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Astronomy & Astrophysics
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Michael Reid

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Chapter 3The Science of Astronomy31 The Ancient Roots of Science In what ways do all humans use scientific thinkingy Science is a way of learning about nature through careful observations and trialanderror experimentsHow did astronomical observations benefit ancient societiesy People in Africa learned to predict the weather with reasonable accuracy by making observations of the Moony The Moon begins its monthly cycle as a crescent in the western sky just after sunset African societies discovered that the orientation of the crescent horns relative to the horizon is closely tied to local rainfall pattersy The technique works because the orientation depends on the relative positions of the Sun and Moon along the ecliptic which varies with the time of year and because the equatorial climate features a rainy season and a dry season rather than the four seasons we experience at temperature latitudes y Ancient people used the changing positions of the Sun Moon and stars to keep track of the time and seasons y Modern measures of time come from ancient observations of motion in the skyo The length of our day is the time it takes the Sun to make one full circuit of the skyo The length of a month comes from the Moons cycle of phases o Our year is based on the cycle of the seasons o The 7 days a week were named after the seven nakedeye objects that appear to make among the constellations the Sun the Moon and the give planets Earth was not considered a planet in the ancient timesWhat did ancient civilizations achieve in astronomy Determining the Time of Dayy In the daytime ancient peoples could tell time by observing the Suns path through the sky y Many cultures used the shadows cast by sticks as simple sundials y At night ancient people could estimate the time from the position and phase of the Moony For example a firstquarter moon sets around midnight y The positions of the stars can also indicate the timey We can trace the origins of our modern clock to ancient EgyptMaking the Seasons y Stonehenge was both an astronomical device for keeping track of the seasons and a social and religious gathering place
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