A constellation is a group of stars that forms an imaginary outline or pattern on the celestial sphere representing an animal, mythological person or creature, a god, or an inanimate object. The origins of the earliest constellations go back to prehistory. People used them to relate stories of their beliefs, creation, or mythology. Different cultures and countries adopted their own constellations, some of which lasted into the early 20th century before today's constellations were internationally recognized. Adoption of constellations has changed over time. Many have changed in shape; some became popular. Others were limited to single nations; the 48 traditional Western constellations are Greek. They are given in Aratus' work Phenomena and Ptolemy's Almagest, though their origin predates these works by several centuries. Constellations in the far southern sky were added from the 15th century until the mid-18th century when European explorers began traveling to the Southern Hemisphere. Twelve ancient constellations belong to the zodiac.
The origins of the zodiac remain uncertain. In 1928, the International Astronomical Union formally accepted 88 modern constellations, with contiguous boundaries that together cover the entire celestial sphere. Any given point in a celestial coordinate system lies in one of the modern constellations; some astronomical naming systems include the constellation where a given celestial object is found to convey its approximate location in the sky. The Flamsteed designation of a star, for example, consists of a number and the genitive form of the constellation name. Other star patterns or groups called asterisms are not constellations per se but are used by observers to navigate the night sky. Examples of bright asterisms include the Pleiades and Hyades within the constellation Taurus or Venus' Mirror in the constellation of Orion.. Some asterisms, like the False Cross, are split between two constellations; the word "constellation" comes from the Late Latin term cōnstellātiō, which can be translated as "set of stars".
The Ancient Greek word for constellation is ἄστρον. A more modern astronomical sense of the term "constellation" is as a recognisable pattern of stars whose appearance is associated with mythological characters or creatures, or earthbound animals, or objects, it can specifically denote the recognized 88 named constellations used today. Colloquial usage does not draw a sharp distinction between "constellations" and smaller "asterisms", yet the modern accepted astronomical constellations employ such a distinction. E.g. the Pleiades and the Hyades are both asterisms, each lies within the boundaries of the constellation of Taurus. Another example is the northern asterism known as the Big Dipper or the Plough, composed of the seven brightest stars within the area of the IAU-defined constellation of Ursa Major; the southern False Cross asterism includes portions of the constellations Carina and Vela and the Summer Triangle.. A constellation, viewed from a particular latitude on Earth, that never sets below the horizon is termed circumpolar.
From the North Pole or South Pole, all constellations south or north of the celestial equator are circumpolar. Depending on the definition, equatorial constellations may include those that lie between declinations 45° north and 45° south, or those that pass through the declination range of the ecliptic or zodiac ranging between 23½° north, the celestial equator, 23½° south. Although stars in constellations appear near each other in the sky, they lie at a variety of distances away from the Earth. Since stars have their own independent motions, all constellations will change over time. After tens to hundreds of thousands of years, familiar outlines will become unrecognizable. Astronomers can predict the past or future constellation outlines by measuring individual stars' common proper motions or cpm by accurate astrometry and their radial velocities by astronomical spectroscopy; the earliest evidence for the humankind's identification of constellations comes from Mesopotamian inscribed stones and clay writing tablets that date back to 3000 BC.
It seems that the bulk of the Mesopotamian constellations were created within a short interval from around 1300 to 1000 BC. Mesopotamian constellations appeared in many of the classical Greek constellations; the oldest Babylonian star catalogues of stars and constellations date back to the beginning in the Middle Bronze Age, most notably the Three Stars Each texts and the MUL. APIN, an expanded and revised version based on more accurate observation from around 1000 BC. However, the numerous Sumerian names in these catalogues suggest that they built on older, but otherwise unattested, Sumerian traditions of the Early Bronze Age; the classical Zodiac is a revision of Neo-Babylonian constellations from the 6th century BC. The Greeks adopted the Babylonian constellations in the 4th century BC. Twenty Ptolemaic constellations are from the Ancient Near East. Another ten have the same stars but different names. Biblical scholar, E. W. Bullinger interpreted some of the creatures mentioned in the books of Ezekiel and Revelation as the middle signs of the four quarters of the Zodiac, with the Lion as Leo, the Bull as Taurus, the Man representing Aquarius and the Eagle standing in for Scorpio.
