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
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
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.
Capella designated α Aurigae, is the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga, the sixth-brightest star in the night sky, the third-brightest in the northern celestial hemisphere after Arcturus and Vega. A prominent object in the northern winter sky, it is circumpolar to observers north of 44°N, its name meaning "little goat" in Latin, Capella depicted the goat Amalthea that suckled Zeus in classical mythology. Capella is close, at only 42.9 light-years from the Sun. Although it appears to be a single star to the naked eye, Capella is a quadruple star system organized in two binary pairs, made up of the stars Capella Aa, Capella Ab, Capella H, Capella L; the primary pair, Capella Aa and Capella Ab, are two bright yellow giant stars, both of which are around 2.5 times as massive as the Sun. The secondary pair, Capella H and Capella L, are around 10,000 astronomical units from the first and are two faint and cool red dwarfs. Capella Aa and Capella Ab have exhausted their core hydrogen, cooled and expanded, moving off the main sequence.
They are in a tight circular orbit about 0.74 AU apart, orbit each other every 104 days. Capella Aa is the cooler and more luminous of the two with spectral class K0III. An ageing red clump star, Capella Aa is fusing helium to oxygen in its core. Capella Ab is smaller and hotter and of spectral class G1III, it is in the Hertzsprung gap, corresponding to a brief subgiant evolutionary phase as it expands and cools to become a red giant. Capella is one of the brightest X-ray sources in the sky, thought to come from the corona of Capella Aa. Several other stars in the same visual field have been catalogued as companions but are physically unrelated. Α Aurigae is the star system's Bayer designation. It has the Flamsteed designation 13 Aurigae, it is listed in several multiple star catalogues as ADS 3841, CCDM J05168+4559, WDS J05167+4600. As a nearby star system, Capella is listed in the Gliese-Jahreiss Catalogue with designations GJ 194 for the bright pair of giants and GJ 195 for the faint pair of red dwarfs.
The traditional name Capella is Latin for female goat. In 2016, the International Astronomical Union organized a Working Group on Star Names to catalogue and standardize proper names for stars; the WGSN's first bulletin of July 2016 included a table of the first two batches of names approved by the WGSN. It is now so entered in the IAU Catalog of Star Names; the catalogue of star names lists Capella as applying to the star α Aurigae Aa. Capella was the brightest star in the night sky from 210,000 years ago to 160,000 years ago, at about −1.8 in apparent magnitude. At −1.1, Aldebaran was brightest before this period. Capella is thought to be mentioned in an Akkadian inscription dating to the 20th century BC, its goat-associated symbolism dates back to Mesopotamia as a constellation called "GAM", "Gamlum" or "MUL. GAM" in the 7th-century BC document MUL. APIN. GAM represented a scimitar or crook and may have represented the star alone or the constellation of Auriga as a whole. Bedouin astronomers created constellations that were groups of animals, where each star represented one animal.
The stars of Auriga comprised a herd of goats, an association present in Greek mythology. It is sometimes called the Shepherd's Star in English literature. Capella was seen as a portent of rain in classical times. Building J of the pre-Columbian site Monte Albán in Oaxaca state in Mexico was built around 275 BC, at a different orientation to other structures in the complex, its steps are aligned perpendicular to the rising of Capella at that time, so that a person looking out a doorway on the building would have faced it directly. Capella is significant as its heliacal rising took place within a day of the Sun passing directly overhead over Monte Albán. Professor William Wallace Campbell of the Lick Observatory announced that Capella was binary in 1899, based on spectroscopic observations—he noted on photographic plates taken from August 1896 to February 1897 that a second spectrum appeared superimposed over the first, that there was a doppler shift to violet in September and October and to red in November and February—showing that the components were moving toward and away from the Earth.
