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Celestial Body Tracker/Astrologer


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

Back in the early 1970s I asked all kinds of professional astronomers how astronomical effemerises (tables of planetary positions) were computed. To my amazement none knew and none cared either. So I set out to solve the problem on my own. I wrote a program in FØRTRAN on punch cards for the Univac 90/30. It calculated the positions of the planets and the moon at any given time then printed out astrological interpretations. I no longer have the program. Here are three ways you can approach it: One you have this engine what can you do with it?

Getting Julian dates for astronomy is pretty easy. Use BigDate.getProlepticJulianDay().

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