Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It applies mathematics and chemistry in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. Objects of interest include planets, stars, nebulae and comets. More all phenomena that originate outside Earth's atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy. A related but distinct subject is physical cosmology, the study of the Universe as a whole. Astronomy is one of the oldest of the natural sciences; the early civilizations in recorded history, such as the Babylonians, Indians, Nubians, Chinese and many ancient indigenous peoples of the Americas, performed methodical observations of the night sky. Astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, the making of calendars, but professional astronomy is now considered to be synonymous with astrophysics. Professional astronomy is split into theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects, analyzed using basic principles of physics.
Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain observational results and observations being used to confirm theoretical results. Astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs still play an active role in the discovery and observation of transient events. Amateur astronomers have made and contributed to many important astronomical discoveries, such as finding new comets. Astronomy means "law of the stars". Astronomy should not be confused with astrology, the belief system which claims that human affairs are correlated with the positions of celestial objects. Although the two fields share a common origin, they are now distinct. Both of the terms "astronomy" and "astrophysics" may be used to refer to the same subject. Based on strict dictionary definitions, "astronomy" refers to "the study of objects and matter outside the Earth's atmosphere and of their physical and chemical properties," while "astrophysics" refers to the branch of astronomy dealing with "the behavior, physical properties, dynamic processes of celestial objects and phenomena."
In some cases, as in the introduction of the introductory textbook The Physical Universe by Frank Shu, "astronomy" may be used to describe the qualitative study of the subject, whereas "astrophysics" is used to describe the physics-oriented version of the subject. However, since most modern astronomical research deals with subjects related to physics, modern astronomy could be called astrophysics; some fields, such as astrometry, are purely astronomy rather than astrophysics. Various departments in which scientists carry out research on this subject may use "astronomy" and "astrophysics" depending on whether the department is affiliated with a physics department, many professional astronomers have physics rather than astronomy degrees; some titles of the leading scientific journals in this field include The Astronomical Journal, The Astrophysical Journal, Astronomy and Astrophysics. In early historic times, astronomy only consisted of the observation and predictions of the motions of objects visible to the naked eye.
In some locations, early cultures assembled massive artifacts that had some astronomical purpose. In addition to their ceremonial uses, these observatories could be employed to determine the seasons, an important factor in knowing when to plant crops and in understanding the length of the year. Before tools such as the telescope were invented, early study of the stars was conducted using the naked eye; as civilizations developed, most notably in Mesopotamia, Persia, China and Central America, astronomical observatories were assembled and ideas on the nature of the Universe began to develop. Most early astronomy consisted of mapping the positions of the stars and planets, a science now referred to as astrometry. From these observations, early ideas about the motions of the planets were formed, the nature of the Sun and the Earth in the Universe were explored philosophically; the Earth was believed to be the center of the Universe with the Sun, the Moon and the stars rotating around it. This is known as the geocentric model of the Ptolemaic system, named after Ptolemy.
A important early development was the beginning of mathematical and scientific astronomy, which began among the Babylonians, who laid the foundations for the astronomical traditions that developed in many other civilizations. The Babylonians discovered. Following the Babylonians, significant advances in astronomy were made in ancient Greece and the Hellenistic world. Greek astronomy is characterized from the start by seeking a rational, physical explanation for celestial phenomena. In the 3rd century BC, Aristarchus of Samos estimated the size and distance of the Moon and Sun, he proposed a model of the Solar System where the Earth and planets rotated around the Sun, now called the heliocentric model. In the 2nd century BC, Hipparchus discovered precession, calculated the size and distance of the Moon and inven
A near-Earth object is any small Solar System body whose orbit brings it to proximity with Earth. By convention, a Solar System body is a NEO if its closest approach to the Sun is less than 1.3 astronomical units. If a NEO's orbit crosses the Earth's and the object is larger than 140 meters across, it is considered a hazardous object. Most known PHOs and NEOs are asteroids. There are over 19,000 known near-Earth asteroids, over a hundred short-period near-Earth comets, a number of solar-orbiting spacecraft and meteoroids large enough to be tracked in space before striking the Earth, it is now accepted that collisions in the past have had a significant role in shaping the geological and biological history of the Earth. NEOs have become of increased interest since the 1980s because of greater awareness of the potential danger some of the asteroids or comets pose; when impacting the Earth, asteroids as small as 20 m cause sufficiently strong shock waves and heat to damage the local environment and populations.
