The Observer's Guide to Planetary Motion

Explaining the Cycles of the Night Sky

  • Dominic Ford

Part of the The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series book series (PATRICKMOORE)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Dominic Ford
    Pages 1-21
  3. Dominic Ford
    Pages 23-48
  4. Dominic Ford
    Pages 49-60
  5. Dominic Ford
    Pages 61-75
  6. Dominic Ford
    Pages 77-113
  7. Dominic Ford
    Pages 115-153
  8. Dominic Ford
    Pages 155-175
  9. Dominic Ford
    Pages 177-198
  10. Dominic Ford
    Pages 199-204
  11. Dominic Ford
    Pages 205-214
  12. Back Matter
    Pages 215-240

About this book


To the naked eye, the most evident defining feature of the planets is their motion across the night sky. It was this motion that allowed ancient civilizations to single them out as different from fixed stars. But how does the geometry of the Solar System give rise to the observed motions of the planets and their moons?

Although the motions of the planets may be described as simple elliptical orbits around the Sun, they must be observed from a particular vantage point--the Earth, which spins daily on its axis and circles around the Sun each year, resulting in more complicated patterns. The Observer’s Guide to Planetary Motion provides accurate tables of the best time for observing each planet, together with other notable events in their orbits, helping amateur astronomers plan when and what to observe.

Along the way, many questions are answered: Why does Mars take over two years between apparitions (the times when it is visible from Earth) in the night sky, while Uranus and Neptune take almost exactly a year? Why do planets appear higher in the night sky when they’re visible in the winter months? Why do Saturn’s rings appear to open and close every 15 years? This book places seemingly disparate astronomical events into an understandable three-dimensional  structure.


Astronomical observations Deep-sky motions Ellipitcal orbits Inner planets Orbital mechanics Orbits of the planets Outer planets Physical geometry of the Solar System Planetary motion Regular orbital cycles

Authors and affiliations

  • Dominic Ford
    • 1
  1. 1.The Naked ScientistsCambridgeUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2014
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Physics and Astronomy
  • Print ISBN 978-1-4939-0628-4
  • Online ISBN 978-1-4939-0629-1
  • Series Print ISSN 1431-9756
  • Series Online ISSN 2197-6562
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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