The biblical Book of Job also
A star is type of astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma held together by its own gravity. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun. Many other stars are visible to the naked eye from Earth during the night, appearing as a multitude of fixed luminous points in the sky due to their immense distance from Earth; the most prominent stars were grouped into constellations and asterisms, the brightest of which gained proper names. Astronomers have assembled star catalogues that identify the known stars and provide standardized stellar designations. However, most of the estimated 300 sextillion stars in the Universe are invisible to the naked eye from Earth, including all stars outside our galaxy, the Milky Way. For at least a portion of its life, a star shines due to thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in its core, releasing energy that traverses the star's interior and radiates into outer space. All occurring elements heavier than helium are created by stellar nucleosynthesis during the star's lifetime, for some stars by supernova nucleosynthesis when it explodes.
Near the end of its life, a star can contain degenerate matter. Astronomers can determine the mass, age and many other properties of a star by observing its motion through space, its luminosity, spectrum respectively; the total mass of a star is the main factor. Other characteristics of a star, including diameter and temperature, change over its life, while the star's environment affects its rotation and movement. A plot of the temperature of many stars against their luminosities produces a plot known as a Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. Plotting a particular star on that diagram allows the age and evolutionary state of that star to be determined. A star's life begins with the gravitational collapse of a gaseous nebula of material composed of hydrogen, along with helium and trace amounts of heavier elements; when the stellar core is sufficiently dense, hydrogen becomes converted into helium through nuclear fusion, releasing energy in the process. The remainder of the star's interior carries energy away from the core through a combination of radiative and convective heat transfer processes.
The star's internal pressure prevents it from collapsing further under its own gravity. A star with mass greater than 0.4 times the Sun's will expand to become a red giant when the hydrogen fuel in its core is exhausted. In some cases, it will fuse heavier elements in shells around the core; as the star expands it throws a part of its mass, enriched with those heavier elements, into the interstellar environment, to be recycled as new stars. Meanwhile, the core becomes a stellar remnant: a white dwarf, a neutron star, or if it is sufficiently massive a black hole. Binary and multi-star systems consist of two or more stars that are gravitationally bound and move around each other in stable orbits; when two such stars have a close orbit, their gravitational interaction can have a significant impact on their evolution. Stars can form part of a much larger gravitationally bound structure, such as a star cluster or a galaxy. Stars have been important to civilizations throughout the world, they have used for celestial navigation and orientation.
Many ancient astronomers believed that stars were permanently affixed to a heavenly sphere and that they were immutable. By convention, astronomers grouped stars into constellations and used them to track the motions of the planets and the inferred position of the Sun; the motion of the Sun against the background stars was used to create calendars, which could be used to regulate agricultural practices. The Gregorian calendar used nearly everywhere in the world, is a solar calendar based on the angle of the Earth's rotational axis relative to its local star, the Sun; the oldest dated star chart was the result of ancient Egyptian astronomy in 1534 BC. The earliest known star catalogues were compiled by the ancient Babylonian astronomers of Mesopotamia in the late 2nd millennium BC, during the Kassite Period; the first star catalogue in Greek astronomy was created by Aristillus in 300 BC, with the help of Timocharis. The star catalog of Hipparchus included 1020 stars, was used to assemble Ptolemy's star catalogue.
Hipparchus is known for the discovery of the first recorded nova. Many of the constellations and star names in use today derive from Greek astronomy. In spite of the apparent immutability of the heavens, Chinese astronomers were aware that new stars could appear. In 185 AD, they were the first to observe and write about a supernova, now known as the SN 185; the brightest stellar event in recorded history was the SN 1006 supernova, observed in 1006 and written about by the Egyptian astronomer Ali ibn Ridwan and several Chinese astronomers. The SN 1054 supernova, which gave birth to the Crab Nebula, was observed by Chinese and Islamic astronomers. Medieval Islamic astronomers gave Arabic names to many stars that are still used today and they invented numerous astronomical instruments that could compute the positions of the stars, they built the first large observatory research institutes for the purpose of producing Zij star catalogues. Among these, the Book of Fixed Stars was written by the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, who observed a number of stars, star clusters and galaxies.
