Supergiants are among the most massive and most luminous stars. Supergiant stars occupy the top region of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram with absolute visual magnitudes between about −3 and −8; the temperature range of supergiant stars spans from about 3,450 K to over 20,000 K. The title supergiant, as applied to a star, does not have a single concrete definition; the term giant star was first coined by Hertzsprung when it became apparent that the majority of stars fell into two distinct regions of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. One region contained larger and more luminous stars of spectral types A to M and received the name giant. Subsequently, as they lacked any measurable parallax, it became apparent that some of these stars were larger and more luminous than the bulk, the term super-giant arose adopted as supergiant. Supergiant stars can be identified on the basis of their spectra, with distinctive lines sensitive to high luminosity and low surface gravity. In 1897, Antonia C. Maury had divided stars based on the widths of their spectral lines, with her class "c" identifying stars with the narrowest lines.
Although it was not known at the time, these were the most luminous stars. In 1943 Morgan and Keenan formalised the definition of spectral luminosity classes, with class I referring to supergiant stars; the same system of MK luminosity classes is still used today, with refinements based on the increased resolution of modern spectra. Supergiants occur in every spectral class from young blue class O supergiants to evolved red class M supergiants; because they are enlarged compared to main-sequence and giant stars of the same spectral type, they have lower surface gravities, changes can be observed in their line profiles. Supergiants are evolved stars with higher levels of heavy elements than main-sequence stars; this is the basis of the MK luminosity system which assigns stars to luminosity classes purely from observing their spectra. In addition to the line changes due to low surface gravity and fusion products, the most luminous stars have high mass-loss rates and resulting clouds of expelled circumstellar materials which can produce emission lines, P Cygni profiles, or forbidden lines.
The MK system assigns stars to luminosity classes: Ib for supergiants. In reality there is much more of a continuum than well defined bands for these classifications, classifications such as Iab are used for intermediate luminosity supergiants. Supergiant spectra are annotated to indicate spectral peculiarities, for example B2 Iae or F5 Ipec. Supergiants can be defined as a specific phase in the evolutionary history of certain stars. Stars with initial masses above 8-10 M☉ and smoothly initiate helium core fusion after they have exhausted their hydrogen, continue fusing heavier elements after helium exhaustion until they develop an iron core, at which point the core collapses to produce a Type 2 supernova. Once these massive stars leave the main sequence, their atmospheres inflate, they are described as supergiants. Stars under 10 M☉ will never form an iron core and in evolutionary terms do not become supergiants, although they can reach luminosities thousands of times the sun's, they cannot fuse carbon and heavier elements after the helium is exhausted, so they just lose their outer layers, leaving the core of a white dwarf.
The phase where these stars have both hydrogen and helium burning shells is referred to as the asymptotic giant branch, as stars become more and more luminous class M stars. Stars of 8-10 M☉ may fuse sufficient carbon on the AGB to produce an oxygen-neon core and an electron-capture supernova, but astrophysicists categorise these as super-AGB stars rather than supergiants. There are several categories of evolved stars which are not supergiants in evolutionary terms but may show supergiant spectral features or have luminosities comparable to supergiants. Asymptotic-giant-branch and post-AGB stars are evolved lower-mass red giants with luminosities that can be comparable to more massive red supergiants, but because of their low mass, being in a different stage of development, their lives ending in a different way, astrophysicists prefer to keep them separate; the dividing line becomes blurred at around 7–10 M☉ where stars start to undergo limited fusion of elements heavier than helium. Specialists studying these stars refer to them as super AGB stars, since they have many properties in common with AGB such as thermal pulsing.
