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Chapter 2 Vocabulary:

constellation One of the stellar patterns


identified by name, usually
of mythological gods,
people, animals, or objects;
also, the region of the sky
containing that star pattern.
asterism A named group of stars not
identified as a constellation,
e.g., the Big Dipper.
magnitude scale The astronomical brightness
scale; the larger the number,
the fainter the star.
apparent visual magnitude The brightness of a star as
(mv) seen by human eyes on
Earth.
scientific model An intellectual concept
designed to help us think
about a natural process
without necessarily being a
conjecture of truth.
celestial sphere An imaginary sphere of
very large radius
surrounding Earth and to
which the planets, stars,
sun, and moon seem to be
attached.
horizon The line that marks the
apparent intersection of
Earth and the sky.
zenith The point on the sky
directly overhead.
nadir The point on the bottom of
the sky directly under your
feet.
north celestial pole The point on the celestial
sphere directly above
Earth's North Pole.
south celestial pole The point of the celestial
sphere directly above
Earth's South Pole.
celestial equator The imaginary line around
the sky directly above
Earth's equator.
north point The point on the horizon
directly below the north
celestial pole; exactly north.
south point The point on the horizon
directly above the south
celestial pole; exactly south.
east point The point on the eastern
horizon exactly halfway
between the north point and
the south point; exactly
east.
west point The point on the western
horizon exactly halfway
between the north point and
the south point; exactly
west.
angular distance A measure of the separation
between two objects in the
sky; numerically equal to
the angle in degrees
between two lines
extending from the
observer's eye to the two
objects.
minute of arc An angular measure; each
degree is divided into 60
minutes of arc.
second of arc An angular measure; each
minute of arc is divided into
60 seconds of arc.
angular diameter A measure of the size of an
object in the sky;
numerically equal to the
angle in degrees between
two lines extending from
the observer's eye to
opposite edges of the
object.
circumpolar constellation Any of the constellations so
close to the celestial pole
that they never set (or never
rise) as seen from a given
latitude.
precession The slow change in the
direction of Earth's axis of
rotation; one cycle takes
nearly 26,000 years.
rotation The turning of a body about
an axis that passes through
its volume; Earth rotates on
its axis.
revolution The motion of an object in a
closed path about a point
outside its volume; Earth
revolves around the sun.
ecliptic The apparent path of the
sun around the sky.
vernal equinox The place on the celestial
sphere where the sun
crosses the celestial equator
moving northward; also, the
time of year when the sun
crosses this point, about
March 21, and spring
begins in the northern
hemisphere.
summer solstice The point on the celestial
sphere where the sun is at
its most northerly point;
also, the time when the sun
passes this point, about June
22, and summer begins in
the northern hemisphere.
autumnal equinox The point on the celestial
sphere where the sun
crosses the celestial equator
going southward. Also, the
time when the sun reaches
this point and autumn
begins in the northern
hemisphere - about
September 22.
winter solstice The point on the celestial
sphere where the sun is
farthest south; also, the time
of year when the sun passes
this point, about December
22, and winter begins in the
northern hemisphere.
perihelion The orbital point of closest
approach to the sun.
aphelion The orbital point of greatest
distance from the sun.
evening star Any planet visible in the
sky just after sunset.
morning star Any planet visible in the
sky just before sunrise.
zodiac The band around the sky
centered on the ecliptic
within which the planets
move.
horoscope A chart showing the
positions of the sun, moon,
planets, and constellations
at the time of a person's
birth; used in astrology to
attempt to read character or
foretell the future.
Milankovitch hypothesis The hypothesis that small
changes in Earth's orbital
and rotational motions
cause the ice ages.