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 An ancient Egyptian calendar of lucky and unlucky days composed some 3,200 years ago may be the oldest preserved historical document of the discovery of a variable star, the eclipsing binary Algol.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
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
ArXiv is a repository of electronic preprints approved for posting after moderation, but not full peer review. It consists of scientific papers in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, electrical engineering, computer science, quantitative biology, mathematical finance and economics, which can be accessed online. In many fields of mathematics and physics all scientific papers are self-archived on the arXiv repository. Begun on August 14, 1991, arXiv.org passed the half-million-article milestone on October 3, 2008, had hit a million by the end of 2014. By October 2016 the submission rate had grown to more than 10,000 per month. ArXiv was made possible by the compact TeX file format, which allowed scientific papers to be transmitted over the Internet and rendered client-side. Around 1990, Joanne Cohn began emailing physics preprints to colleagues as TeX files, but the number of papers being sent soon filled mailboxes to capacity. Paul Ginsparg recognized the need for central storage, in August 1991 he created a central repository mailbox stored at the Los Alamos National Laboratory which could be accessed from any computer.
Additional modes of access were soon added: FTP in 1991, Gopher in 1992, the World Wide Web in 1993. The term e-print was adopted to describe the articles, it began as a physics archive, called the LANL preprint archive, but soon expanded to include astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology and, most statistics. Its original domain name was xxx.lanl.gov. Due to LANL's lack of interest in the expanding technology, in 2001 Ginsparg changed institutions to Cornell University and changed the name of the repository to arXiv.org. It is now hosted principally with eight mirrors around the world, its existence was one of the precipitating factors that led to the current movement in scientific publishing known as open access. Mathematicians and scientists upload their papers to arXiv.org for worldwide access and sometimes for reviews before they are published in peer-reviewed journals. Ginsparg was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002 for his establishment of arXiv; the annual budget for arXiv is $826,000 for 2013 to 2017, funded jointly by Cornell University Library, the Simons Foundation and annual fee income from member institutions.
This model arose in 2010, when Cornell sought to broaden the financial funding of the project by asking institutions to make annual voluntary contributions based on the amount of download usage by each institution. Each member institution pledges a five-year funding commitment to support arXiv. Based on institutional usage ranking, the annual fees are set in four tiers from $1,000 to $4,400. Cornell's goal is to raise at least $504,000 per year through membership fees generated by 220 institutions. In September 2011, Cornell University Library took overall administrative and financial responsibility for arXiv's operation and development. Ginsparg was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education as saying it "was supposed to be a three-hour tour, not a life sentence". However, Ginsparg remains on the arXiv Scientific Advisory Board and on the arXiv Physics Advisory Committee. Although arXiv is not peer reviewed, a collection of moderators for each area review the submissions; the lists of moderators for many sections of arXiv are publicly available, but moderators for most of the physics sections remain unlisted.
Additionally, an "endorsement" system was introduced in 2004 as part of an effort to ensure content is relevant and of interest to current research in the specified disciplines. Under the system, for categories that use it, an author must be endorsed by an established arXiv author before being allowed to submit papers to those categories. Endorsers are not asked to review the paper for errors, but to check whether the paper is appropriate for the intended subject area. New authors from recognized academic institutions receive automatic endorsement, which in practice means that they do not need to deal with the endorsement system at all. However, the endorsement system has attracted criticism for restricting scientific inquiry. A majority of the e-prints are submitted to journals for publication, but some work, including some influential papers, remain purely as e-prints and are never published in a peer-reviewed journal. A well-known example of the latter is an outline of a proof of Thurston's geometrization conjecture, including the Poincaré conjecture as a particular case, uploaded by Grigori Perelman in November 2002.
Perelman appears content to forgo the traditional peer-reviewed journal process, stating: "If anybody is interested in my way of solving the problem, it's all there – let them go and read about it". Despite this non-traditional method of publication, other mathematicians recognized this work by offering the Fields Medal and Clay Mathematics Millennium Prizes to Perelman, both of which he refused. Papers can be submitted in any of several formats, including LaTeX, PDF printed from a word processor other than TeX or LaTeX; the submission is rejected by the arXiv software if generating the final PDF file fails, if any image file is too large, or if the total size of the submission is too large. ArXiv now allows one to store and modify an incomplete submission, only finalize the submission when ready; the time stamp on the article is set. The standard access route is through one of several mirrors. Sev
Proper motion is the astronomical measure of the observed changes in the apparent places of stars or other celestial objects in the sky, as seen from the center of mass of the Solar System, compared to the abstract background of the more distant stars. The components for proper motion in the equatorial coordinate system are given in the direction of right ascension and of declination, their combined value is computed as the total proper motion. It has dimensions of angle per time arcseconds per year or milliarcseconds per year. Knowledge of the proper motion and radial velocity allows calculations of true stellar motion or velocity in space in respect to the Sun, by coordinate transformation, the motion in respect to the Milky Way. Proper motion is not "proper", because it includes a component due to the motion of the Solar System itself. Over the course of centuries, stars appear to maintain nearly fixed positions with respect to each other, so that they form the same constellations over historical time.