Larger asteroids penetrate the atmosphere to the surface of the Earth, producing craters if they hit ground and tsunamis if water bodies are hit. It is in principle possible to deflect asteroids, methods of mitigation are being researched. Based on the orbit calculations of identified NEOs, their risk of future impact is assessed on two scales, the Torino scale and the more complex Palermo scale, both of which rate a risk of any significance with values above 0; some NEOs have had temporarily positive Torino or Palermo scale ratings after their discovery, but as of March 2018, more precise calculations based on subsequent observations led to a reduction of the rating to or below 0 in all cases. Since 1998, the United States, the European Union, other nations are scanning for NEOs in an effort called Spaceguard; the initial US Congress mandate to NASA of cataloging at least 90% of NEOs that are at least 1 kilometre in diameter, which would cause a global catastrophe in case of an impact with Earth, had been met by 2011.
In years, the survey effort has been expanded to objects as small as about 140 m across, which still have the potential for large-scale, though not global, damage. NEOs have low surface gravity, many have Earth-like orbits making them easy targets for spacecraft; as of January 2019, five near-Earth comets and five near-Earth asteroids have been visited by spacecraft. Two near-Earth asteroids are being orbited by spacecraft that will return asteroid samples back to Earth. Plans for commercial asteroid mining have been drafted by private companies; the major technical astronomical definition for Near-Earth objects are small Solar System bodies with orbits around the Sun that by definition lie between 0.983 and 1.3 astronomical units away from the Sun. Thus, NEOs are not currently near the Earth, but they can approach the Earth closely. However, the term is used more flexibly sometimes, for example for objects in orbit around the Earth or for quasi-satellites, which have a more complex orbital relationship with the Earth.
When a NEO is detected, like all other small Solar System bodies, it is submitted to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center for cataloging. MPC maintains separate lists of potential NEOs; the orbits of some NEOs intersect that of the Earth, so they pose a collision danger. These are considered hazardous objects. For the asteroids among PHOs, the hazardous asteroids, MPC maintains a separate list. NEOs are catalogued by two separate units of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: the Center for Near Earth Object Studies and the Solar System Dynamics Group. PHAs are defined based on parameters relating to their potential to approach the Earth dangerously closely. Objects with an Earth minimum orbit intersection distance of 0.05 AU or less and an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or brighter are considered PHAs. Objects that cannot approach closer to the Earth than 0.05 AU, or are smaller than about 140 m in diameter, are not considered PHAs.
