A star catalogue or star catalog, is an astronomical catalogue that lists stars. In astronomy, many stars are referred to by catalogue numbers. There are a great many different star catalogues which have been produced for different purposes over the years, this article covers only some of the more quoted ones. Star catalogues were compiled by many different ancient people, including the Babylonians, Chinese and Arabs, they were sometimes accompanied by a star chart for illustration. Most modern catalogues are available in electronic format and can be downloaded from space agencies data centres. Completeness and accuracy is described by the weakest apparent magnitude V and the accuracy of the positions. From their existing records, it is known that the ancient Egyptians recorded the names of only a few identifiable constellations and a list of thirty-six decans that were used as a star clock; the Egyptians called the circumpolar star "the star that cannot perish" and, although they made no known formal star catalogues, they nonetheless created extensive star charts of the night sky which adorn the coffins and ceilings of tomb chambers.
Although the ancient Sumerians were the first to record the names of constellations on clay tablets, the earliest known star catalogues were compiled by the ancient Babylonians of Mesopotamia in the late 2nd millennium BC, during the Kassite Period. They are better known by their Assyrian-era name'Three Stars Each'; these star catalogues, written on clay tablets, listed thirty-six stars: twelve for "Anu" along the celestial equator, twelve for "Ea" south of that, twelve for "Enlil" to the north. The Mul. Apin lists, dated to sometime before the Neo-Babylonian Empire, are direct textual descendants of the "Three Stars Each" lists and their constellation patterns show similarities to those of Greek civilization. In Ancient Greece, the astronomer and mathematician Eudoxus laid down a full set of the classical constellations around 370 BC, his catalogue Phaenomena, rewritten by Aratus of Soli between 275 and 250 BC as a didactic poem, became one of the most consulted astronomical texts in antiquity and beyond.
It contains descriptions of the positions of the stars, the shapes of the constellations and provided information on their relative times of rising and setting. In the 3rd century BC, the Greek astronomers Timocharis of Alexandria and Aristillus created another star catalogue. Hipparchus completed his star catalogue in 129 BC, which he compared to Timocharis' and discovered that the longitude of the stars had changed over time; this led him to determine the first value of the precession of the equinoxes. In the 2nd century, Ptolemy of Roman Egypt published a star catalogue as part of his Almagest, which listed 1,022 stars visible from Alexandria. Ptolemy's catalogue was based entirely on an earlier one by Hipparchus, it remained the standard star catalogue in the Arab worlds for over eight centuries. The Islamic astronomer al-Sufi updated it in 964, the star positions were redetermined by Ulugh Beg in 1437, but it was not superseded until the appearance of the thousand-star catalogue of Tycho Brahe in 1598.
Although the ancient Vedas of India specified how the ecliptic was to be divided into twenty-eight nakshatra, Indian constellation patterns were borrowed from Greek ones sometime after Alexander's conquests in Asia in the 4th century BC. The earliest known inscriptions for Chinese star names were written on oracle bones and date to the Shang Dynasty. Sources dating from the Zhou Dynasty which provide star names include the Zuo Zhuan, the Shi Jing, the "Canon of Yao" in the Book of Documents; the Lüshi Chunqiu written by the Qin statesman Lü Buwei provides most of the names for the twenty-eight mansions. An earlier lacquerware chest found in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng contains a complete list of the names of the twenty-eight mansions. Star catalogues are traditionally attributed to Shi Shen and Gan De, two rather obscure Chinese astronomers who may have been active in the 4th century BC of the Warring States period; the Shi Shen astronomy is attributed to Shi Shen, the Astronomic star observation to Gan De.
