The Long View – Angles and Sides

I toyed around with the idea of some physics astronomy calculations, trying to read some of Newton’s original works where he figures out that the moon is being subject to the same force as an apple.  They were pretty obscure reading to me. (He invents calculus in the process, so it’s a rather long read).  Anyway, I decided I could either read the laws, and do the carefully designed “important” experiments that have already been done, to illustrate, or I could look at the sky myself for a bit, and try to think.

I think I would rather do the second.  So, I thought a little about how I could measure star and planet trajectories myself, and decided that an indian might do it with a long straight stick, some string hanging from the ends, and a carefully constructed pivot point with inertia around a tripod.  You’d need a flat view (no trees), preferably higher and unlit, but that wouldn’t be available to me here.

100_3160I found some runners used as sign posts and removed them (they are steel, but they were discarded).  They work perfectly for the sticks (I really only need one, but they presented as a pair…).They are all of 4 feet long each.  In terms of adjusting the angles, I would have a mount-pivot point (that doesn’t pierce the runner because that would obstruct the view, or maybe slightly pierces the runner for an exact point), and then another screw with a flat end to sit the runner on, maybe one or two inches distal with a nut above the attachment point on a rotating plate to raise or lower it. By having the 2 points not too far apart, one could achieve an almost vertical sight.  In a more sophisticated setup, the plate would be a gear, interlocked with a another geared wheel with a handle.  One could use poster roll paper on the ground, adjusting a string through the runner with weights on both ends to mark points from both ends of the runner on the paper where stars are noted (and write the times).

In the end, with a little trigonometry, one should be able to come up with a numbered pair (theta, phi) representing the angles of each star around a circle parallel to the sky (theta) and perpendicular to the sky (phi).  That is, if one plots phi vs. theta, every point should correspond to one star at a certain time of the evening.  A 3 dimensional plot with time as the third axis, should show 24 hour almost-circles corresponding to each planet or star.  With enough days or weeks, one should be able to predict the tilting of the earth.

If one wanted to be really indian about it, one would have to invent a way of measuring time.

A little trigonometry quiz (100% no calculator, pen, or computer. All in my head.)

A somewhat more fundamental trig quiz to figure out sides and angles.

There is a beautiful clear sky tonight with lots of visible stars.

And some nice verses from the Qu’ran to imagine Abraham looking at the sky.

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