British astronomer Hugh Newall had observed its composite spectrum with a four prism spectroscope attached to a 25 inches telescope at Cambridge in July 1899, concluding that it was a binary star system. Many observers tried to discern the component stars without success. Known as "The Interferometrist's Friend", it was first resolved interferometrically in 1919 by John Anderson and Francis Pease at Mount Wilson Observatory, who published an orbit in 1920 based on their observations; this was the first interferometric measurement of any object outside the Solar System. A high-precision orbit was published in 1994 based on observations by the Mark III Stellar Interferometer, again at Mount Wilson Observatory. Capella became the first astronomical object to be imaged by a separate element optical interferometer when it was imaged by the Cambridge Optical Aperture Synthesis Telescope in September 1995. In 1914, Finnish astronomer Ragnar Furuhjelm observed that the spectroscopic binary had a faint c
Auriga is one of the 88 modern constellations. Located north of the celestial equator, its name is the Latin word for “the charioteer”, associating it with various mythological beings, including Erichthonius and Myrtilus. Auriga is most prominent during winter evenings in the northern Hemisphere, along with the five other constellations that have stars in the Winter Hexagon asterism; because of its northern declination, Auriga is only visible in its entirety as far as 34° south. A large constellation, with an area of 657 square degrees, it is half the size of the largest constellation, Hydra, its brightest star, Capella, is an unusual multiple star system among the brightest stars in the night sky. Beta Aurigae is an interesting variable star in the constellation; because of its position near the winter Milky Way, Auriga has many bright open clusters in its borders, including M36, M37, M38, popular targets for amateur astronomers. In addition, it has one prominent nebula, the Flaming Star Nebula, associated with the variable star AE Aurigae.
In Chinese mythology, Auriga's stars were incorporated into several constellations, including the celestial emperors' chariots, made up of the modern constellation's brightest stars. Auriga is home to the radiant for the Aurigids, Zeta Aurigids, Delta Aurigids, the hypothesized Iota Aurigids; the first record of Auriga's stars was in Mesopotamia as a constellation called GAM, representing a scimitar or crook. However, this may have represented just the modern constellation as a whole. GAM in the MUL. APIN; the crook of Auriga shepherd. It was formed from most of the stars of the modern constellation. Bedouin astronomers created constellations that were groups of animals, where each star represented one animal; the stars of Auriga comprised a herd of goats, an association present in Greek mythology. The association with goats carried into the Greek astronomical tradition, though it became associated with a charioteer along with the shepherd. In Greek mythology, Auriga is identified as the mythological Greek hero Erichthonius of Athens, the chthonic son of Hephaestus, raised by the goddess Athena.
Erichthonius was credited to be the inventor of the quadriga, the four-horse chariot, which he used in the battle against the usurper Amphictyon, the event that made Erichthonius the king of Athens. His chariot was created in the image of the Sun's chariot, the reason Zeus placed him in the heavens; the Athenian hero dedicated himself to Athena and, soon after, Zeus raised him into the night sky in honor of his ingenuity and heroic deeds. Auriga, however, is sometimes described as Myrtilus, Hermes's son and the charioteer of Oenomaus; the association of Auriga and Myrtilus is supported by depictions of the constellation, which show a chariot. Myrtilus's chariot was destroyed in a race intended for suitors to win the heart of Oenomaus's daughter Hippodamia. Myrtilus earned his position in the sky when Hippodamia's successful suitor, killed him, despite his complicity in helping Pelops win her hand. After his death, Myrtilus's father Hermes placed him in the sky, yet another mythological association of Auriga is Theseus's son Hippolytus.
He was ejected from Athens after he refused the romantic advances of his stepmother Phaedra, who committed suicide as a result. He was revived by Asclepius. Regardless of Auriga's specific representation, it is that the constellation was created by the ancient Greeks to commemorate the importance of the chariot in their society. An incidental appearance of Auriga in Greek mythology is as the limbs of Medea's brother. In the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, as they journeyed home, Medea killed her brother and dismembered him, flinging the parts of his body into the sea, represented by the Milky Way; each individual star represents a different limb. Capella is associated with the mythological she-goat Amalthea, it forms an asterism with the stars Epsilon Aurigae, Zeta Aurigae, Eta Aurigae, the latter two of which are known as the Haedi. Though most associated with Amalthea, Capella has sometimes been associated with Amalthea's owner, a nymph; the myth of the nymph says that the goat's hideous appearance, resembling a Gorgon, was responsible for the Titans' defeat, because Zeus skinned the goat and wore it as his aegis.
The asterism containing the three goats had been a separate constellation. Before that, Capella was sometimes seen as its own constellation—by Pliny the Elder and Manilius—called Capra, Caper, or Hircus, all of which relate to its status as the "goat star". Zeta Aurigae and Eta Aurigae were first called the "Kids" by Cleostratus, an ancient Greek astronomer. Traditionally, illustrations of Auriga represent it as its driver; the charioteer has two kids under his left arm. However, depictions of Auriga have been inconsistent over the years; the reins in his right hand have been drawn as a whip, though Capella is always over his left shoulder and the Kids under his left arm. The 1488 atlas Hyginus deviated from this typical depiction by showing a four-wheeled cart driven by Auriga
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
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