NASA's catalog of near-Earth objects includes the approach distances of asteroids and comets. The first near-Earth objects to be observed by humans were comets, their extraterrestrial nature was recognised and confirmed only after Tycho Brahe tried to measure the distance of a comet through its parallax in 1577. The 1758–1759 return of Halley's Comet was the first comet appearance predicted in advance; the first near-Earth asteroid to be discovered was 433 Eros in 1898. The asteroid was subject to several observation campaigns, because measurements of its orbit enabled a precise determination of the distance of the Earth from the Sun. In has been said. In 1937, asteroid 69230 Hermes was discovered when it passed the Earth at twice the distance of the Moon. Hermes was considered a threat. Hermes was re-discovered in 2003, is now known to be no threat for at least the next century. On June 14, 1968, the 1.4 km diameter asteroid 1566 Icarus passed Earth at a distance of 0.042482 AU (6,355,2
Maximilian Franz Joseph Cornelius "Max" Wolf was a German astronomer and a pioneer in the field of astrophotography. He was chairman of astronomy at the University of Heidelberg and director of the Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory from 1902 until his death. Max Wolf was born in Germany on June 21, 1863, the son of medical doctor Franz Wolf, his father encouraged an interest in science and built an observatory for his son in the garden of the family home. It is from here that Wolf was credited with his first astronomical discovery, comet 14P/Wolf, in 1884. Wolf attended his local university and, in 1888, at the age of 25, was awarded a Ph. D. by the University of Heidelberg. He spent one year of post-graduate study in Stockholm, the only significant time he would spend outside of Heidelberg in his life, he returned to the University of Heidelberg and accepted the position of privat-docent in 1890. A popular lecturer in astronomy, he declined offers of positions from other institutions. In 1902 he was appointed Chair of Astronomy and Director of the new Landessternwarte Heidelberg-Königstuhl observatory, positions he would hold until his death in 1932.
While the new observatory was being built Wolf was appointed to supervise the construction and outfitting of the astrophysics half of the observatory. He proved to be not only a capable supervisor but a successful fundraiser; when sent to America to study the construction of the large new telescopes being built there he returned not only with telescope plans but with a grant of $10,000 from the American philanthropist Catherine Wolfe Bruce. Wolf designed and ordered a double refractor telescope from American astronomer and instrument builder John Brashear; this instrument, known as the Bruce double-astrograph, with parallel 16 in lenses and a fast f/5 focal ratio, became the observatory's primary research telescope. Wolf raised money for a 28 in reflector telescope, the first for the observatory, used for spectroscopy. In 1910 Wolf proposed to the Carl Zeiss optics firm the creation of a new instrument which would become known as the planetarium. World War I intervened before the invention could be developed, but the Carl Zeiss company resumed this project after peace was restored.
The first official public showing was at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany on October 21, 1923. During his trip to America Wolf was interested in learning more about the new field of astrophotography, he met the American astronomer and astrophotographer E. E. Barnard, the two became lifelong correspondents, competitors and friends. Wolf wrote a long obituary for Barnard upon his death in 1923. Heidelberg University became well known for astronomy under Wolf's leadership. Wolf himself was an active researcher, contributing numerous papers in many areas of astronomy up to the end of his life, he died in Heidelberg on October 3, 1932, at the age of 69. He was survived by three sons. Wolf continued to discover them throughout his life, he co-discovered several comets, including 14P/Wolf and 43P/Wolf-Harrington. Wolf won a competition with E. E. Barnard on who would be the first to observe the return of Halley's Comet in April 1910, he discovered or co-discovered four supernovae: SN 1895A, SN 1909A, SN 1920A, with Reinmuth, SN 1926A.
One of the many significant contributions Wolf made was in the determination of the nature of dark nebulae. These areas of the sky, thought since William Herschel's time to be "holes in the sky", were a puzzle to astronomers of the time. In collaboration with E. E. Barnard, Wolf proved, by careful photographic analysis, that dark nebulae were huge clouds of fine opaque dust. Along with E. E. Barnard, Wolf applied astrophotography to the observation of stars; the Bruce double-astrograph was designed to hunt dim asteroids but it was found to be ideally suited for the study of the proper motion of low-luminosity stars using much the same technique. In 1919 Wolf published a catalog of the locations of over one thousand stars along with their measured proper motion; these stars are still identified by his name and catalog number. Among the stars he discovered is Wolf 359, a dim red dwarf, found to be one of the nearest stars to our solar system, he continued to add proper motion star discoveries to this catalog throughout his life, with the catalog totaling over 1500 stars, many more than all of his competitors combined.
