Latitude And Stargazing

Figure 1.7. Local orientation of the celestial sphere at 40°N latitude. (a) View from a fictitious spot on the outside. (b) Stargazer's view.

If you could look at the sky from the North Pole and then from the South Pole you would see completely different stars. The Earth cuts your view of the celestial sphere in half.

You can determine how the celestial sphere is oriented with respect to your horizon and zenith at any place on Earth. In the northern hemisphere, the north celestial pole is located above your northern horizon at an altitude equal to your latitude. Polaris, the polestar, or North Star, is less than one degree away from the north celestial pole and marks the position of the pole in the sky. The declination circle that is numerically equal to your latitude passes through your zenith. In the southern hemisphere, the south celestial pole is located above your southern horizon at an altitude equal to your latitude. It is not marked by a polestar.

Where would you look for the North Star if you were at each of the following locations: (a) the North Pole?_(b) the equator?_(c) 40°N

Answer: (a) At your zenith; (b) on your horizon; (c) 40° above your northern horizon; (d) at an altitude above your northern horizon equal to your home latitude.

The stars appear to move in diurnal circles, or daily paths, around the celestial poles when you observe them from the spinning Earth.

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