In astronomy, the main sequence is a continuous and distinctive band of stars that appears on plots of stellar color versus brightness. These color-magnitude plots are known as Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams after their co-developers, Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell. Stars on this band are known as main-sequence stars or dwarf stars; these are the most numerous true stars in the universe, include the Earth's Sun. After condensation and ignition of a star, it generates thermal energy in its dense core region through nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium. During this stage of the star's lifetime, it is located on the main sequence at a position determined by its mass, but based upon its chemical composition and age; the cores of main-sequence stars are in hydrostatic equilibrium, where outward thermal pressure from the hot core is balanced by the inward pressure of gravitational collapse from the overlying layers. The strong dependence of the rate of energy generation on temperature and pressure helps to sustain this balance.
Energy generated at the core is radiated away at the photosphere. The energy is carried by either radiation or convection, with the latter occurring in regions with steeper temperature gradients, higher opacity or both; the main sequence is sometimes divided into upper and lower parts, based on the dominant process that a star uses to generate energy. Stars below about 1.5 times the mass of the Sun fuse hydrogen atoms together in a series of stages to form helium, a sequence called the proton–proton chain. Above this mass, in the upper main sequence, the nuclear fusion process uses atoms of carbon and oxygen as intermediaries in the CNO cycle that produces helium from hydrogen atoms. Main-sequence stars with more than two solar masses undergo convection in their core regions, which acts to stir up the newly created helium and maintain the proportion of fuel needed for fusion to occur. Below this mass, stars have cores that are radiative with convective zones near the surface. With decreasing stellar mass, the proportion of the star forming a convective envelope increases.
Main-sequence stars below 0.4 M☉ undergo convection throughout their mass. When core convection does not occur, a helium-rich core develops surrounded by an outer layer of hydrogen. In general, the more massive a star is, the shorter its lifespan on the main sequence. After the hydrogen fuel at the core has been consumed, the star evolves away from the main sequence on the HR diagram, into a supergiant, red giant, or directly to a white dwarf. In the early part of the 20th century, information about the types and distances of stars became more available; the spectra of stars were shown to have distinctive features. Annie Jump Cannon and Edward C. Pickering at Harvard College Observatory developed a method of categorization that became known as the Harvard Classification Scheme, published in the Harvard Annals in 1901. In Potsdam in 1906, the Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung noticed that the reddest stars—classified as K and M in the Harvard scheme—could be divided into two distinct groups; these stars are either much brighter than the Sun, or much fainter.
To distinguish these groups, he called them. The following year he began studying star clusters, he published the first plots of color versus luminosity for these stars. These plots showed a continuous sequence of stars, which he named the Main Sequence. At Princeton University, Henry Norris Russell was following a similar course of research, he was studying the relationship between the spectral classification of stars and their actual brightness as corrected for distance—their absolute magnitude. For this purpose he used a set of stars that had reliable parallaxes and many of, categorized at Harvard; when he plotted the spectral types of these stars against their absolute magnitude, he found that dwarf stars followed a distinct relationship. This allowed the real brightness of a dwarf star to be predicted with reasonable accuracy. Of the red stars observed by Hertzsprung, the dwarf stars followed the spectra-luminosity relationship discovered by Russell. However, the giant stars are much brighter than so do not follow the same relationship.
Russell proposed that the "giant stars must have low density or great surface-brightness, the reverse is true of dwarf stars". The same curve showed that there were few faint white stars. In 1933, Bengt Strömgren introduced the term Hertzsprung–Russell diagram to denote a luminosity-spectral class diagram; this name reflected the parallel development of this technique by both Hertzsprung and Russell earlier in the century. As evolutionary models of stars were developed during the 1930s, it was shown that, for stars of a uniform chemical composition, a relationship exists between a star's mass and its luminosity and radius; that is, for a given mass and composition, there is a unique solution for determining the star's radius and luminosity. This became known as the Vogt–Russell theorem. By this theorem, when a star's chemical composition and its position on the main sequence is known, so too is the star's mass and radius. A refined scheme for stellar classification was published in 1943 by William Wilson Morgan and Philip Childs Keenan.
