees. The third tithi begins when they have separated by 36
degrees. The digit of the moon is new clearly visible. And so it goes until the sun and
moon have separated by 180 degrees. This tithi is called full moon, purnima. These
first 15 tithis or phases of the moon make up the waxing phases of the moon which in
Sanskrit this is called the sukla-paksa. This is the bright side of the lunar month.
After purnima, full moon, the tithi begins again counting from one as the longitudanal
separation between the sun and the moon decreases back to zero. This is called the
waning phase of the moon or in Sanskrit, the krsna-paksa or dark side of the lunar
month. At certain times of the month when the sun and moon can both be seen in the
sky at the same time you can estimate the tithi by using the hand method to measure
the longitudinal separation between the sun and the moon.
Solar day begins at midnight whereas the lunar tithi can begin at anytime of the solar
day. tithi can last between 19 to 26 hours due to the changing speed of the earth and
moon in their obits. On average a tithi lasts for only 0.95 of a solar day.

Yoga (The Luni-solar Day) ::

The yoga (luni-solar day) is the period during which the combined longitudinal
motion of the sun and moon amounts to 13 degrees and 20 minutes. Like the naksatras
there are 27 yogas.
Recall that a tithi was 12 degrees of longitudinal separation between the sun and
moon, the yoga is the combined longitudinal motion of the sun and the moon.
Masa (Month) ::
The Hindu year contains twelve lunar months named after the nakshatra in which the
moon is full.
The names of the Indian months originated from the names of the nakshatras where
purnima (the full moon) always takes place. Of the twenty-seven nakshatras only
twelve of them have full moons.
Caitra (March - April) (citra-naksatra)
Vaisakha (April - May) (visakha-naksatra) etc.
The Year ::
Another aspect of the lunar calendar is that its twelve months based on the lunar days
(tithis) contain about 354 days. So just as every 4th year on the solar calendar must
add an extra day to make up for the discrepancy in the earth's orbit around the sun,
so every 30 months the lunar calendar must add an extra month. This leap-month
(adika-masa) is generally inserted after the months of Asadha or Sravana and is
called either a second Asadha or Sravana. Thus every second or third year contains
13 months. The Hindu calendar is therefore luni-solar, with a precise month and an
approximate year.

Path of Earth and Moon around Sun ::

When viewed from the north celestial pole i.e., from the star Polaris, the Moon orbits
the Earth counter-clockwise, the Earth orbits the Sun counter-clockwise, and the
Moon and Earth rotate on their own axes counter-clockwise.
The orbital velocity of the Moon about the Earth (1 km/s) is small compared to the
orbital velocity of the Earth about the Sun (30 km/s).
Precession ::
There are two important precessional motions in the Orbit of the Moon.

The long axis (line of the apsides: perigee and apogee) of the moon's elliptical orbit
precesses about once in just under 9 years. It is caused by the solar tide. This
precession period is equal to the time that number of sidereal months counted exceeds
the number of anomalistic months counted by exactly one. This happens after about
3233 days.
This precession causes the full moon cycle to be over a month longer than a sidereal
There are approximately two such lunar precession cycles in a saros cycle.

This is to be distinguished from precession of the lunar nodes of the lunar orbit on the
plane of the ecliptic. This is mainly caused by the oblation of the Earth; it is the period
of the main nutation term in the orientation of the polar axis of the Earth. This nodal
period is about twice as long as the apsidal precession period discussed above. After
the nodal period, the number of draconic months counted exceed the number of
sidereal months counted by exactly one: this happens after about 6793 days (18.6
Saros Cycle ::
The Saros cycle is an eclipse cycle with a period of about 18 years 11 days 8 hours
(approximately 6585 days) that can be used to predict eclipses of the Sun and Moon.
One Saros after an eclipse, the Sun, Earth, and Moon return to approximately the
same relative geometry, and a nearly identical eclipse will occur.
The Saros cycle of 18 years 11 days 8 hours is very useful for predicting the times at
which nearly identical eclipses will occur, and is intimately related to three
periodicities of the lunar orbit: the synodic month, the draconic month, and the
anomalistic month. For an eclipse to occur, either the Moon must be located between
the Earth and Sun (as for a solar eclipse) or the Earth must be located between the Sun
and Moon (as for a lunar eclipse). This can happen only when the Moon is new or
full, and repeat occurrences of these lunar phases are controlled by the Moon's
synodic period, which is about 29.53 days. Most of the times during a full and new
moon, however, the shadow of the Earth or Moon falls to the north or south of the
other body. Thus, if an eclipse is to occur, the three bodies must also be nearly in a
straight line. This condition occurs only when the Moon passes close to the ecliptic
plane and is at one of its two nodes (the ascending or descending node). The period of
time for two successive passes of the ecliptic plane at the same node is given by the
draconic month, which is 27.21 days. Finally, if two eclipses are to have the same
appearance and duration, then the distance between the Earth and Moon must be the
same for both events. The time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth once and return to
the same distance is given by the anomalistic month, which has a period of 27.55


