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
The angular diameter, angular size, apparent diameter, or apparent size is an angular measurement describing how large a sphere or circle appears from a given point of view. In the vision sciences, it is called the visual angle, in optics, it is the angular aperture; the angular diameter can alternatively be thought of as the angle through which an eye or camera must rotate to look from one side of an apparent circle to the opposite side. Angular radius equals half the angular diameter; the angular diameter of a circle whose plane is perpendicular to the displacement vector between the point of view and the centre of said circle can be calculated using the formula δ = 2 arctan , in which δ is the angular diameter, d is the actual diameter of the object, D is the distance to the object. When D ≫ d, we have δ ≈ d / D, the result obtained is in radians. For a spherical object whose actual diameter equals d a c t, where D is the distance to the centre of the sphere, the angular diameter can be found by the formula δ = 2 arcsin The difference is due to the fact that the apparent edges of a sphere are its tangent points, which are closer to the observer than the centre of the sphere.
For practical use, the distinction is only significant for spherical objects that are close, since the small-angle approximation holds for x ≪ 1: arcsin x ≈ arctan x ≈ x. Estimates of angular diameter may be obtained by holding the hand at right angles to a extended arm, as shown in the figure. In astronomy, the sizes of celestial objects are given in terms of their angular diameter as seen from Earth, rather than their actual sizes. Since these angular diameters are small, it is common to present them in arcseconds. An arcsecond is 1/3600th of one degree, a radian is 180/ π degrees, so one radian equals 3,600*180/ π arcseconds, about 206,265 arcseconds. Therefore, the angular diameter of an object with physical diameter d at a distance D, expressed in arcseconds, is given by: δ = d / D arcseconds; these objects have an angular diameter of 1″: an object of diameter 1 cm at a distance of 2.06 km an object of diameter 725.27 km at a distance of 1 astronomical unit an object of diameter 45 866 916 km at 1 light-year an object of diameter 1 AU at a distance of 1 parsec Thus, the angular diameter of Earth's orbit around the Sun as viewed from a distance of 1 pc is 2″, as 1 AU is the mean radius of Earth's orbit.
The angular diameter of the Sun, from a distance of one light-year, is 0.03″, that of Earth 0.0003″. The angular diameter 0.03″ of the Sun given above is the same as that of a person at a distance of the diameter of Earth. This table shows the angular sizes of noteworthy celestial bodies as seen from Earth: The table shows that the angular diameter of Sun, when seen from Earth is 32′, as illustrated above, thus the angular diameter of the Sun is about 250,000 times that of Sirius. The angular diameter of the Sun is about 250,000 times that of Alpha Centauri A; the angular diameter of the Sun is about the same as that of the Moon. Though Pluto is physically larger than Ceres, when viewed from Earth Ceres has a much larger apparent size. Angular sizes measured in degrees are useful for larger patches of sky. However, much finer units are needed to measure the angular sizes of galaxies, nebulae, or other objects of the night sky. Degrees, are subdivided as follows: 360 degrees in a full circle 60 arc-minutes in one degree 60 arc-seconds in one arc-minuteTo put this in perspective, the full Moon as viewed from Earth is about 1⁄2°, or 30′.
The Moon's motion across the sky can be measured in angular size: 15° every hour, or 15″ per second. A one-mile-long line painte
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Astronomy & Astrophysics is a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering theoretical and instrumental astronomy and astrophysics. It is one of the premier journals for astronomy in the world; the journal is published by EDP Sciences in 16 issues per year. The editor-in-chief is Thierry Forveille. Previous editors in chief include Claude Bertout, James Lequeux, Michael Grewing, Catherine Cesarsky and George Contopoulos. Astronomy & Astrophysics was formed in 1969 by the merging of several national journals of individual European countries into one comprehensive publication; these journals, with their ISSN and date of first publication are as follows: Annales d'Astrophysique ISSN 0365-0499, established in 1938 Arkiv för Astronomi ISSN 0004-2048, established in 1948 Bulletin of the Astronomical Institutes of the Netherlands ISSN 0365-8910, established in 1921 Bulletin Astronomique ISSN 0245-9787, established in 1884 Journal des Observateurs ISSN 0368-3389, established in 1915 Zeitschrift für Astrophysik ISSN 0372-8331, established in 1930The publishing of Astronomy & Astrophysics was further extended in 1992 by the incorporation of Bulletin of the Astronomical Institutes of Czechoslovakia, established in 1947.
Astronomy & Astrophysics published articles in either English, French, or German, but articles in French and German were always few. They were discontinued, in part due to difficulties in finding adequately specialized independent referees who were fluent in those languages; the original sponsoring countries were the four countries whose journals merged to form Astronomy & Astrophysics, together with Belgium, Denmark and Norway. The European Southern Observatory participated as a "member country". Norway withdrew, but Austria, Italy and Switzerland all joined; the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia all joined as new members in the 1990s. In 2001 the words "A European Journal" were removed from the front cover in recognition of the fact that the journal was becoming global in scope, in 2002 Argentina was admitted as an "observer". In 2004 the Board of Directors decided that the journal "will henceforth consider applications for sponsoring membership from any country in the world with well-documented active and excellent astronomical research".
