precessional

Science Dictionary
precession   (prē-sěsh'ən)  Pronunciation Key 
  1. The rotational motion of the axis of a spinning body, such as the wobbling of a spinning top, caused by torque applied to the body along its axis of rotation.

  2. The motion of this kind made by the Earth's axis, caused mainly by the gravitational pull of the Sun, Moon, and other planets. The precession of Earth's axis has a period of nearly 25,800 years, during which time the reference points on the equatorial coordinate system (the celestial poles and celestial equator) will gradually shift their positions on the celestial sphere. ◇ The precession of the equinoxes is the slow westward shift of the autumnal and vernal equinoxes along the ecliptic, resulting from precession of the Earth's axis. See also nutation.


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Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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