According to A. Zahoor, in the 11th century, the Persian polymath scholar Abu Rayhan Biruni described the Milky
Hipparcos was a scientific satellite of the European Space Agency, launched in 1989 and operated until 1993. It was the first space experiment devoted to precision astrometry, the accurate measurement of the positions of celestial objects on the sky; this permitted the accurate determination of proper motions and parallaxes of stars, allowing a determination of their distance and tangential velocity. When combined with radial velocity measurements from spectroscopy, this pinpointed all six quantities needed to determine the motion of stars; the resulting Hipparcos Catalogue, a high-precision catalogue of more than 118,200 stars, was published in 1997. The lower-precision Tycho Catalogue of more than a million stars was published at the same time, while the enhanced Tycho-2 Catalogue of 2.5 million stars was published in 2000. Hipparcos' follow-up mission, was launched in 2013; the word "Hipparcos" is an acronym for HIgh Precision PARallax COllecting Satellite and a reference to the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea, noted for applications of trigonometry to astronomy and his discovery of the precession of the equinoxes.
By the second half of the 20th century, the accurate measurement of star positions from the ground was running into insurmountable barriers to improvements in accuracy for large-angle measurements and systematic terms. Problems were dominated by the effects of the Earth's atmosphere, but were compounded by complex optical terms and gravitational instrument flexures, the absence of all-sky visibility. A formal proposal to make these exacting observations from space was first put forward in 1967. Although proposed to the French space agency CNES, it was considered too complex and expensive for a single national programme, its acceptance within the European Space Agency's scientific programme, in 1980, was the result of a lengthy process of study and lobbying. The underlying scientific motivation was to determine the physical properties of the stars through the measurement of their distances and space motions, thus to place theoretical studies of stellar structure and evolution, studies of galactic structure and kinematics, on a more secure empirical basis.
Observationally, the objective was to provide the positions and annual proper motions for some 100,000 stars with an unprecedented accuracy of 0.002 arcseconds, a target in practice surpassed by a factor of two. The name of the space telescope, "Hipparcos" was an acronym for High Precision Parallax Collecting Satellite, it reflected the name of the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus, considered the founder of trigonometry and the discoverer of the precession of the equinoxes; the spacecraft carried a single all-reflective, eccentric Schmidt telescope, with an aperture of 29 cm. A special beam-combining mirror superimposed two fields of view, 58 degrees apart, into the common focal plane; this complex mirror consisted of two mirrors tilted in opposite directions, each occupying half of the rectangular entrance pupil, providing an unvignetted field of view of about 1°×1°. The telescope used a system of grids, at the focal surface, composed of 2688 alternate opaque and transparent bands, with a period of 1.208 arc-sec.
Behind this grid system, an image dissector tube with a sensitive field of view of about 38-arc-sec diameter converted the modulated light into a sequence of photon counts from which the phase of the entire pulse train from a star could be derived. The apparent angle between two stars in the combined fields of view, modulo the grid period, was obtained from the phase difference of the two star pulse trains. Targeting the observation of some 100,000 stars, with an astrometric accuracy of about 0.002 arc-sec, the final Hipparcos Catalogue comprised nearly 120,000 stars with a median accuracy of better than 0.001 arc-sec. An additional photomultiplier system viewed a beam splitter in the optical path and was used as a star mapper, its purpose was to monitor and determine the satellite attitude, in the process, to gather photometric and astrometric data of all stars down to about 11th magnitude. These measurements were made in two broad bands corresponding to B and V in the UBV photometric system.