Others describe them as low-mass supergiants since they start to burn elements heavier than helium and can explode as supernovae. Many post-AGB stars receive spectral types with supergiant luminosity classes. For example, RV Tauri has an Ia luminosity class despite being less massive than the sun; some AGB stars receive a supergiant luminosity class, most notably W Virginis variables such as W Virginis itself, stars that are executing a blue loop triggered by thermal pulsing. A small number of Mira variables and other late AGB stars have supergiant luminosity classes, for example α Herculis. Classical Cepheid variables have supergiant luminosity classes, although only the most luminous and massive will go on to develop an iron core; the majority of them are intermediate mass stars fusing helium in their cores and will transition to the asymptotic giant branch. Δ Cephei itself is an example with a luminosity of 2,000 L☉ and a mass of 4.5 M☉. Wolf–Rayet stars are high-mass luminous evolved stars, hotter than most supergiants and smaller, visually less
The effective temperature of a body such as a star or planet is the temperature of a black body that would emit the same total amount of electromagnetic radiation. Effective temperature is used as an estimate of a body's surface temperature when the body's emissivity curve is not known; when the star's or planet's net emissivity in the relevant wavelength band is less than unity, the actual temperature of the body will be higher than the effective temperature. The net emissivity may be low due to surface or atmospheric properties, including greenhouse effect; the effective temperature of a star is the temperature of a black body with the same luminosity per surface area as the star and is defined according to the Stefan–Boltzmann law FBol = σTeff4. Notice that the total luminosity of a star is L = 4πR2σTeff4, where R is the stellar radius; the definition of the stellar radius is not straightforward. More rigorously the effective temperature corresponds to the temperature at the radius, defined by a certain value of the Rosseland optical depth within the stellar atmosphere.
The effective temperature and the bolometric luminosity are the two fundamental physical parameters needed to place a star on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. Both effective temperature and bolometric luminosity depend on the chemical composition of a star; the effective temperature of our Sun is around 5780 kelvins. Stars have a decreasing temperature gradient; the "core temperature" of the Sun—the temperature at the centre of the Sun where nuclear reactions take place—is estimated to be 15,000,000 K. The color index of a star indicates its temperature from the cool—by stellar standards—red M stars that radiate in the infrared to the hot blue O stars that radiate in the ultraviolet; the effective temperature of a star indicates the amount of heat that the star radiates per unit of surface area. From the warmest surfaces to the coolest is the sequence of stellar classifications known as O, B, A, F, G, K, M. A red star could be a tiny red dwarf, a star of feeble energy production and a small surface or a bloated giant or supergiant star such as Antares or Betelgeuse, either of which generates far greater energy but passes it through a surface so large that the star radiates little per unit of surface area.
A star near the middle of the spectrum, such as the modest Sun or the giant Capella radiates more energy per unit of surface area than the feeble red dwarf stars or the bloated supergiants, but much less than such a white or blue star as Vega or Rigel. To find the effective temperature of a planet, it can be calculated by equating the power received by the planet to the known power emitted by a blackbody of temperature T. Take the case of a planet at a distance D from the star, of luminosity L. Assuming the star radiates isotropically and that the planet is a long way from the star, the power absorbed by the planet is given by treating the planet as a disc of radius r, which intercepts some of the power, spread over the surface of a sphere of radius D; the calculation assumes the planet reflects some of the incoming radiation by incorporating a parameter called the albedo. An albedo of 1 means that all the radiation is reflected, an albedo of 0 means all of it is absorbed; the expression for absorbed power is then: P a b s = L r 2 4 D 2 The next assumption we can make is that the entire planet is at the same temperature T, that the planet radiates as a blackbody.
The Stefan–Boltzmann law gives an expression for the power radiated by the planet: P r a d = 4 π r 2 σ T 4 Equating these two expressions and rearranging gives an expression for the effective temperature: T = L 16 π σ D 2 4 Note that the planet's radius has cancelled out of the final expression. The effective temperature for Jupiter from this calculation is 88 K and 51 Pegasi b is 1,258 K. A better estimate of effective temperature for some planets, such as Jupiter, would need to include the internal heating as a power input; the actual temperature depends on atmosphere effects. The actual temperature from spectroscopic analysis for HD 209458 b is 1,130 K, but the effective temperature is 1,359 K; the internal heating within Jupiter raises the effective temperature to about 152 K. The surface temperature of a planet can be estimated by modifying the effective-temperature calculation to account for emissivity and temperature variation; the area of the planet that absorbs the power from the star is Aabs, some fraction of the total surface area Atotal = 4πr2, where r is the radius of the planet.