These stars are significant because stars with low luminosity and high proper motion, such as Barnard's Star and Wolf 359, are relatively close to the Earth and thus the stars in Wolf's catalog remain popular subjects for astronomical research. The methods used by E. E. Barnard and Wolf were continued by Frank Elmore Ross and George Van Biesbroeck through the mid-20th century. Since that time photographic plates have been replaced with more sensitive electronic photodetectors for astronomical surveys. In 1891, Wolf discovered his first asteroid, 323 Brucia, named it after Catherine Wolfe Bruce, he pioneered the use of astrophotographic techniques to automate the discovery of asteroids, as opposed to older visual methods, as a result of which asteroid discovery rates increased. In time-exposure photographs, asteroids appear as short streaks due to their planetary motion with respect to fixed stars. Wolf discovered more than 200 asteroids in his lifetime. Among his many discoveries was 588 Achilles in 1906, as well as two other Trojans: 659 Nestor and 884 Priamus.
He discovered 887 Alinda in 1918, now recognized as an Earth-crossing Amor asteroid (or sometimes classified as
Heidelberg is a university town in Baden-Württemberg situated on the river Neckar in south-west Germany. In the 2016 census, its population was 159,914, with a quarter of its population being students. Located about 78 km south of Frankfurt, Heidelberg is the fifth-largest city in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Heidelberg is part of the densely populated Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is Germany's oldest and one of Europe's most reputable universities. A scientific hub in Germany, the city of Heidelberg is home to several internationally renowned research facilities adjacent to its university, including four Max Planck Institutes. A former residence of the Electorate of the Palatinate, Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination due to its romantic cityscape, including Heidelberg Castle, the Philosophers' Walk, the baroque style Old Town. Heidelberg is in the Rhine Rift Valley, on the left bank of the lower part of the Neckar in a steep valley in the Odenwald.
It is bordered by the Gaisberg mountains. The Neckar here flows in an east-west direction. On the right bank of the river, the Heiligenberg mountain rises to a height of 445 meters; the Neckar flows into the Rhine 22 kilometres north-west in Mannheim. Villages incorporated during the 20th century stretch from the Neckar Valley along the Bergstraße, a road running along the Odenwald hills. Heidelberg is on European walking route E1. Since Heidelberg is among the warmest regions of Germany, plants atypical of the central-European climate flourish there, including almond and fig trees. Alongside the Philosophenweg on the opposite side of the Old Town, winegrowing was restarted in 2000. There is a wild population of African rose-ringed parakeets, a wild population of Siberian swan geese, which can be seen on the islands in the Neckar near the district of Bergheim. Heidelberg is a unitary authority within the Regierungsbezirk Karlsruhe; the Rhein-Neckar-Kreis rural district surrounds it and has its seat in the town, although the town is not a part of the district.
Heidelberg is a part of the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region referred to as the Rhein-Neckar Triangle. This region consists of the southern part of the State of Hessen, the southern part of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, the administrative districts of Mannheim and Heidelberg, the southern municipalities of the Rhein-Neckar-Kreis; the Rhein-Neckar Triangle became a European metropolitan area in 2005. Heidelberg consists of 15 districts distributed in six sectors of the town. In the central area are Altstadt and Weststadt; the new district will have 5,000–6,000 residents and employment for 7,000. Further new residential space for 10,000-15,000 residents was made available in Patrick Henry Village following the departure of the US Armed Forces; the following towns and communes border the city of Heidelberg, beginning in the west and in a clockwise direction: Edingen-Neckarhausen, Schriesheim, Schönau, Neckargemünd, Gaiberg, Sandhausen, Plankstadt and Mannheim. Heidelberg has an oceanic climate, defined by the protected valley between the Pfälzerwald and the Odenwald.
