ASTR 1230 (Whittle) Lecture Notes

Ten Things to Forget in Astronomy

Here is a list of ten common misconceptions about the sky that you should do your best to forget:

    • Polaris is the brightest star

    • Polaris is located due North and will always be there

    • You can see nearly all the stars there are

    • The stars aren't there in the daytime

    • The Sun and Moon are stationary with respect to the stars

    • A constellation is a physical group of stars all near each other in space

    • The brightest constellations are along the Zodiac

    • The shape of a constellation has physical or metaphysical significance

    • The patterns of the constellations are unchanging

    • Meteors are falling stars

The point here is not that many people are ignorant about what really goes on in the sky. Instead, it's that to start making sense out of nature, you have to carefully study it.

You will quickly learn that there is a big difference between a casual look and a patient, careful, systematic inspection. Our "intuition" about nature is shaped by our everday experience of things on only a human scale and is often wrong.

We will explain why these beliefs are incorrect in the course of the next few lectures.

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Last modified September 2008 by rwo

Copyright © 2008 Robert W. O'Connell. All rights reserved. These notes are intended for the private, noncommercial use of students enrolled in Astronomy 130 at the University of Virginia.