It was not until the Han Dynasty that astronomers started to observe and record names for all the stars that were apparent in the night sky, not just those around the ecliptic. A star catalogue is featured in one of the chapters of the late 2nd-century-BC history work Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian and contains the "schools" of Shi Shen and Gan De's work. Sima's catalogue—the Book of Celestial Offices —includes some 90 constellations, the stars therein named after temples, ideas in philosophy, locations such as markets and shops, different people such as farmers and soldiers. For his Spiritual Constitution of the Universe of 120 AD, the astronomer Zhang Heng compiled a star catalogue comprising 124 constellations. Chinese constellation names were adopted by the Koreans and Japanese. A large number of star catalogues were published by Muslim astronomers in the medieval Islamic world; these were Zij treatises, including Arzachel's Tables of Toledo, the Maragheh observatory's Zij-i Ilkhani and Ulugh Beg's Zij-i-Sultani.
The radial velocity of an object with respect to a given point is the rate of change of the distance between the object and the point. That is, the radial velocity is the component of the object's velocity that points in the direction of the radius connecting the object and the point. In astronomy, the point is taken to be the observer on Earth, so the radial velocity denotes the speed with which the object moves away from or approaches the Earth. In astronomy, radial velocity is measured to the first order of approximation by Doppler spectroscopy; the quantity obtained by this method may be called the barycentric radial-velocity measure or spectroscopic radial velocity. However, due to relativistic and cosmological effects over the great distances that light travels to reach the observer from an astronomical object, this measure cannot be transformed to a geometric radial velocity without additional assumptions about the object and the space between it and the observer. By contrast, astrometric radial velocity is determined by astrometric observations.
Light from an object with a substantial relative radial velocity at emission will be subject to the Doppler effect, so the frequency of the light decreases for objects that were receding and increases for objects that were approaching. The radial velocity of a star or other luminous distant objects can be measured by taking a high-resolution spectrum and comparing the measured wavelengths of known spectral lines to wavelengths from laboratory measurements. A positive radial velocity indicates the distance between the objects was increasing. In many binary stars, the orbital motion causes radial velocity variations of several kilometers per second; as the spectra of these stars vary due to the Doppler effect, they are called spectroscopic binaries. Radial velocity can be used to estimate the ratio of the masses of the stars, some orbital elements, such as eccentricity and semimajor axis; the same method has been used to detect planets around stars, in the way that the movement's measurement determines the planet's orbital period, while the resulting radial-velocity amplitude allows the calculation of the lower bound on a planet's mass using the binary mass function.
Radial velocity methods alone may only reveal a lower bound, since a large planet orbiting at a high angle to the line of sight will perturb its star radially as much as a much smaller planet with an orbital plane on the line of sight. It has been suggested that planets with high eccentricities calculated by this method may in fact be two-planet systems of circular or near-circular resonant orbit; the radial velocity method to detect exoplanets is based on the detection of variations in the velocity of the central star, due to the changing direction of the gravitational pull from an exoplanet as it orbits the star. When the star moves towards us, its spectrum is blueshifted, while it is redshifted when it moves away from us. By looking at the spectrum of a star—and so, measuring its velocity—it can be determined if it moves periodically due to the influence of an exoplanet companion. From the instrumental perspective, velocities are measured relative to the telescope's motion. So an important first step of the data reduction is to remove the contributions of the Earth's elliptic motion around the sun at ± 30 km/s, a monthly rotation of ± 13 m/s of the Earth around the center of gravity of the Earth-Moon system, the daily rotation of the telescope with the Earth crust around the Earth axis, up to ±460 m/s at the equator and proportional to the cosine of the telescope's geographic latitude, small contributions from the Earth polar motion at the level of mm/s, contributions of 230 km/s from the motion around the Galactic center and associated proper motions.
In the case of spectroscopic measurements corrections of the order of ±20 cm/s with respect to aberration. Proper motion Peculiar velocity Relative velocity Space velocity The Radial Velocity Equation in the Search for Exoplanets
The Kelvin scale is an absolute thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all thermal motion ceases in the classical description of thermodynamics. The kelvin is the base unit of temperature in the International System of Units; until 2018, the kelvin was defined as the fraction 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water. In other words, it was defined such that the triple point of water is 273.16 K. On 16 November 2018, a new definition was adopted, in terms of a fixed value of the Boltzmann constant. For legal metrology purposes, the new definition will come into force on 20 May 2019; the Kelvin scale is named after the Belfast-born, Glasgow University engineer and physicist William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, who wrote of the need for an "absolute thermometric scale". Unlike the degree Fahrenheit and degree Celsius, the kelvin is not referred to or written as a degree; the kelvin is the primary unit of temperature measurement in the physical sciences, but is used in conjunction with the degree Celsius, which has the same magnitude.