Orbital period 365.256363004 days -- 1.000017421 year
Average orbital speed 29.78 km/s -- 107,200 km/h
Orbit Inclination 7.155 to Sun's equator, 1.57869 to
invariable plane
Aphelion 152,098,232 km (94,509,460 mi),
1.01671388 AU
Perihelion 147,098,290 km (91,402,640 mi),
0.98329134 AU
Equatorial rotation velocity 1,674.4 km/h (465.1 m/s)
Axial tilt 2326'21".4119

Earth's rotation is the rotation of the solid Earth around its own axis. The
Earth rotates from the west towards the east. As viewed from the North
Star or pole star Polaris, the Earth turns counter-clockwise. Earth
gravitationally interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and
the Moon.
The Earth rotates once in about 24 hours with respect to the sun and once
every 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds with respect to the stars. Hence,
during one orbit around the Sun, the Earth rotates about its own axis
366.26 times for one sidereal year, creating 365.26 solar days.
Sidereal and Solar day
Length of a Day - Solar versus Sidereal
How long does it take the Earth to spin around exactly once?
If we time the motion of the Sun, we see that it takes almost exactly 24
hours for the Sun to get back to where it started from one day to the
next. How long does it take a star to get back to the same place in the sky
from one day to the next? Does it take 24 hours for one complete rotation?
No it doesn't. It takes 23 hours and 56 minutes. If a star rises tonight at 8
P.M., it will rise at 7:56 the next night, then 7:52 the night after, and then
7:48 the next night. A week after the first rise time, it will rise 4 x 7 = 28
minutes earlier (7:32). In one week, a star will be rising about half an hour
earlier - that's a pretty big difference, so don't ignore those four minutes.
Remember, it is the spinning of the Earth that causes the observed motions
of the Sun and the stars over the course of the day (or night) - but there
are two different time spans here - which one corresponds to the rotation
period of the Earth?
It is the stars, not the Sun that determine the amount of time for one
rotation of the Earth. While all clocks on the Earth are based on the 24
hour time scale of the Solar Day, it is the more subtle Sidereal Day (or
"star" day) that tells us how fast the Earth is spinning. It takes the Earth 23
hours and 56 minutes to complete one rotation.
A nakshatra dina or a sidereal day is the time taken by any nakshatra
(fixed star) to perform one complete revolution around the Earth (relative
to an observer on Earth). The Latin word "sidereal" means "pertaining to
the (fixed) stars" The duration of a sidereal day is thus the period of one
complete rotation of Earth around its axis.
The sidereal day differs slightly from the commonly used civil day
comprising 24 hours. The latter is called svana dina or solar day. The
length of a solar day is the time taken by the Sun to go around the Earth
once; for instance, the duration between two successive sunrises.
The sidereal day is shorter than the solar day, as can be seen from
following figure. At time1, the Sun and a certain distant star are both
overhead. At time2, the planet has rotated 360 and the distant star is
overhead again but the Sun is not (12 = one sidereal day). It is not until a
little later, at time 3, that the Sun is overhead again (13 = one solar

Axial tilt and
Due to the
axial tilt of
the Earth, the amount of sunlight reaching any given point on the surface
varies over the course of the year. This causes seasonal change in climate,
with summer in the northern hemisphere occurring when the North Pole is
pointing toward the Sun, and winter taking place when the pole is pointed
away. During the summer, the day lasts longer and the Sun climbs higher in
the sky. In winter, the climate becomes generally cooler and the days
shorter. In the southern hemisphere the situation is exactly reversed, with
the South Pole oriented opposite the direction of the North Pole.
Earth orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 150 million kilometers
every 365.2564 mean solar days, or one sidereal year. From Earth, this
gives an apparent movement of the Sun Eastward with respect to the stars
at a rate of about 1/day. Due to this motion, on average it takes 24 hours
a solar dayfor Earth to complete a full rotation about its axis so that
the Sun returns to the meridian.
The orbital speed of the Earth averages about 29.8 km/s (107,000 km/h),
which is fast enough to travel a distance equal to the planet's diameter,
about 12,742 km, in seven minutes, and the distance to the Moon- 384,000
km in about 3.5 hours.
Ecliptic and equator
The plane of the Earth's orbit is called ECLIPTIC when it is projected onto
the imaginary celestial sphere. The Earth's axis of rotation is at a 23.5
to the plane of the Earth's orbit. As the rotation axis of the Earth is not
perpendicular to its orbital plane, the equatorial plane is not parallel to
the ecliptic plane, but makes an angle of about 2326' which is known as
the obliquity of the ecliptic. The celestial equator and the ecliptic are also
at a 23.5 angle to each other. The intersections of the equatorial and
ecliptic planes with the celestial dome are great circles known as the
celestial equator and the ecliptic respectively.