This area intercepts some of the power, spread over the surface of a sphere of radius D. We allow the planet to reflect some of the incoming radiation by incorporating a parameter a called the albedo. An albedo of 1 means that all the radiation is reflected, an albedo
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
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
Minute and second of arc
A minute of arc, arc minute, or minute arc is a unit of angular measurement equal to 1/60 of one degree. Since one degree is 1/360 of a turn, one minute of arc is 1/21600 of a turn – it is for this reason that the Earth's circumference is exactly 21,600 nautical miles. A minute of arc is π/10800 of a radian. A second of arc, arcsecond, or arc second is 1/60 of an arcminute, 1/3600 of a degree, 1/1296000 of a turn, π/648000 of a radian; these units originated in Babylonian astronomy as sexagesimal subdivisions of the degree. To express smaller angles, standard SI prefixes can be employed; the number of square arcminutes in a complete sphere is 4 π 2 = 466 560 000 π ≈ 148510660 square arcminutes. The names "minute" and "second" have nothing to do with the identically named units of time "minute" or "second"; the identical names reflect the ancient Babylonian number system, based on the number 60. The standard symbol for marking the arcminute is the prime, though a single quote is used where only ASCII characters are permitted.
One arcminute is thus written 1′. It is abbreviated as arcmin or amin or, less the prime with a circumflex over it; the standard symbol for the arcsecond is the double prime, though a double quote is used where only ASCII characters are permitted. One arcsecond is thus written 1″, it is abbreviated as arcsec or asec. In celestial navigation, seconds of arc are used in calculations, the preference being for degrees and decimals of a minute, for example, written as 42° 25.32′ or 42° 25.322′. This notation has been carried over into marine GPS receivers, which display latitude and longitude in the latter format by default; the full moon's average apparent size is about 31 arcminutes. An arcminute is the resolution of the human eye. An arcsecond is the angle subtended by a U. S. dime coin at a distance of 4 kilometres. An arcsecond is the angle subtended by an object of diameter 725.27 km at a distance of one astronomical unit, an object of diameter 45866916 km at one light-year, an object of diameter one astronomical unit at a distance of one parsec, by definition.
A milliarcsecond is about the size of a dime atop the Eiffel Tower. A microarcsecond is about the size of a period at the end of a sentence in the Apollo mission manuals left on the Moon as seen from Earth. A nanoarcsecond is about the size of a penny on Neptune's moon Triton as observed from Earth. Notable examples of size in arcseconds are: Hubble Space Telescope has calculational resolution of 0.05 arcseconds and actual resolution of 0.1 arcseconds, close to the diffraction limit. Crescent Venus measures between 66 seconds of arc. Since antiquity the arcminute and arcsecond have been used in astronomy. In the ecliptic coordinate system and longitude; the principal exception is right ascension in equatorial coordinates, measured in time units of hours and seconds. The arcsecond is often used to describe small astronomical angles such as the angular diameters of planets, the proper motion of stars, the separation of components of binary star systems, parallax, the small change of position of a star in the course of a year or of a solar system body as the Earth rotates.
These small angles may be written in milliarcseconds, or thousandths of an arcsecond. The unit of distance, the parsec, named from the parallax of one arc second, was developed for such parallax measurements, it is the distance at which the mean radius of the Earth's orbit would subtend an angle of one arcsecond. The ESA astrometric space probe Gaia, launched in 2013, can approximate star positions to 7 microarcseconds. Apart from the Sun, the star with the largest angular diameter from Earth is R Doradus, a red giant with a diameter of 0.05 arcsecond. Because of the effects of atmospheric seeing, ground-based telescopes will smear the image of a star to an angular diameter of about 0.5 arcsecond. The dwarf planet Pluto has proven difficult to resolve because its angular diameter is about 0.1 arcsecond. Space telescopes are diffraction limited. For example, the Hubble Space Telescope can reach an angular size of stars down to about 0.1″. Techniques exist for improving seeing on the ground. Adaptive optics, for example, can produce images around 0.05 arcsecond on a 10 m class telescope.
