Astronomy Today Chaisson McMillan, Prentice-Hall, Inc.

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The reverse is true at the winter solstice (point 3). At the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, day and night are of equal length. These are the times when, as seen from Earth (a), the Sun crosses the celestial equator. They correspond to the points in Earth's orbit when our planet's axis is perpendicular to the line joining Earth and Sun (b). HTM (3 of 8) [14/12/2002 2:33:37] Chapter 1, Section 3 The point on the ecliptic where the Sun is at its northernmost point above the celestial equator is known as the summer solstice (from the Latin words sol, meaning "sun," and stare, "to stand").

Absorption line Dark line in an otherwise continuous bright spectrum, where light within one narrow frequency range has been removed. acceleration The rate of change of velocity of a moving object. accretion Gradual growth of bodies, such as stars or planets, by the accumulation of gas or other, smaller, bodies. accretion disk Flat disk of matter spiraling down onto the surface of a neutron star or black hole. Often, the matter originated on the surface of a companion star in a binary system. active galaxies The most energetic galaxies, which can emit hundreds or thousands of times more energy per second than the Milky Way.

Thus, between noon at point A on one day and noon at the same point the next day, Earth actually rotates through about 361°. Consequently, the solar day exceeds the sidereal day (360° rotation) by about 4 minutes. Note that the diagram is not drawn to scale, so the true 1° angle is in reality much smaller than shown here. SEASONAL CHANGES Because Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun appears to move relative to the background stars. The apparent motion of the Sun on the sky over the course of a year, relative to the stars, defines a path on the celestial sphere known as the ecliptic.

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