The intersection line of the two planes results in two diametrically

opposite intersection points, known as the EQUINOXES. The Equinox which
the Sun passes from south to north is known as the vernal equinox or first
point of Aries. Ecliptic longitude, usually indicated with the letter , is
measured from this point on 0 to 360 towards the east. Ecliptic latitude,
usually indicated with the letter is measured +90 to the north or -90 to
the south. The same intersection point also defines the origin of the
equatorial coordinate system, named RIGHT ASCENSION measured from 0
to 24 hours also to the east and usually indicated with or R.A.,
and DECLINATION, usually indicated with also measured +90 to the
north or -90 to the south. Simple rotation formulas allow a conversion
from , to , and back (see Celestial Sphere)
The ecliptic is the apparent path that the Sun traces out in the sky, as it
appears to move in the sky in relation to the stars, this apparent path
aligns with the planets throughout the course of the year. More accurately,
it is the intersection of a spherical surface, the celestial sphere, with the
ecliptic plane, which is the geometric plane containing the mean orbit of
the Earth around the Sun.
The name ecliptic is derived from being the place where eclipses occur.

Solictice and Equinox

By astronomical convention, the four seasons are determined by
the Solstices (summer & winter) the point in the orbit of maximum axial
tilt toward or away from the Sun and the Equinoxes (autumn &
spring), when the direction of the tilt and the direction to the Sun are
perpendicular. In the northern hemisphere, Winter Solstice occurs on about
December 21, Summer Solstice is near June 21, Spring Equinox is around
March 20 and Autumnal Equinox is about September 23. In the Southern
hemisphere, the situation is reversed, with the Summer and Winter
Solstices exchanged and the Spring and Autumnal Equinox dates switched.

It is 94 days from the June solstice to the September equinox, but only 89
days from the December solstice to the March equinox. The seasons are not
of equal length because of the variable speed the Earth has in its orbit
around the Sun. The instances of the equinoxes are not fixed but fall about
six hours later every year, amounting to one full day in four years, but
then they are reset by the occurrence of a leap year. The Gregorian
calendar is designed to follow the seasons as accurately as is practical.

Within one year, the Sun is north of the equator for about 186.40 days,
while it is 178.24 days south of the equator.

The following diagram shows the relation between the line of solstice and
the line of apsides of Earth's elliptical orbit. The orbital ellipse (with
eccentricity exaggerated for effect) goes through each of the six Earth
images, which are sequentially

1)the perihelion (periapsisnearest point to the Sun) on anywhere from 2

January to 5 January
2)the point of March equinox on 20 or 21 March
3)the point of June solstice on 20 or 21 June
4)the aphelion (apoapsisfarthest point from the Sun) on anywhere from 4
July to 7 July
5)the September equinox on 22 or 23 September, and
6)the December solstice on 21 or 22 December.

Note that the diagram shows an exaggerated representation of the shape of

Earth's orbit. In reality, the actual path of Earth's orbit is not as eccentric
as that portrayed in the diagram.

Earths Precession
There are two possible definitions of a year as observed from Earth.
A Sidereal year is time taken for Sun to move from one star, and then come back to
same star. This is full 360 degrees movement of Earth around the Sun (360 degrees).
A Solar year is the time taken by Sun in its passage from one equinoctical point
back to same point (359.9864 degrees).

Solar year is shorter than Sidereal year by about 19 minutes and 50 seconds and is
said to be caused by inertial effects. It is called Earth's Precession.

The position of Chitra (Spica), which is very near the ecliptic, was recorded by
Hipparchus (circa 150 BC) on the autumnal Equinox day with reference to Sun. After
300 years, it was found that Chitra appeared to have moved about 3 degrees toward
Sun. This is because Sun is moving one degree for 100 years in reference to stars.
Today we know that Earth's Precession rate is about 1.36 degrees for 100 years.
But the 359.9864 degrees Solar year is relevant because of repeating weather and
seasons and hence Solar year is a natural year. That means every solar year, the Sun
position drops back by about 0.0136 degrees with respect to stars. Also, it may be
noted that the earths spin polar axis also shifts by same angle of 0.0136 degrees per
year in a coning motion.
The diagram below shows 27 nakshatra's in a circle of diameter of the order of
few hundred light years with sun at the center and the effect of Earth's Precession
on Sun/Star/Earth's position exactly at the time of Spring Equinox (March 21). In
this diagram, the Sun is always on equator and the day time equals night.
Diagram shows Earth's position from 2400 BC to 2000 AD. Every year, the Earth's
seasons start occurring 0.0136 degrees (or roughly 0.0136 days) earlier. The
diagram also shows twenty-seven Bharateeya nakshatra's in the infinite distance
in the ecliptic plane. It should be noted that the Precession does not change the
Equator position or the Earth's tilt of 23.5 degrees. It only changes the direction of
polar axis.
Now let us go out of Earth toCelestial Sphere