The planets have unique "personalities" based upon their positions and distances from earth. This behavior led our ancestors to associate the planets with deities and human behavior. Today, we know that the planets do not have any direct influence on our lives and destinies, but it is instructive to consider why this was once thought to be so.
In this laboratory assignments, students will construct "ecliptic charts" that will demonstrate the apparent behavior of the moon and planets. The students will consult astronomical tables of conjunctions and oppositions to create the charts. Each chart will display a unique geometrical figure related to the apparent behavior of a particular planet. As each geometric figure appears from apparently random data, the students will obtain a glimpse of the inner mechanics that dictate the apparent behavior of the planets as seen from earth.
The file includes all necessary data, as well as lab questions, a key, sample figures, and a vocabulary list. Links in the file are available to download a PowerPoint file of the figures, as well as a video demonstration link.
This laboratory activity is suitable for an astronomy class or an advanced earth science unit on the planets.