The MK classification assigned each star a spectral type—based on the Harvard classification—and a luminosity class. The Harvard classification had been developed by assigning a different lett
In astronomy, stellar classification is the classification of stars based on their spectral characteristics. Electromagnetic radiation from the star is analyzed by splitting it with a prism or diffraction grating into a spectrum exhibiting the rainbow of colors interspersed with spectral lines; each line indicates a particular chemical element or molecule, with the line strength indicating the abundance of that element. The strengths of the different spectral lines vary due to the temperature of the photosphere, although in some cases there are true abundance differences; the spectral class of a star is a short code summarizing the ionization state, giving an objective measure of the photosphere's temperature. Most stars are classified under the Morgan-Keenan system using the letters O, B, A, F, G, K, M, a sequence from the hottest to the coolest; each letter class is subdivided using a numeric digit with 0 being hottest and 9 being coolest. The sequence has been expanded with classes for other stars and star-like objects that do not fit in the classical system, such as class D for white dwarfs and classes S and C for carbon stars.
In the MK system, a luminosity class is added to the spectral class using Roman numerals. This is based on the width of certain absorption lines in the star's spectrum, which vary with the density of the atmosphere and so distinguish giant stars from dwarfs. Luminosity class 0 or Ia+ is used for hypergiants, class I for supergiants, class II for bright giants, class III for regular giants, class IV for sub-giants, class V for main-sequence stars, class sd for sub-dwarfs, class D for white dwarfs; the full spectral class for the Sun is G2V, indicating a main-sequence star with a temperature around 5,800 K. The conventional color description takes into account only the peak of the stellar spectrum. In actuality, stars radiate in all parts of the spectrum; because all spectral colors combined appear white, the actual apparent colors the human eye would observe are far lighter than the conventional color descriptions would suggest. This characteristic of'lightness' indicates that the simplified assignment of colors within the spectrum can be misleading.
Excluding color-contrast illusions in dim light, there are indigo, or violet stars. Red dwarfs are a deep shade of orange, brown dwarfs do not appear brown, but hypothetically would appear dim grey to a nearby observer; the modern classification system is known as the Morgan–Keenan classification. Each star is assigned a spectral class from the older Harvard spectral classification and a luminosity class using Roman numerals as explained below, forming the star's spectral type. Other modern stellar classification systems, such as the UBV system, are based on color indexes—the measured differences in three or more color magnitudes; those numbers are given labels such as "U-V" or "B-V", which represent the colors passed by two standard filters. The Harvard system is a one-dimensional classification scheme by astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, who re-ordered and simplified a prior alphabetical system. Stars are grouped according to their spectral characteristics by single letters of the alphabet, optionally with numeric subdivisions.
Main-sequence stars vary in surface temperature from 2,000 to 50,000 K, whereas more-evolved stars can have temperatures above 100,000 K. Physically, the classes indicate the temperature of the star's atmosphere and are listed from hottest to coldest; the spectral classes O through M, as well as other more specialized classes discussed are subdivided by Arabic numerals, where 0 denotes the hottest stars of a given class. For example, A0 denotes A9 denotes the coolest ones. Fractional numbers are allowed; the Sun is classified as G2. Conventional color descriptions are traditional in astronomy, represent colors relative to the mean color of an A class star, considered to be white; the apparent color descriptions are what the observer would see if trying to describe the stars under a dark sky without aid to the eye, or with binoculars. However, most stars in the sky, except the brightest ones, appear white or bluish white to the unaided eye because they are too dim for color vision to work. Red supergiants are cooler and redder than dwarfs of the same spectral type, stars with particular spectral features such as carbon stars may be far redder than any black body.
The fact that the Harvard classification of a star indicated its surface or photospheric temperature was not understood until after its development, though by the time the first Hertzsprung–Russell diagram was formulated, this was suspected to be true. In the 1920s, the Indian physicist Meghnad Saha derived a theory of ionization by extending well-known ideas in physical chemistry pertaining to the dissociation of molecules to the ionization of atoms. First he applied it to the solar chromosphere to stellar spectra. Harvard astronomer Cecilia Payne demonstrated that the O-B-A-F-G-K-M spectral sequence is a sequence in temperature; because the classification sequence predates our understanding that it is a temperature sequence, the placement of a spectrum into a given subtype, such as B3 or A7, depends upon estimates of the strengths of absorption features in stellar spectra. As a result, these subtypes are not evenly divided into any sort of mathematically representable intervals; the Yerkes spectral classification called the MKK system from the authors' initial
A giant star is a star with larger radius and luminosity than a main-sequence star of the same surface temperature. They lie above the main sequence on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram and correspond to luminosity classes II and III; the terms giant and dwarf were coined for stars of quite different luminosity despite similar temperature or spectral type by Ejnar Hertzsprung about 1905. Giant stars have radii up to a few hundred times the Sun and luminosities between 10 and a few thousand times that of the Sun. Stars still more luminous than giants are referred to as hypergiants. A hot, luminous main-sequence star may be referred to as a giant, but any main-sequence star is properly called a dwarf no matter how large and luminous it is. A star becomes a giant after all the hydrogen available for fusion at its core has been depleted and, as a result, leaves the main sequence; the behaviour of a post-main-sequence star depends on its mass. For a star with a mass above about 0.25 solar masses, once the core is depleted of hydrogen it contracts and heats up so that hydrogen starts to fuse in a shell around the core.