The definition implies that absolute zero is equivalent to −273.15 °C. In 1848, William Thomson, made Lord Kelvin, wrote in his paper, On an Absolute Thermometric Scale, of the need for a scale whereby "infinite cold" was the scale's null point, which used the degree Celsius for its unit increment. Kelvin calculated; this absolute scale is known today as the Kelvin thermodynamic temperature scale. Kelvin's value of "−273" was the negative reciprocal of 0.00366—the accepted expansion coefficient of gas per degree Celsius relative to the ice point, giving a remarkable consistency to the accepted value. In 1954, Resolution 3 of the 10th General Conference on Weights and Measures gave the Kelvin scale its modern definition by designating the triple point of water as its second defining point and assigned its temperature to 273.16 kelvins. In 1967/1968, Resolution 3 of the 13th CGPM renamed the unit increment of thermodynamic temperature "kelvin", symbol K, replacing "degree Kelvin", symbol °K. Furthermore, feeling it useful to more explicitly define the magnitude of the unit increment, the 13th CGPM held in Resolution 4 that "The kelvin, unit of thermodynamic temperature, is equal to the fraction 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water."In 2005, the Comité International des Poids et Mesures, a committee of the CGPM, affirmed that for the purposes of delineating the temperature of the triple point of water, the definition of the Kelvin thermodynamic temperature scale would refer to water having an isotopic composition specified as Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water.
In 2018, Resolution A of the 26th CGPM adopted a significant redefinition of SI base units which included redefining the Kelvin in terms of a fixed value for the Boltzmann constant of 1.380649×10−23 J/K. When spelled out or spoken, the unit is pluralised using the same grammatical rules as for other SI units such as the volt or ohm; when reference is made to the "Kelvin scale", the word "kelvin"—which is a noun—functions adjectivally to modify the noun "scale" and is capitalized. As with most other SI unit symbols there is a space between the kelvin symbol. Before the 13th CGPM in 1967–1968, the unit kelvin was called a "degree", the same as with the other temperature scales at the time, it was distinguished from the other scales with either the adjective suffix "Kelvin" or with "absolute" and its symbol was °K. The latter term, the unit's official name from 1948 until 1954, was ambiguous since it could be interpreted as referring to the Rankine scale. Before the 13th CGPM, the plural form was "degrees absolute".
The 13th CGPM changed the unit name to "kelvin". The omission of "degree" indicates that it is not relative to an arbitrary reference point like the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales, but rather an absolute unit of measure which can be manipulated algebraically. In science and engineering, degrees Celsius and kelvins are used in the same article, where absolute temperatures are given in degrees Celsius, but temperature intervals are given in kelvins. E.g. "its measured value was 0.01028 °C with an uncertainty of 60 µK." This practice is permissible because the degree Celsius is a special name for the kelvin for use in expressing relative temperatures, the magnitude of the degree Celsius is equal to that of the kelvin. Notwithstanding that the official endorsement provided by Resolution 3 of the 13th CGPM states "a temperature interval may be expressed in degrees Celsius", the practice of using both °C and K is widespread throughout the scientific world; the use of SI prefixed forms of the degree Celsius to express a temperature interval has not been adopted.
