ELEMENTS OF DESCRIPTIVE ASTRONOMY

Chapter 3 Homework Assignment

REVIEW QUESTIONS – Answer in complete sentences
1. Discuss Plato’s idea about the proper way to investigate reality, and compare his method with the method that is used by modern scientists.
2. Even though Aristarchus was correct in asserting that the Sun, not the Earth, was the central body in the solar system, his idea found few followers in his time. Discuss why this was so.
3. How well did Ptolemy’s geocentric, epicyclic model conform to the observed motions of the planets? Did this model represent the simplest explanation of the observed motion of the planets?
4. In what ways did Ptolemy’s epicyclic model obey the teachings of Aristotle, and in what ways did it violate his teachings?
5. Explain in your own words what parallax is, and why nearby stars should undergo parallactic motion as seen from the moving Earth.
6. Why are astronomical developments in the Americas not considered to have been influential in the development of modern astronomy, despite the high level of sophistication reached by early American cultures?

PROBLEMS – Show your work
1. The Babylonian calendar contained 12 months of 30 days each. How often did the Babylonians have to add a “leap month,” if they did so every time the accumulated error reached a full Babylonian month?
2. Suppose a recently-discovered, ancient culture had a calendar that contained 18 months of 20 days each. How often did a “leap month” have to be added to this calendar?
3. Suppose, in the method of Eratosthenes for measuring the circumference of the Earth, that the distance between Syene and Alexandria was 3,300 km, and the zenith angle of the Sun at Alexandria was 30º on the day that the Sun was overhead at Syene. Determine the circumference and diameter of the Earth in this case.

 

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