The portion of the star outside the shell expands and cools, but with only a small increase in luminosity, the star becomes a subgiant. The inert helium core continues to grow and increase temperature as it accretes helium from the shell, but in stars up to about 10-12 M☉ it does not become hot enough to start helium burning. Instead, after just a few million years the core reaches the Schönberg–Chandrasekhar limit collapses, may become degenerate; this causes the outer layers to expand further and generates a strong convective zone that brings heavy elements to the surface in a process called the first dredge-up. This strong convection increases the transport of energy to the surface, the luminosity increases and the star moves onto the red-giant branch where it will stably burn hydrogen in a shell for a substantial fraction of its entire life; the core continues to gain mass and increase in temperature, whereas there is some mass loss in the outer layers. § 5.9. If the star's mass, when on the main sequence, was below 0.4 M☉, it will never reach the central temperatures necessary to fuse helium.
P. 169. It will therefore remain a hydrogen-fusing red giant until it runs out of hydrogen, at which point it will become a helium white dwarf. § 4.1, 6.1. According to stellar evolution theory, no star of such low mass can have evolved to that stage within the age of the Universe. In stars above about 0.4 M☉ the core temperature reaches 108 K and helium will begin to fuse to carbon and oxygen in the core by the triple-alpha process.§ 5.9, chapter 6. When the core is degenerate helium fusion begins explosively, but most of the energy goes into lifting the degeneracy and the core becomes convective; the energy generated by helium fusion reduces the pressure in the surrounding hydrogen-burning shell, which reduces its energy-generation rate. The overall luminosity of the star decreases, its outer envelope contracts again, the star moves from the red-giant branch to the horizontal branch. Chapter 6; when the core helium is exhausted, a star with up to about 8 M☉ has a carbon–oxygen core that becomes degenerate and starts helium burning in a shell.
As with the earlier collapse of the helium core, this starts convection in the outer layers, triggers a second dredge-up, causes a dramatic increase in size and luminosity. This is the asymptotic giant branch analogous to the red-giant branch but more luminous, with a hydrogen-burning shell contributing most of the energy. Stars only remain on the AGB for around a million years, becoming unstable until they exhaust their fuel, go through a planetary nebula phase, become a carbon–oxygen white dwarf. § 7.1–7.4. Main-sequence stars with masses above about 12 M☉ are very luminous and they move horizontally across the HR diagram when they leave the main sequence becoming blue giants before they expand further into blue supergiants, they start core-helium burning before the core becomes degenerate and develop smoothly into red supergiants without a strong increase in luminosity. At this stage they have comparable luminosities to bright AGB stars although they have much higher masses, but will further increase in luminosity as they burn heavier elements and become a supernova.
Stars in the 8-12 M☉ range have somewhat intermediate properties and have been called super-AGB stars. They follow the tracks of lighter stars through RGB, HB, AGB phases, but are massive enough to initiate core carbon burning and some neon burning, they form oxygen–magnesium–neon cores, which may collapse in an electron-capture supernova, or they may leave behind an oxygen–neon white dwarf. O class main sequence stars are highly luminous; the giant phase for such stars is a brief phase of increased size and luminosity before developing a supergiant spectral luminosity class. Type O giants may be more than a hundred thousand times as luminous as the sun, brighter than many supergiants. Classification is complex and difficult with small differences between luminosity classes and a continuous range of intermediate forms; the most massive stars develop giant or supergiant spectral features while still burning hydrogen in their cores, due to mixing of heavy elements to the surface and high luminosity which produces a powerful stellar wind and causes the star's atmosphere to expand.
A star whose initial mass is less than 0.25 M☉ will not become a giant star at all. For most of th
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
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.