Year-round, the mild temperatures are determined by maritime air masses coming from the west. In contrast to the nearby Upper Rhine Plain, Heidelberg's position in the valley leads to more frequent easterly winds than average; the hillsides of the Odenwald favour precipitation. The warmest month is July, the coldest is January. Temperatures rise beyond 30 °C in midsummer. According to the German Meteorological Service, Heidelberg was the warmest place in Germany in 2009. Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, "Heidelberg Man" died at nearby Mauer, his jaw bone was discovered in 1907. Scientific dating determined his remains as the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of worship were built on the Heiligenberg, or "Mountain of Saints". Both places can still be identified. In 40 AD, a fort occupied by the 24th Roman cohort and the 2nd Cyrenaican cohort; the early Byzantine/late Roman Emperor Valentinian I, in 369 AD, built new and maintained older castra and a signal tower on the bank of the Neckar.
They built a wooden bridge based on stone pillars across it. The camp protected the first civilian settlements; the Romans remained until 260 AD. The local administrative center in Roman times was the nearby city of Lopodunum. Modern Heidelberg can trace its beginnings to the fifth century; the village Bergheim is first mentioned for that period in documents dated to 769 AD. Bergheim now lies in the middle of modern Heidelberg; the people converted to Christianity. In 863 AD, the monastery of St. Michael was founded on the Heiligenberg inside the double rampart of the Celtic fortress. Around 1130, the Neuburg Monastery was founded in the Neckar valley. At the same time, the bishopric of Worms extended its influence into the valley, founding Schönau Abbey in 1142. Modern He
Orders of magnitude (length)
The following are examples of orders of magnitude for different lengths. To help compare different orders of magnitude, the following list describes various lengths between 1.6 × 10 − 35 metres and 10 10 10 122 metres. To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths shorter than 10−23 m. 1.6 × 10−11 yoctometres – the Planck length. 1 ym – 1 yoctometre, the smallest named subdivision of the metre in the SI base unit of length, one septillionth of a metre 1 ym – length of a neutrino. 2 ym – the effective cross-section radius of 1 MeV neutrinos as measured by Clyde Cowan and Frederick Reines To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−23 metres and 10−22 metres. To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−22 m and 10−21 m. 100 ym – length of a top quark, one of the smallest known quarks To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−21 m and 10−20 m. 2 zm – length of a preon, hypothetical particles proposed as subcomponents of quarks and leptons.
2 zm – radius of effective cross section for a 20 GeV neutrino scattering off a nucleon 7 zm – radius of effective cross section for a 250 GeV neutrino scattering off a nucleon To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−20 m and 10−19 m. 15 zm – length of a high energy neutrino 30 zm – length of a bottom quark To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−19 m and 10−18 m. 177 zm – de Broglie wavelength of protons at the Large Hadron Collider To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−18 m and 10−17 m. 1 am – sensitivity of the LIGO detector for gravitational waves 1 am – upper limit for the size of quarks and electrons 1 am – upper bound of the typical size range for "fundamental strings" 1 am – length of an electron 1 am – length of an up quark 1 am – length of a down quark To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−17 m and 10−16 m. 10 am – range of the weak force To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−16 m and 10−15 m. 100 am – all lengths shorter than this distance are not confirmed in terms of size 850 am – approximate proton radius The femtometre is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to 10−15 metres.
