Planetary Motions

Planetary Motions - it is said to be executing retrograde...

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Planetary Motions Because Mercury and Venus are closer to the Sun than we are, they are never visible at around midnight (or opposite the Sun). The superior planets can be visible at midnight. At midnight you are pointed directly away from the Sun so you see solar system objects above the horizon that are further out from the Sun than we are. If you want to see where the planets are in their orbits today or any other date, then go to the Solar System Live site (will display in another window). Ordinarily the planets ``wander'' eastward among the stars (though staying close to the ecliptic). But sometimes a strange thing happens---a planet will slow down its eastward drift among the stars, halt, and then back up and head westward for a few weeks or months, then halt and move eastward again. The planet executes a loop against the stars! When a planet is moving backward
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Unformatted text preview: it is said to be executing retrograde motion . Perhaps it seemed to the ancients that the planets wanted to take another look at the stars they had just passed by. The figure below shows Mars' retrograde loop happening at the beginning of 1997. Mars' position is plotted every 7 days from October 22, 1996 (the position on November 12, 1996 is noted) and the positions at the beginning and end of the retrograde loop (February 4 and April 29, 1997) are noted. An animation of this is available here . What causes retrograde motion? The answer to that question involved a long process of cultural evolution, political strife, and paradigm shifts. You will investigate the question when you look at geocentric (Earth-centered) models of the universe and heliocentric (Sun-centered) models of the universe in the next chapter....
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