Ursa Major or Crux, for example, looks nearly the same now. However, precise long-term observations show that the constellations change shape, albeit slowly, that each star has an independent motion; this motion is caused by the movement of the stars relative to the Solar System. The Sun travels in a nearly circular orbit about the center of the Milky Way at a speed of about 220 km/s at a radius of 8 kPc from the center, which can be taken as the rate of rotation of the Milky Way itself at this radius; the proper motion is a two-dimensional vector and is thus defined by two quantities: its position angle and its magnitude. The first quantity indicates the direction of the proper motion on the celestial sphere, the second quantity is the motion's magnitude expressed in arcseconds per year or milliarcsecond per year. Proper motion may alternatively be defined by the angular changes per year in the star's right ascension and declination, using a constant epoch in defining these; the components of proper motion by convention are arrived at.
Suppose an object moves from coordinates to coordinates in a time Δt. The proper motions are given by: μ α = α 2 − α 1 Δ t, μ δ = δ 2 − δ 1 Δ t; the magnitude of the proper motion μ is given by the Pythagorean theorem: μ 2 = μ δ 2 + μ α 2 ⋅ cos 2 δ, μ 2 = μ δ 2 + μ α ∗ 2, where δ is the declination. The factor in cos2δ accounts for the fact that the radius from the axis of the sphere to its surface varies as cosδ, for example, zero at the pole. Thus, the component of velocity parallel to the equator corresponding to a given angular change in α is smaller the further north the object's location; the change μα, which must be multiplied by cosδ to become a component of the proper motion, is sometimes called the "proper motion in right ascension", μδ the "proper motion in declination". If the proper motion in right ascension has been converted by cosδ, the result is designated μα*. For example, the proper motion results in right ascension in the Hipparcos Catalogue have been converted. Hence, the individual proper motions in right ascension and declination are made equivalent for straightforward calculations of various other stellar motions.
The position angle θ is related to these components by: μ sin θ = μ α cos δ = μ α ∗, μ cos θ = μ δ. Motions in equatorial coordinates can be converted to motions in galactic coordinates. For the majority of stars seen in the sky, the observed proper motions are small and unremarkable; such stars are either faint or are distant, have changes of below 10 milliarcseconds per year, do not appear to move appreciably over many millennia. A few do have significant motions, are called high-proper motion stars. Motions can be in seemingly random directions. Two or more stars, double stars or open star clusters, which are moving in similar directions, exhibit so-called shared or common proper motion, suggesting they may be gravitationally attached or share similar motion in space. Barnard's Star has the largest proper motion of all stars, moving at 10.3 seconds of arc per year. L
A star catalogue or star catalog, is an astronomical catalogue that lists stars. In astronomy, many stars are referred to by catalogue numbers. There are a great many different star catalogues which have been produced for different purposes over the years, this article covers only some of the more quoted ones. Star catalogues were compiled by many different ancient people, including the Babylonians, Chinese and Arabs, they were sometimes accompanied by a star chart for illustration. Most modern catalogues are available in electronic format and can be downloaded from space agencies data centres. Completeness and accuracy is described by the weakest apparent magnitude V and the accuracy of the positions. From their existing records, it is known that the ancient Egyptians recorded the names of only a few identifiable constellations and a list of thirty-six decans that were used as a star clock; the Egyptians called the circumpolar star "the star that cannot perish" and, although they made no known formal star catalogues, they nonetheless created extensive star charts of the night sky which adorn the coffins and ceilings of tomb chambers.
Although the ancient Sumerians were the first to record the names of constellations on clay tablets, the earliest known star catalogues were compiled by the ancient Babylonians of Mesopotamia in the late 2nd millennium BC, during the Kassite Period. They are better known by their Assyrian-era name'Three Stars Each'; these star catalogues, written on clay tablets, listed thirty-six stars: twelve for "Anu" along the celestial equator, twelve for "Ea" south of that, twelve for "Enlil" to the north. The Mul. Apin lists, dated to sometime before the Neo-Babylonian Empire, are direct textual descendants of the "Three Stars Each" lists and their constellation patterns show similarities to those of Greek civilization. In Ancient Greece, the astronomer and mathematician Eudoxus laid down a full set of the classical constellations around 370 BC, his catalogue Phaenomena, rewritten by Aratus of Soli between 275 and 250 BC as a didactic poem, became one of the most consulted astronomical texts in antiquity and beyond.
It contains descriptions of the positions of the stars, the shapes of the constellations and provided information on their relative times of rising and setting. In the 3rd century BC, the Greek astronomers Timocharis of Alexandria and Aristillus created another star catalogue. Hipparchus completed his star catalogue in 129 BC, which he compared to Timocharis' and discovered that the longitude of the stars had changed over time; this led him to determine the first value of the precession of the equinoxes. In the 2nd century, Ptolemy of Roman Egypt published a star catalogue as part of his Almagest, which listed 1,022 stars visible from Alexandria. Ptolemy's catalogue was based entirely on an earlier one by Hipparchus, it remained the standard star catalogue in the Arab worlds for over eight centuries. The Islamic astronomer al-Sufi updated it in 964, the star positions were redetermined by Ulugh Beg in 1437, but it was not superseded until the appearance of the thousand-star catalogue of Tycho Brahe in 1598.
