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By Philip Plait

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"Bad Astronomy is a enjoyable learn. Plait is splendidly witty and academic as he debunks the myths, legends, and 'conspiracies that abound in our society. 'The fact Is Out There' and it's during this booklet. I enjoyed it!" --Mike Mullane, area commute astronaut and writer of Do Your Ears Pop in Space?

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Additional resources for Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"

Sample text

One of the beauties of science is that it improves itself, and another is that you never know where that improvement will come from. Mine came from Mancelona, Michigan. Science is about asking, why? and, why not this way? Sometimes you need to think around the problem. For example, if the spring equinox is special, isn’t the autumnal one special, too? They are both basically the same, yet you never hear about people trying to stand eggs on end in September. Even better, the seasons are opposite in the northern and southern hemispheres; when it’s spring in one it’s fall in the other and vice versa.

This brings us back to the original question: why does the Sun look yellow? I have to cop out here. It’s not really well-known why. Some people think the blue sky is to blame. If blue light is being scattered out of the direct sunlight hitting our eyes, the resulting color should look yellowish. While it’s true that some blue light is scattered away, not enough of it is scattered to make the Sun very yellow. Even though a lot of blue photons are scattered away from the Sun to make the sky look blue, it’s only a fraction of the total blue photons from the Sun.

Here’s an easy experiment for you: Take a flashlight and a piece of white paper. Darken the lights in a room and shine the flashlight straight down on the paper. You’ll see a circle of bright light. Now tilt the paper so that the light shines down at about a 45-degree angle. See how the light spreads out? It’s now an oval, not a circle. But more importantly, look at the brightness of the oval as you change the illumination angle. It’s dimmer. The total light hitting the paper hasn’t changed, but you’ve spread the light out by tilting the paper.

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