Day 56: Eccentricity of Ellipses

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Always a favorite activity with my astronomy students. They learn to draw an ellipse using string and push pins and then measure the semi-major and semi-minor axes. Using these they calculate the eccentricity of their ellipses. This gives them a real feel for the values that they have for the orbits of the planets and eventually for comets. For x-credit they can look up The Ellipse in Washington, D.C. (on Google Earth), measure its semi-major and semi-minor axes, and calculate its eccentricity (showing all work of course!)

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