Stellar parallax is the apparent shift of position of any nearby star against the background of distant objects. Created by the different orbital positions of Earth, the small observed shift is largest at time intervals of about six months, when Earth arrives at opposite sides of the Sun in its orbit, giving a baseline distance of about two astronomical units between observations; the parallax itself is considered to be half of this maximum, about equivalent to the observational shift that would occur due to the different positions of Earth and the Sun, a baseline of one astronomical unit. Stellar parallax is so difficult to detect that its existence was the subject of much debate in astronomy for hundreds of years, it was first observed in 1806 by Giuseppe Calandrelli who reported parallax in α-Lyrae in his work "Osservazione e riflessione sulla parallasse annua dall’alfa della Lira". In 1838 Friedrich Bessel made the first successful parallax measurement, for the star 61 Cygni, using a Fraunhofer heliometer at Königsberg Observatory.
Once a star's parallax is known, its distance from Earth can be computed trigonometrically. But the more distant an object is, the smaller its parallax. With 21st-century techniques in astrometry, the limits of accurate measurement make distances farther away than about 100 parsecs too approximate to be useful when obtained by this technique; this limits the applicability of parallax as a measurement of distance to objects that are close on a galactic scale. Other techniques, such as spectral red-shift, are required to measure the distance of more remote objects. Stellar parallax measures are given in the tiny units of arcseconds, or in thousandths of arcseconds; the distance unit parsec is defined as the length of the leg of a right triangle adjacent to the angle of one arcsecond at one vertex, where the other leg is 1 AU long. Because stellar parallaxes and distances all involve such skinny right triangles, a convenient trigonometric approximation can be used to convert parallaxes to distance.
The approximate distance is the reciprocal of the parallax: d ≃ 1 / p. For example, Proxima Centauri, whose parallax is 0.7687, is 1 / 0.7687 parsecs = 1.3009 parsecs distant. Stellar parallax is so small that its apparent absence was used as a scientific argument against heliocentrism during the early modern age, it is clear from Euclid's geometry that the effect would be undetectable if the stars were far enough away, but for various reasons such gigantic distances involved seemed implausible: it was one of Tycho Brahe's principal objections to Copernican heliocentrism that in order for it to be compatible with the lack of observable stellar parallax, there would have to be an enormous and unlikely void between the orbit of Saturn and the eighth sphere. James Bradley first tried to measure stellar parallaxes in 1729; the stellar movement proved too insignificant for his telescope, but he instead discovered the aberration of light and the nutation of Earth's axis, catalogued 3222 stars. Stellar parallax is most measured using annual parallax, defined as the difference in position of a star as seen from Earth and Sun, i.e. the angle subtended at a star by the mean radius of Earth's orbit around the Sun.
The parsec is defined as the distance. Annual parallax is measured by observing the position of a star at different times of the year as Earth moves through its orbit. Measurement of annual parallax was the first reliable way to determine the distances to the closest stars; the first successful measurements of stellar parallax were made by Friedrich Bessel in 1838 for the star 61 Cygni using a heliometer. Being difficult to measure, only about 60 stellar parallaxes had been obtained by the end of the 19th century by use of the filar micrometer. Astrographs using astronomical photographic plates sped the process in the early 20th century. Automated plate-measuring machines and more sophisticated computer technology of the 1960s allowed more efficient compilation of star catalogues. In the 1980s, charge-coupled devices replaced photographic plates and reduced optical uncertainties to one milliarcsecond. Stellar parallax remains the standard for calibrating other measurement methods. Accurate calculations of distance based on stellar parallax require a measurement of the distance from Earth to the Sun, now known to exquisite accuracy based on radar reflection off the surfaces of planets.
The angles involved in these calculations are small and thus difficult to measure. The nearest star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri, has a parallax of 0.7687 ± 0.0003 arcsec. This angle is that subtended by an object 2 centimeters in diameter located 5.3 kilometers away. In 1989 the satellite Hipparcos was launched for obtaining parallaxes and proper motions of nearby stars, increasing the number of stellar parallaxes measured to milliarcsecond accuracy a thousandfold. So, Hipparcos is only able to measure parallax angles for stars up to about 1,600 light-years away, a little more than one percent of the diameter of the Milky Way Galaxy; the Hubble telescope WFC3 now has a precision of 20 to 40 microarcseconds, enabling reliable distance measurements u
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