In 2005 the CIPM embarked on a programme to redefine the kelvin using a more experimentally rigorous methodology. In particular, the committee proposed redefining the kelvin such that Boltzmann's constant takes the exact value 1.3806505×10−23 J/K. The committee had hoped tha
Stellar evolution is the process by which a star changes over the course of time. Depending on the mass of the star, its lifetime can range from a few million years for the most massive to trillions of years for the least massive, longer than the age of the universe; the table shows the lifetimes of stars as a function of their masses. All stars are born from collapsing clouds of gas and dust called nebulae or molecular clouds. Over the course of millions of years, these protostars settle down into a state of equilibrium, becoming what is known as a main-sequence star. Nuclear fusion powers a star for most of its life; the energy is generated by the fusion of hydrogen atoms at the core of the main-sequence star. As the preponderance of atoms at the core becomes helium, stars like the Sun begin to fuse hydrogen along a spherical shell surrounding the core; this process causes the star to grow in size, passing through the subgiant stage until it reaches the red giant phase. Stars with at least half the mass of the Sun can begin to generate energy through the fusion of helium at their core, whereas more-massive stars can fuse heavier elements along a series of concentric shells.
Once a star like the Sun has exhausted its nuclear fuel, its core collapses into a dense white dwarf and the outer layers are expelled as a planetary nebula. Stars with around ten or more times the mass of the Sun can explode in a supernova as their inert iron cores collapse into an dense neutron star or black hole. Although the universe is not old enough for any of the smallest red dwarfs to have reached the end of their lives, stellar models suggest they will become brighter and hotter before running out of hydrogen fuel and becoming low-mass white dwarfs. Stellar evolution is not studied by observing the life of a single star, as most stellar changes occur too to be detected over many centuries. Instead, astrophysicists come to understand how stars evolve by observing numerous stars at various points in their lifetime, by simulating stellar structure using computer models. Stellar evolution starts with the gravitational collapse of a giant molecular cloud. Typical giant molecular clouds are 100 light-years across and contain up to 6,000,000 solar masses.
As it collapses, a giant molecular cloud breaks into smaller pieces. In each of these fragments, the collapsing gas releases gravitational potential energy as heat; as its temperature and pressure increase, a fragment condenses into a rotating sphere of superhot gas known as a protostar. A protostar continues to grow by accretion of gas and dust from the molecular cloud, becoming a pre-main-sequence star as it reaches its final mass. Further development is determined by its mass. Mass is compared to the mass of the Sun: 1.0 M☉ means 1 solar mass. Protostars are encompassed in dust, are thus more visible at infrared wavelengths. Observations from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer have been important for unveiling numerous Galactic protostars and their parent star clusters. Protostars with masses less than 0.08 M☉ never reach temperatures high enough for nuclear fusion of hydrogen to begin. These are known as brown dwarfs; the International Astronomical Union defines brown dwarfs as stars massive enough to fuse deuterium at some point in their lives.
Objects smaller than 13 MJ are classified as sub-brown dwarfs. Both types, deuterium-burning and not, shine dimly and die away cooling over hundreds of millions of years. For a more-massive protostar, the core temperature will reach 10 million kelvin, initiating the proton–proton chain reaction and allowing hydrogen to fuse, first to deuterium and to helium. In stars of over 1 M☉, the carbon–nitrogen–oxygen fusion reaction contributes a large portion of the energy generation; the onset of nuclear fusion leads quickly to a hydrostatic equilibrium in which energy released by the core maintains a high gas pressure, balancing the weight of the star's matter and preventing further gravitational collapse. The star thus evolves to a stable state, beginning the main-sequence phase of its evolution. A new star will sit at a specific point on the main sequence of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, with the main-sequence spectral type depending upon the mass of the star. Small cold, low-mass red dwarfs fuse hydrogen and will remain on the main sequence for hundreds of billions of years or longer, whereas massive, hot O-type stars will leave the main sequence after just a few million years.
