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Timeline of solar astronomy
The ecliptic is the mean plane of the apparent path in the Earth's sky that the Sun follows over the course of one year; it is the basis of the ecliptic coordinate system. This plane of reference is coplanar with Earth's orbit around the Sun. The ecliptic is not normally noticeable from Earth's surface because the planet's rotation carries the observer through the daily cycles of sunrise and sunset, which obscure the Sun's apparent motion against the background of stars during the year.
Apsis denotes either of the two extreme points—ie, the farthest or nearest point—in the orbit of a planetary body about its primary body. The plural term, "apsides", usually implies both apsis points ; apsides can also refer to the distance of the extreme range of an object orbiting a host body. For example, the apsides of Earth's orbit of the Sun are two: the apsis for Earth's farthest point from the Sun, dubbed the aphelion; and the apsis for Earth's nearest point, the perihelion. .
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, or 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Roughly three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen (~73%); the rest is mostly helium (~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.
The orbital eccentricity of an astronomical object is a parameter that determines the amount by which its orbit around another body deviates from a perfect circle. A value of 0 is a circular orbit, values between 0 and 1 form an elliptic orbit, 1 is a parabolic escape orbit, and greater than 1 is a hyperbola. The term derives its name from the parameters of conic sections, as every Kepler orbit is a conic section. It is normally used for the isolated two-body problem, but extensions exist for objects following a Klemperer rosette orbit through the galaxy.
Abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Ahmad ibn Yunus al-Sadafi al-Misri was an important Egyptian Muslim astronomer and mathematician, whose works are noted for being ahead of their time, having been based on meticulous calculations and attention to detail.
An astrolabe is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers and navigators to measure the altitude above the horizon of a celestial body, day or night. It can be used to identify stars or planets, to determine local latitude given local time, to survey, or to triangulate. It was used in classical antiquity, the Islamic Golden Age, the European Middle Ages and the Age of Discovery for all these purposes.
Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science".
Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the Sun's photosphere that appear as spots darker than the surrounding areas. They are regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection. Sunspots usually appear in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity. Their number varies according to the approximately 11-year solar cycle.
Johannes Kepler was a German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer. He is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae. These works also provided one of the foundations for Newton's theory of universal gravitation.
William Hyde Wollaston was an English chemist and physicist who is famous for discovering the chemical elements palladium and rhodium. He also developed a way to process platinum ore into malleable ingots.
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation and their respective wavelengths and photon energies.
Joseph Ritter von Fraunhofer was a Bavarian physicist and optical lens manufacturer. He made optical glass and achromatic telescope objective lenses, invented the spectroscope, and developed diffraction grating. In 1814, he discovered and studied the dark absorption lines in the spectrum of the sun now known as Fraunhofer lines.
In the context of fast Fourier transform algorithms, a butterfly is a portion of the computation that combines the results of smaller discrete Fourier transforms (DFTs) into a larger DFT, or vice versa. The name "butterfly" comes from the shape of the data-flow diagram in the radix-2 case, as described below. The earliest occurrence in print of the term is thought to be in a 1969 MIT technical report. The same structure can also be found in the Viterbi algorithm, used for finding the most likely sequence of hidden states.
Karl Schwarzschild was a German physicist and astronomer. He was also the father of astrophysicist Martin Schwarzschild.
Limb darkening is an optical effect seen in stars, where the center part of the disk appears brighter than the edge or limb of the image. Its understanding offered early solar astronomers an opportunity to construct models with such gradients. This encouraged the development of the theory of radiative transfer.
A corona is an aura of plasma that surrounds the Sun and other stars. The Sun's corona extends millions of kilometres into outer space and is most easily seen during a total solar eclipse, but it is also observable with a coronagraph. The word corona is a Latin word meaning "crown", from the Ancient Greek κορώνη.
The Maunder Minimum, also known as the "prolonged sunspot minimum", is the name used for the period around 1645 to 1715 during which sunspots became exceedingly rare, as was then noted by solar observers.
Timeline of Solar System astronomy
This timeline of cosmological theories and discoveries is a chronological record of the development of humanity's understanding of the cosmos over the last two-plus millennia. Modern cosmological ideas follow the development of the scientific discipline of physical cosmology.
Starspots are stellar phenomena, so-named by analogy with sunspots. Spots actually at the size of sunspots would be very hard to detect on other stars because they are too small to cause detectable fluctuations in brightness. The commonly observed starspots are in general much larger than those on the Sun: up to about 30% of the stellar surface may be covered, corresponding to starspots 100 times larger than those on the Sun.