Minutes and seconds of arc are used in cartography and navigation. At sea level one minute of arc
A variable star is a star whose brightness as seen from Earth fluctuates. This variation may be caused by a change in emitted light or by something blocking the light, so variable stars are classified as either: Intrinsic variables, whose luminosity changes. Extrinsic variables, whose apparent changes in brightness are due to changes in the amount of their light that can reach Earth. Many most, stars have at least some variation in luminosity: the energy output of our Sun, for example, varies by about 0.1% over an 11-year solar cycle. An ancient Egyptian calendar of lucky and unlucky days composed some 3,200 years ago may be the oldest preserved historical document of the discovery of a variable star, the eclipsing binary Algol. Of the modern astronomers, the first variable star was identified in 1638 when Johannes Holwarda noticed that Omicron Ceti pulsated in a cycle taking 11 months; this discovery, combined with supernovae observed in 1572 and 1604, proved that the starry sky was not eternally invariable as Aristotle and other ancient philosophers had taught.
In this way, the discovery of variable stars contributed to the astronomical revolution of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The second variable star to be described was the eclipsing variable Algol, by Geminiano Montanari in 1669. Chi Cygni was identified in 1686 by G. Kirch R Hydrae in 1704 by G. D. Maraldi. By 1786 ten variable stars were known. John Goodricke himself discovered Beta Lyrae. Since 1850 the number of known variable stars has increased especially after 1890 when it became possible to identify variable stars by means of photography; the latest edition of the General Catalogue of Variable Stars lists more than 46,000 variable stars in the Milky Way, as well as 10,000 in other galaxies, over 10,000'suspected' variables. The most common kinds of variability involve changes in brightness, but other types of variability occur, in particular changes in the spectrum. By combining light curve data with observed spectral changes, astronomers are able to explain why a particular star is variable.
Variable stars are analysed using photometry, spectrophotometry and spectroscopy. Measurements of their changes in brightness can be plotted to produce light curves. For regular variables, the period of variation and its amplitude can be well established. Peak brightnesses in the light curve are known as maxima. Amateur astronomers can do useful scientific study of variable stars by visually comparing the star with other stars within the same telescopic field of view of which the magnitudes are known and constant. By estimating the variable's magnitude and noting the time of observation a visual lightcurve can be constructed; the American Association of Variable Star Observers collects such observations from participants around the world and shares the data with the scientific community. From the light curve the following data are derived: are the brightness variations periodical, irregular, or unique? What is the period of the brightness fluctuations? What is the shape of the light curve? From the spectrum the following data are derived: what kind of star is it: what is its temperature, its luminosity class? is it a single star, or a binary? does the spectrum change with time?
Changes in brightness may depend on the part of the spectrum, observed if the wavelengths of spectral lines are shifted this points to movements strong magnetic fields on the star betray themselves in the spectrum abnormal emission or absorption lines may be indication of a hot stellar atmosphere, or gas clouds surrounding the star. In few cases it is possible to make pictures of a stellar disk; these may show darker spots on its surface. Combining light curves with spectral data gives a clue as to the changes that occur in a variable star. For example, evidence for a pulsating star is found in its shifting spectrum because its surface periodically moves toward and away from us, with the same frequency as its changing brightness. About two-thirds of all variable stars appear to be pulsating. In the 1930s astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington showed that the mathematical equations that describe the interior of a star may lead to instabilities that cause a star to pulsate; the most common type of instability is related to oscillations in the degree of ionization in outer, convective layers of the star.