The positions of these latter stars were to be determined to a precision of 0.03 arc-sec, a factor of 25 less than the main mission stars. Targeting the observation of around 400,000 stars, the resulting Tycho Catalogue comprised just over 1 million stars, with a subsequent analysis extending this to the Tycho-2 Catalogue of about 2.5 million stars. The attitude of the spacecraft about its center of gravity was controlled to scan the celestial sphere in a regular precessional motion maintaining a constant inclination between the spin axis and the direction to the Sun; the spacecraft spun around its Z-axis at the rate of 11.25 revolutions/day at an angle of 43° to the Sun. The Z-axis rotated about the sun-satellite line at 6.4 revolutions/year. The spacecraft consisted of two platforms and six vertical panels, all made of aluminum honeycomb; the solar array consisted of three deployable sections. Two S-band antennas were located on the top and bottom of the spacecraft, providing an omni-directional downlink data rate of 24 kbit/s.
An attitude and orbit-control subsystem ensured correct dynamic attitude control and determination during the operational lifetim
Astronomy in China has a long history, beginning from the Shang Dynasty. Chinese star names categorized in the twenty-eight mansions have been found on oracle bones unearthed at Anyang, dating back to the middle Shang Dynasty, the mansion system's nucleus seems to have taken shape by the time of the ruler Wu Ding. Detailed records of astronomical observations began during the Warring States period and flourished from the Han period onward. Chinese astronomy was equatorial, centered as it was on close observation of circumpolar stars, was based on different principles from those prevailing in traditional Western astronomy, where heliacal risings and settings of zodiac constellations formed the basic ecliptic framework. Needham has described the ancient Chinese as the most persistent and accurate observers of celestial phenomena anywhere in the world before the Islamic astronomers; some elements of Indian astronomy reached China with the expansion of Buddhism after the Eastern Han Dynasty, but the most detailed incorporation of Indian astronomical thought occurred during the Tang Dynasty, when numerous Indian astronomers took up residence in the Chinese capital, Chinese scholars, such as the Tantric Buddhist monk and mathematician Yi Xing, mastered its system.
Islamic astronomers collaborated with their Chinese colleagues during the Yuan Dynasty, after a period of relative decline during the Ming Dynasty, astronomy was revitalized under the stimulus of Western cosmology and technology after the Jesuits established their missions. The telescope was introduced in the seventeenth century. In 1669, the Peking observatory was redesigned and refitted under the direction of Ferdinand Verbiest. Today, China continues to be active with many observatories and its own space program. One of the main functions was for the purpose of timekeeping; the Chinese used a lunisolar calendar, because the cycles of the Sun and the Moon are different, intercalation had to be done. The Chinese calendar was considered to be a symbol of a dynasty; as dynasties would rise and fall and astrologers of each period would prepare a new calendar to be made, with observations for that purpose. Astrological divination was an important part of astronomy. Astronomers took careful note of guest stars, which appeared among the fixed stars.
The supernova that created the Crab Nebula observed in 1054, now known as the SN 1054, is an example of a guest star observed by Chinese astronomers, recorded by the Arab astronomers, although it was not recorded by their European contemporaries. Ancient astronomical records of phenomena like comets and supernovae are sometimes used in modern astronomical studies. Indian astronomy reached China with the expansion of Buddhism during the Later Han. Further translation of Indian works on astronomy was completed in China by the Three Kingdoms era. However, the most detailed incorporation of Indian astronomy occurred only during the Tang Dynasty when a number of Chinese scholars—such as Yi Xing— were versed both in Indian and Chinese astronomy. A system of Indian astronomy was recorded in China as Jiuzhi-li, the author of, an Indian by the name of Qutan Xida—a translation of Devanagari Gotama Siddha—the director of the Tang dynasty's national astronomical observatory. During the 8th century, the astronomical table of sines by the Indian astronomer and mathematician, were translated into the Chinese astronomical and mathematical book of the Treatise on Astrology of the Kaiyuan Era, compiled in 718 CE during the Tang Dynasty.
