Early astronomical observations
Teaching Guidance for 14-16
The observations of early astronomers enabled them to determine the following:
- There is an unchanging pattern of stars, revolving daily round an axis through the Pole Star.
- Sun, Moon and planets share that daily motion, except they drift slowly backward through the star pattern.
- The paths of the Sun, Moon and planets fall in a narrow band of the star pattern called the Zodiac.
- ‘Freezing out’ the daily rotation, we find the Sun travels round the ecliptic, the central line of the Zodiac, in a year.
- The Moon travels round an orbit in the Zodiac, tilted at some 5° to the ecliptic, in a month.
- Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn travel round orbits in the Zodiac, making reverse loops, one for each Earth year, as they do so.
- Mercury and Venus are only visible shortly after sunset and before sunrise – they remain close to the Sun.
- Jupiter completes an orbit of the Sun in 12 years, Saturn in 30 years, Venus in a fraction of an Earth year