A mid-sized yellow dwarf star, like the Sun, will remain on the main sequence for about 10 billion years. The Sun is thought to be in the middle of its main sequence lifespan; the core exhausts its supply of hydrogen and the star begins to evolve off of the main sequence. Without the outward pressure generated by the fusion of hydrogen to counteract the force of gravity the core contracts until either electron degeneracy pressure becomes sufficient to oppose gravity or the core becomes hot enough for helium fusion to begin. Which of these happens first depends upon the star's mass. What happens after a low-mass star ceases to produce energy through fusion has not been directly observed. Recent astrophysical models suggest that red dwarfs of 0.1 M☉ may stay on the main sequence for some six to twelve tril
In astronomy, metallicity is used to describe the abundance of elements present in an object that are heavier than hydrogen or helium. Most of the physical matter in the Universe is in the form of hydrogen and helium, so astronomers use the word "metals" as a convenient short term for "all elements except hydrogen and helium"; this usage is distinct from the usual physical definition of a solid metal. For example and nebulae with high abundances of carbon, nitrogen and neon are called "metal-rich" in astrophysical terms though those elements are non-metals in chemistry; the presence of heavier elements hails from stellar nucleosynthesis, the theory that the majority of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium in the Universe are formed in the cores of stars as they evolve. Over time, stellar winds and supernovae deposit the metals into the surrounding environment, enriching the interstellar medium and providing recycling materials for the birth of new stars, it follows that older generations of stars, which formed in the metal-poor early Universe have lower metallicities than those of younger generations, which formed in a more metal-rich Universe.
Observed changes in the chemical abundances of different types of stars, based on the spectral peculiarities that were attributed to metallicity, led astronomer Walter Baade in 1944 to propose the existence of two different populations of stars. These became known as Population I and Population II stars. A third stellar population was introduced in 1978, known as Population III stars; these metal-poor stars were theorised to have been the "first-born" stars created in the Universe. Astronomers use several different methods to describe and approximate metal abundances, depending on the available tools and the object of interest; some methods include determining the fraction of mass, attributed to gas versus metals, or measuring the ratios of the number of atoms of two different elements as compared to the ratios found in the Sun. Stellar composition is simply defined by the parameters X, Y and Z. Here X is the mass fraction of hydrogen, Y is the mass fraction of helium, Z is the mass fraction of all the remaining chemical elements.
Thus X + Y + Z = 1.00. In most stars, nebulae, H II regions, other astronomical sources and helium are the two dominant elements; the hydrogen mass fraction is expressed as X ≡ m H / M, where M is the total mass of the system, m H is the fractional mass of the hydrogen it contains. The helium mass fraction is denoted as Y ≡ m He / M; the remainder of the elements are collectively referred to as "metals", the metallicity—the mass fraction of elements heavier than helium—can be calculated as Z = ∑ i > He m i M = 1 − X − Y. For the surface of the Sun, these parameters are measured to have the following values: Due to the effects of stellar evolution, neither the initial composition nor the present day bulk composition of the Sun is the same as its present-day surface composition; the overall stellar metallicity is defined using the total iron content of the star, as iron is among the easiest to measure with spectral observations in the visible spectrum. The abundance ratio is defined as the logarithm of the ratio of a star's iron abundance compared to that of the Sun and is expressed thus: = log 10 star − log 10 sun, where N Fe and N H are the number of iron and hydrogen atoms per unit of volume respectively.
The unit used for metallicity is the dex, contraction of "decimal exponent". By this formulation, stars with a higher metallicity than the Sun have a positive logarithmic value, whereas those with a lower metallicity than the Sun have a negative value. For example, stars with a value of +1 have 10 times the metallicity of the Sun. Young Population I stars have higher iron-to-hydrogen ratios than older Population II stars. Primordial Population III stars are estimated to have a metallicity of less than −6.0, that is, less than a millionth of the abundance of iron in the Sun. The same notation is used to express variations in abundances between other the individual elements as compared to solar proportions. For example, the notati
Auriga is one of the 88 modern constellations. Located north of the celestial equator, its name is the Latin word for “the charioteer”, associating it with various mythological beings, including Erichthonius and Myrtilus. Auriga is most prominent during winter evenings in the northern Hemisphere, along with the five other constellations that have stars in the Winter Hexagon asterism; because of its northern declination, Auriga is only visible in its entirety as far as 34° south. A large constellation, with an area of 657 square degrees, it is half the size of the largest constellation, Hydra, its brightest star, Capella, is an unusual multiple star system among the brightest stars in the night sky. Beta Aurigae is an interesting variable star in the constellation; because of its position near the winter Milky Way, Auriga has many bright open clusters in its borders, including M36, M37, M38, popular targets for amateur astronomers. In addition, it has one prominent nebula, the Flaming Star Nebula, associated with the variable star AE Aurigae.