The Kaiyuan Zhanjing was compiled by Gautama Siddha, an astronomer and astrologer born in Chang'an, whose family was from India. He was notable for his translation of the Navagraha calendar into Chinese. Gautama Siddha introduced Indian numerals with zero in 718 in China as a replacement of counting rods. In 3rd-century C. E, the Matanaga avadha was translated into Chinese.although the original is believed to date earlier. It gives the lengths of monthly shadows of a 12-inch gnomon, the standard parameter of Indian astronomy; the work mentions the 28 Indian nakshatras. In the beginning of the second century, Sardulakarnavadana was translated into Chinese several times, This work contains the usual Sanskrit names of the 28 nakshatras. Starting with krttika. From the 1st century onward Lalitavistara was translated into Chinese several times, it is in this work that the famous Buddhist centesimal-scale counting occurs during the dialogue between Prince Gautamaand and the mathematician Arjuna. The first series of counts ends with tallaksana, beyond which eight more ganana series are mentioned.
Atomic-scale counting is mentioned. The Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva in the early fifth century.16 The astronomical parameters mentioned in this translation are comparable to those given in the Vedanga Jyotisha. Indian system of numeration appeared in the Chinese work Ta PaoChi Ching, translated by Upasunya The Chinese translations of the following works are mentioned in the Sui Shu, or Official History of the Sui Dynasty: Po-lo-men Thien Wen Ching in 21 books. Po-lo-men Chieh-Chhieh Hsien-jen Thien Wen Shuo in 30 books. Po-lo-men Thien Ching in one book. Mo-teng-Chia Ching Huang-thu in onebook. Po-lo-men Suan Ching in three books. Po-lo-men Su
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
Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. Due to foreshortening, nearby objects show a larger parallax than farther objects when observed from different positions, so parallax can be used to determine distances. To measure large distances, such as the distance of a planet or a star from Earth, astronomers use the principle of parallax. Here, the term parallax is the semi-angle of inclination between two sight-lines to the star, as observed when Earth is on opposite sides of the Sun in its orbit; these distances form the lowest rung of what is called "the cosmic distance ladder", the first in a succession of methods by which astronomers determine the distances to celestial objects, serving as a basis for other distance measurements in astronomy forming the higher rungs of the ladder. Parallax affects optical instruments such as rifle scopes, binoculars and twin-lens reflex cameras that view objects from different angles.
Many animals, including humans, have two eyes with overlapping visual fields that use parallax to gain depth perception. In computer vision the effect is used for computer stereo vision, there is a device called a parallax rangefinder that uses it to find range, in some variations altitude to a target. A simple everyday example of parallax can be seen in the dashboard of motor vehicles that use a needle-style speedometer gauge; when viewed from directly in front, the speed may show 60. As the eyes of humans and other animals are in different positions on the head, they present different views simultaneously; this is the basis of stereopsis, the process by which the brain exploits the parallax due to the different views from the eye to gain depth perception and estimate distances to objects. Animals use motion parallax, in which the animals move to gain different viewpoints. For example, pigeons down to see depth; the motion parallax is exploited in wiggle stereoscopy, computer graphics which provide depth cues through viewpoint-shifting animation rather than through binocular vision.
Parallax arises due to change in viewpoint occurring due to motion of the observer, of the observed, or of both. What is essential is relative motion. By observing parallax, measuring angles, using geometry, one can determine distance. Astronomers use the word "parallax" as a synonym for "distance measurement" by other methods: see parallax #Astronomy. Stellar parallax created by the relative motion between the Earth and a star can be seen, in the Copernican model, as arising from the orbit of the Earth around the Sun: the star only appears to move relative to more distant objects in the sky. In a geostatic model, the movement of the star would have to be taken as real with the star oscillating across the sky with respect to the background stars. Stellar parallax is most measured using annual parallax, defined as the difference in position of a star as seen from the Earth and Sun, i. e. the angle subtended at a star by the mean radius of the 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 the 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. 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 the Earth to the Sun, now 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. The fact that stellar parallax was so small that it was unobservable at the time was used as the main 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'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. In 1989, the satellite Hipparcos was launched for obtaining improved parallaxes and proper motions for over 100,000 nearby stars, increasing the reach of the method tenfold. 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 European Space Agency's Gaia mission, launched in December 2013, will be able to measure parallax angles to an accuracy of 10 microarcseconds, thus mapping nearby stars up to a distance of tens of thousands of ligh
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