Although the ancient Vedas of India specified how the ecliptic was to be divided into twenty-eight nakshatra, Indian constellation patterns were borrowed from Greek ones sometime after Alexander's conquests in Asia in the 4th century BC. The earliest known inscriptions for Chinese star names were written on oracle bones and date to the Shang Dynasty. Sources dating from the Zhou Dynasty which provide star names include the Zuo Zhuan, the Shi Jing, the "Canon of Yao" in the Book of Documents; the Lüshi Chunqiu written by the Qin statesman Lü Buwei provides most of the names for the twenty-eight mansions. An earlier lacquerware chest found in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng contains a complete list of the names of the twenty-eight mansions. Star catalogues are traditionally attributed to Shi Shen and Gan De, two rather obscure Chinese astronomers who may have been active in the 4th century BC of the Warring States period; the Shi Shen astronomy is attributed to Shi Shen, the Astronomic star observation to Gan De.
It was not until the Han Dynasty that astronomers started to observe and record names for all the stars that were apparent in the night sky, not just those around the ecliptic. A star catalogue is featured in one of the chapters of the late 2nd-century-BC history work Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian and contains the "schools" of Shi Shen and Gan De's work. Sima's catalogue—the Book of Celestial Offices —includes some 90 constellations, the stars therein named after temples, ideas in philosophy, locations such as markets and shops, different people such as farmers and soldiers. For his Spiritual Constitution of the Universe of 120 AD, the astronomer Zhang Heng compiled a star catalogue comprising 124 constellations. Chinese constellation names were adopted by the Koreans and Japanese. A large number of star catalogues were published by Muslim astronomers in the medieval Islamic world; these were Zij treatises, including Arzachel's Tables of Toledo, the Maragheh observatory's Zij-i Ilkhani and Ulugh Beg's Zij-i-Sultani.
The radial velocity of an object with respect to a given point is the rate of change of the distance between the object and the point. That is, the radial velocity is the component of the object's velocity that points in the direction of the radius connecting the object and the point. In astronomy, the point is taken to be the observer on Earth, so the radial velocity denotes the speed with which the object moves away from or approaches the Earth. In astronomy, radial velocity is measured to the first order of approximation by Doppler spectroscopy; the quantity obtained by this method may be called the barycentric radial-velocity measure or spectroscopic radial velocity. However, due to relativistic and cosmological effects over the great distances that light travels to reach the observer from an astronomical object, this measure cannot be transformed to a geometric radial velocity without additional assumptions about the object and the space between it and the observer. By contrast, astrometric radial velocity is determined by astrometric observations.
Light from an object with a substantial relative radial velocity at emission will be subject to the Doppler effect, so the frequency of the light decreases for objects that were receding and increases for objects that were approaching. The radial velocity of a star or other luminous distant objects can be measured by taking a high-resolution spectrum and comparing the measured wavelengths of known spectral lines to wavelengths from laboratory measurements. A positive radial velocity indicates the distance between the objects was increasing. In many binary stars, the orbital motion causes radial velocity variations of several kilometers per second; as the spectra of these stars vary due to the Doppler effect, they are called spectroscopic binaries. Radial velocity can be used to estimate the ratio of the masses of the stars, some orbital elements, such as eccentricity and semimajor axis; the same method has been used to detect planets around stars, in the way that the movement's measurement determines the planet's orbital period, while the resulting radial-velocity amplitude allows the calculation of the lower bound on a planet's mass using the binary mass function.
Radial velocity methods alone may only reveal a lower bound, since a large planet orbiting at a high angle to the line of sight will perturb its star radially as much as a much smaller planet with an orbital plane on the line of sight. It has been suggested that planets with high eccentricities calculated by this method may in fact be two-planet systems of circular or near-circular resonant orbit; the radial velocity method to detect exoplanets is based on the detection of variations in the velocity of the central star, due to the changing direction of the gravitational pull from an exoplanet as it orbits the star. When the star moves towards us, its spectrum is blueshifted, while it is redshifted when it moves away from us. By looking at the spectrum of a star—and so, measuring its velocity—it can be determined if it moves periodically due to the influence of an exoplanet companion. From the instrumental perspective, velocities are measured relative to the telescope's motion. So an important first step of the data reduction is to remove the contributions of the Earth's elliptic motion around the sun at ± 30 km/s, a monthly rotation of ± 13 m/s of the Earth around the center of gravity of the Earth-Moon system, the daily rotation of the telescope with the Earth crust around the Earth axis, up to ±460 m/s at the equator and proportional to the cosine of the telescope's geographic latitude, small contributions from the Earth polar motion at the level of mm/s, contributions of 230 km/s from the motion around the Galactic center and associated proper motions.
In the case of spectroscopic measurements corrections of the order of ±20 cm/s with respect to aberration. Proper motion Peculiar velocity Relative velocity Space velocity The Radial Velocity Equation in the Search for Exoplanets
The 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