The solar cycle or solar magnetic activity cycle is the nearly periodic 11-year change in the Sun's activity and appearance.
Astronomical spectroscopy is the study of astronomy using the techniques of spectroscopy to measure the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light and radio, which radiates from stars and other celestial objects. A stellar spectrum can reveal many properties of stars, such as their chemical composition, temperature, density, mass, distance, luminosity, and relative motion using Doppler shift measurements. Spectroscopy is also used to study the physical properties of many other types of celestial objects such as planets, nebulae, galaxies, and active galactic nuclei.
Edward Walter Maunder was a British astronomer best remembered for his study of sunspots and the solar magnetic cycle that led to his identification of the period from 1645 to 1715 that is now known as the Maunder Minimum.
Richard Christopher Carrington was an English amateur astronomer whose 1859 astronomical observations demonstrated the existence of solar flares as well as suggesting their electrical influence upon the Earth and its aurorae; and whose 1863 records of sunspot observations revealed the differential rotation of the Sun.
Friederich Wilhelm Gustav Spörer was a German astronomer.
Spörer's law predicts the variation of sunspot latitudes during a solar cycle. It was discovered by the English astronomer Richard Christopher Carrington around 1861. Carrington's work was refined by the German astronomer Gustav Spörer.
John Allen "Jack" Eddy was an American astronomer who published professionally under the name John A. Eddy but much of the content referencing him can be found under his nickname Jack which he preferred to use. In 1976 Dr. Eddy published a landmark paper in Science titled "The Maunder Minimum" where, using the Nineteenth Century works of Edward W. Maunder and Gustav Spörer, he identified a 70-year period from 1645 to 1715 as a time when solar activity all but stopped. In making the case for the anomaly, he gathered and interpreted data from a wide variety of sources, including first-hand accounts from extant historical observations of the Sun going back to the telescopic observations of Galileo and other contemporary scientists of the 17th and early 18th centuries; from historical reports of the aurora borealis observed in past centuries in Europe and the New World; from visual observations of sunspots seen with the unaided eye at sunrise and sunset in dynastic records from the Orient; from existing descriptions of the eclipsed Sun; and from measurements of carbon-14 in dated tree-rings. In the last of these, which can be used as a proxy indicator of solar activity, he found evidence of other similar periods of solar quiescence in the distant past, the most recent an even longer 90-year span, from about 1460 until 1550, which he named the Spörer Minimum. Both the Maunder and Spörer minima fell during the coldest parts of the Little Ice Age, which suggested a meaningful connection between the longer term behavior of the Sun and of the Earth's mean surface temperature. In advancing the theory that the Sun is a variable star Eddy observed: "It has long been thought that the Sun is a constant star of regular and repeatable behavior. Measurements of the radiative output, or solar constant, seem to justify the first assumption, and the record of periodicity in sunspot numbers is taken as evidence of the second. Both records, however, sample only the most recent history of the Sun."
Solar rotation varies with latitude. The Sun is not a solid body, but is composed of a gaseous plasma. Different latitudes rotate at different periods. The source of this differential rotation is an area of current research in solar astronomy. The rate of surface rotation is observed to be the fastest at the equator and to decrease as latitude increases. The solar rotation period is 24.47 days at the equator and almost 38 days at the poles.
The Spörer Minimum is a hypothesized 90-year span of low solar activity, from about 1460 until 1550, which was identified and named by John A. Eddy in a landmark 1976 paper published in Science titled "The Maunder Minimum". It occurred before sunspots had been directly observed and was discovered instead by analysis of the proportion of carbon-14 in tree rings, which is strongly correlated with solar activity. It is named for the German astronomer Gustav Spörer.
The Babcock Model describes a mechanism which can explain magnetic and sunspot patterns observed on the Sun.
The Evershed effect, named after the British astronomer John Evershed, is the radial flow of gas across the photospheric surface of the penumbra of sunspots from the inner border with the umbra towards the outer edge.
A total solar eclipse occurred on August 18, 1868, also known as "The King of Siam's eclipse". A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's apparent diameter is larger than the Sun's, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth's surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometres wide.
Solar observation is the scientific endeavor of studying the Sun and its behavior and relation to the Earth and the remainder of the Solar System. Deliberate solar observation began thousands of years ago. That initial era of direct observation gave way to telescopes in the 1600s followed by satellites in the twentieth century.