nutation

nutation, in astronomy, a slight wobbling motion of the earth's axis. The causes of nutation are similar to those of the precession of the equinoxes, involving the varying attraction of the moon on the earth's equatorial bulge. However, the period of the motion is only 18.6 years, the same as that of the precession of the moon's nodes, as opposed to the nearly 26,000-year period of the precession of the equinoxes. Nutation was discovered by the English astronomer James Bradley in 1728 but was not explained until 20 years later.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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