In particle physics, this unit is more called a fermi with abbreviation "fm". To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−15 metres and 10−14 metres. 1 fm – length of a neutron 1.5 fm – diameter of the scattering cross section of an 11 MeV proton with a target proton 1.75 fm – the effective charge diameter of a proton 2.81794 fm – classical electron radius 7 fm – the radius of the effective scattering cross section for a gold nucleus scattering a 6 MeV alpha particle over 140 degrees To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−14 m and 10−13 m. 1.75 to 15 fm – Diameter range of the atomic nucleus To help compare different orders of magnitude, this section lists lengths between 10−13 m and 10−12 m. 570 fm – typical distance from the atomic nucleus of the two innermost electrons in the uranium atom, the heaviest naturally-occurring atom To help compare different orders of magnitude this section lists lengths between 10−12 and 10−11 m. 1 pm – distance between atomic nuclei in a white dwarf 2.4 pm – The Compton wavelength of the electron 5 pm – shorter X-ray wavelengths To help compare different orders of magnitude this section lists lengths between 10−11 and 10−10 m. 25 pm – approximate radius of a helium atom, the smallest neutral atom 50 pm – radius of a hydrogen atom 50 pm – bohr radius: approximate radius of a hydrogen atom ~50 pm – best resolution of a high-resolution transmission electron microscope 60 pm – radius of a carbon atom 93 pm – length of a diatomic carbon molecule To help compare different orders of magnitude this section lists lengths between 10−10 and 10−9 m. 100 pm – 1 ångström 100 pm – covalent radius of sulfur atom 120 pm – van der Waals radius of a neutral hydrogen atom 120 pm – radius of a gold atom 126 pm – covalent radius of ruthenium atom 135 pm – covalent radius of technetium atom 150 pm – Length of a typical covalent bond 153 pm – covalent radius of silver atom 155 pm – covalent radius of zirconium atom 175 pm – covalent radius of thulium atom 200 pm – highest resolution of a typical electron microscope 225 pm – covalent radius of caesium atom 280 pm – Average size of the water molecule 298 pm – radius of a caesium atom, calculated to be the largest atomic radius 340 pm – thickness of single layer graphene 356.68 pm – width of diamond unit cell 403 pm – width of lithium fluoride unit cell 500 pm – Width of protein α helix 543 pm – silicon lattice spacing 560 pm – width of sodium chloride unit cell 700 pm – width of glucose molecule 780 pm – mean width of quartz unit cell 820 pm – mean width of ice unit cell 900 pm – mean width of coesite unit cell To help compare different orders
The term apsis refers to an extreme point in the orbit of an object. It denotes either the respective distance of the bodies; the word comes via Latin from Greek, there denoting a whole orbit, is cognate with apse. Except for the theoretical possibility of one common circular orbit for two bodies of equal mass at diametral positions, there are two apsides for any elliptic orbit, named with the prefixes peri- and ap-/apo-, added in reference to the body being orbited. All periodic orbits are, according to Newton's Laws of motion, ellipses: either the two individual ellipses of both bodies, with the center of mass of this two-body system at the one common focus of the ellipses, or the orbital ellipses, with one body taken as fixed at one focus, the other body orbiting this focus. All these ellipses share a straight line, the line of apsides, that contains their major axes, the foci, the vertices, thus the periapsis and the apoapsis; the major axis of the orbital ellipse is the distance of the apsides, when taken as points on the orbit, or their sum, when taken as distances.
The major axes of the individual ellipses around the barycenter the contributions to the major axis of the orbital ellipses are inverse proportional to the masses of the bodies, i.e. a bigger mass implies a smaller axis/contribution. Only when one mass is sufficiently larger than the other, the individual ellipse of the smaller body around the barycenter comprises the individual ellipse of the larger body as shown in the second figure. For remarkable asymmetry, the barycenter of the two bodies may lie well within the bigger body, e.g. the Earth–Moon barycenter is about 75% of the way from Earth's center to its surface. If the smaller mass is negligible compared to the larger the orbital parameters are independent of the smaller mass. For general orbits, the terms periapsis and apoapsis are used. Pericenter and apocenter are equivalent alternatives, referring explicitly to the respective points on the orbits, whereas periapsis and apoapsis may refer to the smallest and largest distances of the orbiter and its host.
For a body orbiting the Sun, the point of least distance is the perihelion, the point of greatest distance is the aphelion. The terms become apastron when discussing orbits around other stars. For any satellite of Earth, including the Moon, the point of least distance is the perigee and greatest distance the apogee, from Ancient Greek Γῆ, "land" or "earth". For objects in lunar orbit, the point of least distance is sometimes called the pericynthion and the greatest distance the apocynthion. Perilune and apolune are used. In orbital mechanics, the apsides technically refer to the distance measured between the barycenters of the central body and orbiting body. However, in the case of a spacecraft, the terms are used to refer to the orbital altitude of the spacecraft above the surface of the central body; these formulae characterize the pericenter and apocenter of an orbit: Pericenter Maximum speed, v per = μ a, at minimum distance, r per = a. Apocenter Minimum speed, v ap = μ a, at maximum distance, r ap = a.