In Chinese mythology, Auriga's stars were incorporated into several constellations, including the celestial emperors' chariots, made up of the modern constellation's brightest stars. Auriga is home to the radiant for the Aurigids, Zeta Aurigids, Delta Aurigids, the hypothesized Iota Aurigids; the first record of Auriga's stars was in Mesopotamia as a constellation called GAM, representing a scimitar or crook. However, this may have represented just the modern constellation as a whole. GAM in the MUL. APIN; the crook of Auriga shepherd. It was formed from most of the stars of the modern constellation. Bedouin astronomers created constellations that were groups of animals, where each star represented one animal; the stars of Auriga comprised a herd of goats, an association present in Greek mythology. The association with goats carried into the Greek astronomical tradition, though it became associated with a charioteer along with the shepherd. In Greek mythology, Auriga is identified as the mythological Greek hero Erichthonius of Athens, the chthonic son of Hephaestus, raised by the goddess Athena.
Erichthonius was credited to be the inventor of the quadriga, the four-horse chariot, which he used in the battle against the usurper Amphictyon, the event that made Erichthonius the king of Athens. His chariot was created in the image of the Sun's chariot, the reason Zeus placed him in the heavens; the Athenian hero dedicated himself to Athena and, soon after, Zeus raised him into the night sky in honor of his ingenuity and heroic deeds. Auriga, however, is sometimes described as Myrtilus, Hermes's son and the charioteer of Oenomaus; the association of Auriga and Myrtilus is supported by depictions of the constellation, which show a chariot. Myrtilus's chariot was destroyed in a race intended for suitors to win the heart of Oenomaus's daughter Hippodamia. Myrtilus earned his position in the sky when Hippodamia's successful suitor, killed him, despite his complicity in helping Pelops win her hand. After his death, Myrtilus's father Hermes placed him in the sky, yet another mythological association of Auriga is Theseus's son Hippolytus.
He was ejected from Athens after he refused the romantic advances of his stepmother Phaedra, who committed suicide as a result. He was revived by Asclepius. Regardless of Auriga's specific representation, it is that the constellation was created by the ancient Greeks to commemorate the importance of the chariot in their society. An incidental appearance of Auriga in Greek mythology is as the limbs of Medea's brother. In the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, as they journeyed home, Medea killed her brother and dismembered him, flinging the parts of his body into the sea, represented by the Milky Way; each individual star represents a different limb. Capella is associated with the mythological she-goat Amalthea, it forms an asterism with the stars Epsilon Aurigae, Zeta Aurigae, Eta Aurigae, the latter two of which are known as the Haedi. Though most associated with Amalthea, Capella has sometimes been associated with Amalthea's owner, a nymph; the myth of the nymph says that the goat's hideous appearance, resembling a Gorgon, was responsible for the Titans' defeat, because Zeus skinned the goat and wore it as his aegis.
