In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body's rotational axis. In particular, it refers to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth's axis of rotation, which, like a wobbling top, traces out a pair of cones joined at their apices in a cycle of approximately 26,000 years (called a Great or Platonic Year in astrology). The term "precession" typically refers only to this largest secular motion; other changes in the alignment of Earth's axis — nutation and polar motion — are much smaller in magnitude.
Earth's precession was historically called precession of the equinoxes because the equinoxes moved westward along the ecliptic relative to the fixed stars, opposite to the motion of the Sun along the ecliptic. This term is still used in non-technical discussions, that is, when detailed mathematics are absent. Historically, Hipparchus is credited with discovering precession of the equinoxes. The exact dates of his life are not known, but astronomical observations attributed to him by Ptolemy date from 147 BC to 127 BC.
With improvements in the ability to calculate the gravitational force between planets during the first half of the 19th century, it was recognized that the ecliptic itself moved slightly, which was named planetary precession as early as 1863, while the dominant component was named lunisolar precession. Their combination was named general precession instead of precession of the equinoxes. Lunisolar precession is caused by the gravitational forces of the Moon and Sun on Earth's equatorial bulge, causing Earth's axis to move with respect to inertial space. Planetary precession (actually an advance) is due to the small angle between the gravitational force of the other planets on Earth and its orbital plane (the ecliptic), causing the plane of the ecliptic to shift slightly relative to inertial space. Lunisolar precession is about 500 times larger than planetary precession. In addition to the Moon and Sun, the other planets also cause a small movement of Earth's axis in inertial space, making the contrast in the terms lunisolar versus planetary misleading, so in 2006 the International Astronomical Union recommended that the dominant component be renamed the precession of the equator and the minor component be renamed precession of the ecliptic, but their combination is still named general precession.
Other articles related to "axial precession, precession":
... Precession is the trend in the direction of the Earth's axis of rotation relative to the fixed stars, with a period of roughly 26,000 years ...
... at the end of the 19th century for general precession (p) in longitude gave a value of 5,025.64 arcseconds per tropical century, and was the generally accepted value until artificial satellites delivered ... polynomial expressions in 2003 and 2006 the accumulated precession is pA = 5,028.796195×T + 1.1054348×T2 + higher order terms, in arcseconds, with T, the time in Julian centuries (that is, 36,5 ... The rate of precession is the derivative of that p = 5,028.796195 + 2.2108696×T + higher order terms ...
Famous quotes containing the word precession:
“But how is one to make a scientist understand that there is something unalterably deranged about differential calculus, quantum theory, or the obscene and so inanely liturgical ordeals of the precession of the equinoxes.”
—Antonin Artaud (18961948)