While, in accordance with Kepler's laws of planetary motion and the conservation of energy, these two quantities are constant for a given orbit: Specific relative angular momentum h = μ a Specific orbital energy ε = − μ 2 a where: a is the semi-major axis: a = r per + r ap 2 μ is the standard gravitational parameter e is the eccentricity, defined as e = r ap − r per r ap + r per = 1 − 2 r ap r per + 1 Note t
The kilometre, or kilometer is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one thousand metres. It is now the measurement unit used for expressing distances between geographical places on land in most of the world. K is used in some English-speaking countries as an alternative for the word kilometre in colloquial writing and speech. A slang term for the kilometre in the US and UK military is klick. There are two common pronunciations for the word; the former follows a pattern in English whereby metric units are pronounced with the stress on the first syllable and the pronunciation of the actual base unit does not change irrespective of the prefix. It is preferred by the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Many scientists and other users in countries where the metric system is not used, use the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable; the latter pronunciation follows the stress pattern used for the names of measuring instruments. The problem with this reasoning, however, is that the word meter in those usages refers to a measuring device, not a unit of length.
The contrast is more obvious in countries using the British rather than American spelling of the word metre. When Australia introduced the metric system in 1975, the first pronunciation was declared official by the government's Metric Conversion Board. However, the Australian prime minister at the time, Gough Whitlam, insisted that the second pronunciation was the correct one because of the Greek origins of the two parts of the word. By the 8 May 1790 decree, the Constituent assembly ordered the French Academy of Sciences to develop a new measurement system. In August 1793, the French National Convention decreed the metre as the sole length measurement system in the French Republic; the first name of the kilometre was "Millaire". Although the metre was formally defined in 1799, the myriametre was preferred to the "kilometre" for everyday use; the term "myriamètre" appeared a number of times in the text of Develey's book Physique d'Emile: ou, Principes de la science de la nature, while the term kilometre only appeared in an appendix.
French maps published in 1835 had scales showing myriametres and "lieues de Poste". The Dutch gave it the local name of the mijl, it was only in 1867 that the term "kilometer" became the only official unit of measure in the Netherlands to represent 1000 metres. Two German textbooks dated 1842 and 1848 give a snapshot of the use of the kilometre across Europe - the kilometre was in use in the Netherlands and in Italy and the myriametre was in use in France. In 1935, the International Committee for Weights and Measures abolished the prefix "myria-" and with it the "myriametre", leaving the kilometre as the recognised unit of length for measurements of that magnitude. In the United Kingdom, road signs show distances in miles and location marker posts that are used for reference purposes by road engineers and emergency services show distance references in unspecified units which are kilometre-based; the advent of the mobile phone has been instrumental in the British Department for Transport authorising the use of driver location signs to convey the distance reference information of location marker posts to road users should they need to contact the emergency services.
In the US, the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 prohibits the use of federal-aid highway funds to convert existing signs or purchase new signs with metric units. The Executive Director of the US Federal Highway Administration, Jeffrey Paniati, wrote in a 2008 memo: "Section 205 of the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 prohibited us from requiring any State DOT to use the metric system during project development activities. Although the State DOT's had the option of using metric measurements or dual units, all of them abandoned metric measurements and reverted to sole use of inch-pound values." The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices since 2000 is published in both metric and American Customary Units. Some sporting disciplines feature 1000 m races in major events, but in other disciplines though world records are catalogued, the one kilometre event remains a minority event; the world records for various sporting disciplines are: Conversion of units, for comparison with other units of length Cubic metre Metric prefix Mileage Odometer Orders of magnitude Square kilometre Media related to Distance indicators at Wikimedia Commons