The asterism containing the three goats had been a separate constellation. Before that, Capella was sometimes seen as its own constellation—by Pliny the Elder and Manilius—called Capra, Caper, or Hircus, all of which relate to its status as the "goat star". Zeta Aurigae and Eta Aurigae were first called the "Kids" by Cleostratus, an ancient Greek astronomer. Traditionally, illustrations of Auriga represent it as its driver; the charioteer has two kids under his left arm. However, depictions of Auriga have been inconsistent over the years; the reins in his right hand have been drawn as a whip, though Capella is always over his left shoulder and the Kids under his left arm. The 1488 atlas Hyginus deviated from this typical depiction by showing a four-wheeled cart driven by Auriga
The parsec is a unit of length used to measure large distances to astronomical objects outside the Solar System. A parsec is defined as the distance at which one astronomical unit subtends an angle of one arcsecond, which corresponds to 648000/π astronomical units. One parsec is equal to 31 trillion kilometres or 19 trillion miles; the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 1.3 parsecs from the Sun. Most of the stars visible to the unaided eye in the night sky are within 500 parsecs of the Sun; the parsec unit was first suggested in 1913 by the British astronomer Herbert Hall Turner. Named as a portmanteau of the parallax of one arcsecond, it was defined to make calculations of astronomical distances from only their raw observational data quick and easy for astronomers. For this reason, it is the unit preferred in astronomy and astrophysics, though the light-year remains prominent in popular science texts and common usage. Although parsecs are used for the shorter distances within the Milky Way, multiples of parsecs are required for the larger scales in the universe, including kiloparsecs for the more distant objects within and around the Milky Way, megaparsecs for mid-distance galaxies, gigaparsecs for many quasars and the most distant galaxies.
In August 2015, the IAU passed Resolution B2, which, as part of the definition of a standardized absolute and apparent bolometric magnitude scale, mentioned an existing explicit definition of the parsec as 648000/π astronomical units, or 3.08567758149137×1016 metres. This corresponds to the small-angle definition of the parsec found in many contemporary astronomical references; the parsec is defined as being equal to the length of the longer leg of an elongated imaginary right triangle in space. The two dimensions on which this triangle is based are its shorter leg, of length one astronomical unit, the subtended angle of the vertex opposite that leg, measuring one arc second. Applying the rules of trigonometry to these two values, the unit length of the other leg of the triangle can be derived. One of the oldest methods used by astronomers to calculate the distance to a star is to record the difference in angle between two measurements of the position of the star in the sky; the first measurement is taken from the Earth on one side of the Sun, the second is taken half a year when the Earth is on the opposite side of the Sun.
The distance between the two positions of the Earth when the two measurements were taken is twice the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The difference in angle between the two measurements is twice the parallax angle, formed by lines from the Sun and Earth to the star at the distant vertex; the distance to the star could be calculated using trigonometry. The first successful published direct measurements of an object at interstellar distances were undertaken by German astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel in 1838, who used this approach to calculate the 3.5-parsec distance of 61 Cygni. The parallax of a star is defined as half of the angular distance that a star appears to move relative to the celestial sphere as Earth orbits the Sun. Equivalently, it is the subtended angle, from that star's perspective, of the semimajor axis of the Earth's orbit; the star, the Sun and the Earth form the corners of an imaginary right triangle in space: the right angle is the corner at the Sun, the corner at the star is the parallax angle.
The length of the opposite side to the parallax angle is the distance from the Earth to the Sun (defined as one astronomical unit, the length of the adjacent side gives the distance from the sun to the star. Therefore, given a measurement of the parallax angle, along with the rules of trigonometry, the distance from the Sun to the star can be found. A parsec is defined as the length of the side adjacent to the vertex occupied by a star whose parallax angle is one arcsecond; the use of the parsec as a unit of distance follows from Bessel's method, because the distance in parsecs can be computed as the reciprocal of the parallax angle in arcseconds. No trigonometric functions are required in this relationship because the small angles involved mean that the approximate solution of the skinny triangle can be applied. Though it may have been used before, the term parsec was first mentioned in an astronomical publication in 1913. Astronomer Royal Frank Watson Dyson expressed his concern for the need of a name for that unit of distance.
He proposed the name astron, but mentioned that Carl Charlier had suggested siriometer and Herbert Hall Turner had proposed parsec. It was Turner's proposal. In the diagram above, S represents the Sun, E the Earth at one point in its orbit, thus the distance ES is one astronomical unit. The angle SDE is one arcsecond so by definition D is a point in space at a distance of one parsec from the Sun. Through trigonometry, the distance SD is calculated as follows: S D = E S tan 1 ″ S D ≈ E S 1 ″ = 1 au 1 60 × 60 × π