Suppose the star is in the swelling phase. Its outer layers expand; because of the decreasing temperature the degree of ionization decreases. This makes the gas more transparent, thus makes it easier for the star to radiate its energy; this in turn will make the star start to contract. As the gas is thereby compressed, it is heated and the degree of ionization again increases. Thi
Astrometry is the branch of astronomy that involves precise measurements of the positions and movements of stars and other celestial bodies. The information obtained by astrometric measurements provides information on the kinematics and physical origin of the Solar System and our galaxy, the Milky Way; the history of astrometry is linked to the history of star catalogues, which gave astronomers reference points for objects in the sky so they could track their movements. This can be dated back to Hipparchus, who around 190 BC used the catalogue of his predecessors Timocharis and Aristillus to discover Earth's precession. In doing so, he developed the brightness scale still in use today. Hipparchus compiled a catalogue with their positions. Hipparchus's successor, included a catalogue of 1,022 stars in his work the Almagest, giving their location and brightness. In the 10th century, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi carried out observations on the stars and described their positions and star color. Ibn Yunus observed more than 10,000 entries for the Sun's position for many years using a large astrolabe with a diameter of nearly 1.4 metres.
His observations on eclipses were still used centuries in Simon Newcomb's investigations on the motion of the Moon, while his other observations of the motions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn inspired Laplace's Obliquity of the Ecliptic and Inequalities of Jupiter and Saturn. In the 15th century, the Timurid astronomer Ulugh Beg compiled the Zij-i-Sultani, in which he catalogued 1,019 stars. Like the earlier catalogs of Hipparchus and Ptolemy, Ulugh Beg's catalogue is estimated to have been precise to within 20 minutes of arc. In the 16th century, Tycho Brahe used improved instruments, including large mural instruments, to measure star positions more than with a precision of 15–35 arcsec. Taqi al-Din measured the right ascension of the stars at the Constantinople Observatory of Taqi ad-Din using the "observational clock" he invented; when telescopes became commonplace, setting circles sped measurements 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 the Earth's axis.
His cataloguing of 3222 stars was refined in 1807 by Friedrich Bessel, the father of modern astrometry. He made the first measurement of stellar parallax: 0.3 arcsec for the binary star 61 Cygni. 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; this technology made astrometry less expensive. In 1989, the European Space Agency's Hipparcos satellite took astrometry into orbit, where it could be less affected by mechanical forces of the Earth and optical distortions from its atmosphere. Operated from 1989 to 1993, Hipparcos measured large and small angles on the sky with much greater precision than any previous optical telescopes.
During its 4-year run, the positions and proper motions of 118,218 stars were determined with an unprecedented degree of accuracy. A new "Tycho catalog" drew together a database of 1,058,332 to within 20-30 mas. Additional catalogues were compiled for the 23,882 double/multiple stars and 11,597 variable stars analyzed during the Hipparcos mission. Today, the catalogue most used is USNO-B1.0, an all-sky catalogue that tracks proper motions, positions and other characteristics for over one billion stellar objects. During the past 50 years, 7,435 Schmidt camera plates were used to complete several sky surveys that make the data in USNO-B1.0 accurate to within 0.2 arcsec. Apart from the fundamental function of providing astronomers with a reference frame to report their observations in, astrometry is fundamental for fields like celestial mechanics, stellar dynamics and galactic astronomy. In observational astronomy, astrometric techniques help identify stellar objects by their unique motions, it is instrumental for keeping time, in that UTC is the atomic time synchronized to Earth's rotation by means of exact astronomical observations.
Astrometry is an important step in the cosmic distance ladder because it establishes parallax distance estimates for stars in the Milky Way. Astrometry has been used to support claims of extrasolar planet detection by measuring the displacement the proposed planets cause in their parent star's apparent position on the sky, due to their mutual orbit around the center of mass of the system. Astrometry is more accurate in space missions that are not affected by the distorting effects of the Earth's atmosphere. NASA's planned Space Interferometry Mission was to utilize astrometric techniques to detect terrestrial planets orbiting 200 or so of the nearest solar-type stars; the European Space Agency's Gaia Mission, launched in 2013, applies astrometric techniques in its stellar census. In addition to the detection of exoplanets, it can be used to determine their mass. Astrometric measurements are used by astrophysicists to constrain certain models in celestial mechanics. By measuring the velocities of pulsars, it is possible to put a limit on the asymmetry of supernova explosions.