ACT Reading Practice Test 80: SOCIAL SCIENCE

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.

SOCIAL SCIENCE: This passage is adapted from the book The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes (©2008 by Richard Holmes).

In the summer of 1785 astronomer William
Herschel embarked on his revolutionary new project to
observe and resolve the heavens with a telescope more
powerful than ever previously attempted.

5What. he intended to build was a telescope of the
Newtonian form, with an octagon tube 40 foot long and
five feet in diameter; the specula [mirrors] of which it
would be necessary to have at least two, or perhaps
three. The telescope would have to be mounted in an
10enormous wooden gantry, capable of being turned
safely on its axis by just two workmen, but also suscep-
tible to the finest fingertip adjustments by the observ-
ing astronomer.

The forty-foot would be higher than a house. The
15astronomer (William) would be required to climb a
series of ladders to a special viewing platform perched
at the mouth of the telescope. The assistant (William's
sister, Caroline) would have to be shut in a special
booth below to avoid light pollution, where she would
20have her desk and lamp, celestial clocks, and observa-
tion journals. Astronomer and assistant would be invisi-
ble to each other for hours on end, shouting commands
and replies, although eventually connected by a metal

25William had decided that his grand project
required a new house with larger grounds for construct-
ing and erecting the telescope. On 3 April 1786 they
moved to 'The Grove', a quite small and rather dilapi-
dated country house on the edge of the tiny village of
30Slough, England.

The house itself was not large, but it had sheds and
stables which were gradually converted into workshops
and laboratories. Above the stables were a series of
haylofts which could be converted into a separate apart-
35ment. Caroline claimed these for her own. A small out-
side staircase led up to a flat roof from which she
hoped to carry out her comet 'sweeps' in security and
independently. She would check over the calculations
of William's nebulae by day, and make her own sweeps
40up on the roof by night.

William had built Caroline a special two-foot
Newtonian reflector. Because of its large aperture, its
tube appeared much fatter. heavier and stubbier than
normal reflectors of this type. Suspended from a pivot
45at the top of the box-frame, the telescope could be pre-
cisely raised or lowered by a system of pulleys operated
by a winding handle. These adjustments were easy to
make, and extremely fine.

This beautiful instrument was designed specifi-
50cally for its huge light-gathering power and its wide
angle of vision. The magnification was comparatively
low at twenty-four times. As with modern binoculars,
this combination of low power with a large viewing
field allowed the observer to see faint stellar objects
55very brightly, while placing them within a compara-
tively wide context of surrounding stars. The telescope
was perfectly designed to spot any strange or unknown
object moving through the familiar field of 'fixed
stars'. In other words, to catch new planets or new

On 1 August 1786, only two nights after starting
her new sweeps, Caroline thought she had spotted an
unknown stellar object moving through Ursa Major(the
Great Bear constellation). It appeared to be descending,
65but barely perceptibly, towards a triangulation of stars
in the beautifully named constellation Coma Berenices.
To find something so quickly, and in such a familiar
place (the Great Bear or Big Dipper being the first stop
of every amateur stargazer wanting to locate the Pole
70Star), seemed wildly unlikely. Caroline's Observation
Book conveys meticulous caution, but also remarkable

Unable to calculate the mathematical coordinates
of the object, she accompanied her observations with a
75series of three neat drawings or 'figures', over an
eighty-minute time lapse. These showed the circular
viewing field of her telescope, with an asterisk shape
very slightly changing position relative to three known
fixed stars. The account written into her 'Book of Work
80Done' catches something of her growing excitement

August 1st. I have calculated 100 nebulae
today, and this evening I saw an object which I
believe will prove tomorrow night to be a
Comet. August 2nd. 1 o'clock. the object of
85last night IS A COMET. August 3rd. I did not
go to rest till I had written to Dr Blagden [at
the Royal Society] and Mr Aubert to announce
the Comet.

The verification of Caroline's comet was achieved
90much more rapidly than William's discovery of the
planet Uranus had been. Its movement through Coma
Berenices was relatively easy to ascertain, and its fine
hazy tail or coma was unmistakable.

1. Which of the following statements best describes how the passage characterizes William's response to Caroline's discovery of a comet?

A. The passage makes it clear that although William applauded Caroline's discovery, he was disap-pointed that Caroline wasn't looking for nebulae.
B. The passage claims that William supported Caroline's discovery by verifying the comet himself.
C. The passage suggests that William resented the fact that Caroline's comet was recognized so quickly.
D. The passage does not give a clear indication of how William felt about Caroline's discovery

2. In the passage, the author emphasizes the large size of William's powerful telescope's octagon tube by com-paring the tube's height to that of a:

F. series of ladders.
G. wooden gantry.
H. hayloft.
J. house.

3. The primary function of the fifth paragraph (lines31-40) is to:

A. explain the methods Caroline used to perform her comet sweeps.
B. shift the passage's focus from William's project to Caroline's own astronomical work.
C. describe the renovations Caroline made to the sta-bles in order to accommodate William's telescope.
D. introduce the passage's discussion of how Caroline's observation techniques compared to William's.

4. In the context of the passage, the excerpt from Caroline's "Book of Work Done" primarily serves to:

F. outline the process by which Caroline determined her finding was a comet.
G. provide an example of the types of observation notes Caroline made for William.
H. illustrate Caroline's growing sense of excitement about her discovery.
J. explain Dr. Blagden's and Mr. Aubert's role in ver-ifying Caroline's discovery.

5. As it is used in line 12, the word finest most nearly means:

A. slightest.
B. fairest.
C. thinnest.
D. greatest.

6. The passage most strongly suggests that while William operated his telescope, Caroline would have to work below in a special booth because:

F. she would be relaying William's instructions to the workmen who turned the telescope.
G. she preferred seclusion when working on calculations.
H. the telescope's viewing platform would not be large enough to hold both William and Caroline.
J. the light from her lamp would interfere with William's view of the night sky.

7. Which of the following questions is most directly answered by the passage?

A. What inspired William to embark on his project to observe and resolve the heavens?
B. Why did Caroline and William move to "The Grove"?
C. Why couldn't Caroline calculate the coordinates of the comet she discovered?
D. How long did it take the Royal Society to confirm Caroline's discovery was a new comet?

8. It can most reasonably be inferred from the passage that compared to normal telescopes of its type, the two-foot Newtonian reflector William built had:

F. a larger aperture.
G. a smaller box-frame.
H. more magnifying power.
J. less light-gathering power

9. According to the passage, when Caroline first saw her comet, it appeared to be moving through:

A. Coma Berenices and descending toward the Pole Star.
B. Coma Berenices and descending toward stars in the Big Dipper.
C. Ursa Major and descending toward stars in Coma Berenices.
D. a triangulation of stars, which included the Pole Star, and descending toward Coma Berenices.

10. The passage indicates that Caroline's discovery of a new comet was unlikely because Caroline:

F. found the comet quickly in a part of the sky that was familiar to astronomers and stargazers.
G. knew more about nebulae than she knew about comets.
H. had already discovered a planet while performing observations with William.
J. had little experience calculating the mathematical coordinates of stellar objects