Week of March 23, 2015

Welcome to the start of fourth quarter! Time flies!

This Week in AP Physics
We will spend the week working through our unit on electric circuits, although we will have another testing disruption on Tuesday when we have to take our “end-of-course” test as required by state law. During the remainder of our time we will move as far as possible through our notes, homework, and practice problems with electric circuits.

This Week in Physics
We will continue to explore our unit on electrostatics by doing assignment 1 on Monday. The day after we complete that assignment, we will take a quiz over the nature of charge and methods of charging. Also for that day, please take notes on Podcast 3 – Electric Force. We will go over this podcast and do assignment 2, followed by a quiz as announced. When announced, please take notes on Podcast 4 – Electric Fields part 1 and Podcast 5 – Electric Fields part 2.

This Week in Astronomy
We will continue our exploration of the moon by collecting data and analyzing it for patterns to form a model for the phases of the moon. Expect a quiz, as announced. The following podcasts will support your learning: Podcast 1 – Introduction and Orbit and Pocast 2 – Lunar Phases and their Appearances. In addition, this website is excellent: Lunar Phases Interactive.

Cool Science of the Week
It’s SPRING!!!!! After this frigid winter, it’s fantastic to know that warm weather is really on the way. Today (Friday, March 20) marks the vernal equinox, considered to be the first day of spring. At exactly 6:45 pm Earth will be aligned just right with the sun so that the sun is directly over Earth’s equator. Because Earth moves so fast, a short time later the sun will be north of the equator, marking the beginning of the time when the sun’s rays become more direct for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Yay for more direct sunlight!!! Bring it ON!
What’s also fantastic and amazingly coincidental is that today also marks two OTHER astronomical phenomena: a supermoon AND a total eclipse! A supermoon occurs when the moon is at perigee, its closest orbital point. When the moon is so close to Earth, we experience such things as stronger tides, although to the ordinary observer the moon won’t look any different.* It especially won’t look any different tonight because the moon is in its new moon phase, the phase in which it’s between us and the sun. That means that the side facing us is not illuminated and is up during the daytime…so we don’t see the moon at all. HOWEVER, we will see its silhouette as it crosses in front of the sun to produce a total eclipse. So will you  get to see the eclipse? Not unless you hurry and get yourself to the North Atlantic. The path under which people see a total eclipse, called the path of totality, is very small (less than 1% of Earth’s surface.) People in Europe and Greenland are outside of the path of totality but will, however, see a partial eclipse. That’s another story.

*Why does the moon sometimes appear to be very large? It’s an optical illusion. When the moon is low in the sky and is behind distant objects, such as trees, that our brain knows are big, we interpret the moon as being enormous. However, if you measure it with your finger when it appears big and then remeasure later in the night when it’s higher in the sky, you’ll find it’s the same size.