Argentina became the first non-European country to gain full membership in 2005. Brazil and Portugal all gained "observer" status at this time and have since progressed to full membership; this journal is listed in the following databases: All letters to the editor and all articles published in the online sections of the journal are open access upon publication. Articles in the other sections of the journal are made available 12 months after publication, through the publisher's site and via the Astrophysics Data System. Authors have the option to pay for immediate open access; the Astrophysical Journal The Astronomical Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society History and purpose of Astronomy & Astrophysics journal. S. R. Pottasch. EDP Sciences. 2012
Right ascension is the angular distance of a particular point measured eastward along the celestial equator from the Sun at the March equinox to the point above the earth in question. When paired with declination, these astronomical coordinates specify the direction of a point on the celestial sphere in the equatorial coordinate system. An old term, right ascension refers to the ascension, or the point on the celestial equator that rises with any celestial object as seen from Earth's equator, where the celestial equator intersects the horizon at a right angle, it contrasts with oblique ascension, the point on the celestial equator that rises with any celestial object as seen from most latitudes on Earth, where the celestial equator intersects the horizon at an oblique angle. Right ascension is the celestial equivalent of terrestrial longitude. Both right ascension and longitude measure an angle from a primary direction on an equator. Right ascension is measured from the Sun at the March equinox i.e. the First Point of Aries, the place on the celestial sphere where the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north at the March equinox and is located in the constellation Pisces.
Right ascension is measured continuously in a full circle from that alignment of Earth and Sun in space, that equinox, the measurement increasing towards the east. As seen from Earth, objects noted to have 12h RA are longest visible at the March equinox. On those dates at midnight, such objects will reach their highest point. How high depends on their declination. Any units of angular measure could have been chosen for right ascension, but it is customarily measured in hours and seconds, with 24h being equivalent to a full circle. Astronomers have chosen this unit to measure right ascension because they measure a star's location by timing its passage through the highest point in the sky as the Earth rotates; the line which passes through the highest point in the sky, called the meridian, is the projection of a longitude line onto the celestial sphere. Since a complete circle contains 24h of right ascension or 360°, 1/24 of a circle is measured as 1h of right ascension, or 15°. A full circle, measured in right-ascension units, contains 24 × 60 × 60 = 86400s, or 24 × 60 = 1440m, or 24h.
Because right ascensions are measured in hours, they can be used to time the positions of objects in the sky. For example, if a star with RA = 1h 30m 00s is at its meridian a star with RA = 20h 00m 00s will be on the/at its meridian 18.5 sidereal hours later. Sidereal hour angle, used in celestial navigation, is similar to right ascension, but increases westward rather than eastward. Measured in degrees, it is the complement of right ascension with respect to 24h, it is important not to confuse sidereal hour angle with the astronomical concept of hour angle, which measures angular distance of an object westward from the local meridian. The Earth's axis rotates westward about the poles of the ecliptic, completing one cycle in about 26,000 years; this movement, known as precession, causes the coordinates of stationary celestial objects to change continuously, if rather slowly. Therefore, equatorial coordinates are inherently relative to the year of their observation, astronomers specify them with reference to a particular year, known as an epoch.
Coordinates from different epochs must be mathematically rotated to match each other, or to match a standard epoch. Right ascension for "fixed stars" near the ecliptic and equator increases by about 3.05 seconds per year on average, or 5.1 minutes per century, but for fixed stars further from the ecliptic the rate of change can be anything from negative infinity to positive infinity. The right ascension of Polaris is increasing quickly; the North Ecliptic Pole in Draco and the South Ecliptic Pole in Dorado are always at right ascension 18h and 6h respectively. The used standard epoch is J2000.0, January 1, 2000 at 12:00 TT. The prefix "J" indicates. Prior to J2000.0, astronomers used the successive Besselian epochs B1875.0, B1900.0, B1950.0. The concept of right ascension has been known at least as far back as Hipparchus who measured stars in equatorial coordinates in the 2nd century BC, but Hipparchus and his successors made their star catalogs in ecliptic coordinates, the use of RA was limited to special cases.
With the invention of the telescope, it became possible for astronomers to observe celestial objects in greater detail, provided that the telescope could be kept pointed at the object for a period of time. The easiest way to do, to use an equatorial mount, which allows the telescope to be aligned with one of its two pivots parallel to the Earth's axis. A motorized clock drive is used with an equatorial mount to cancel out the Earth's rotation; as the equatorial mount became adopted for observation, the equatorial coordinate system, which includes right ascension, was adopted at the same time for simplicity. Equatorial mounts could be pointed at objects with known right ascension and declination by the use of setting circles; the first star catalog to use right ascen
Nicholas Szymanek, better known as Nik Szymanek, is a British amateur astronomer and prolific astrophotographer, based in Essex, England. A train driver in the London Underground, he started to be interested in astronomical CCD imaging shortly before 1991, his interest in this kind of observational astronomy rose in 1991, after he met Ian King, another amateur astronomer and a fellow from the local Havering Astronomical Society. Since that time he got most known for his deep sky CCD images and his contributions to education and public outreach, he collaborates with professional astronomers and works with big telescopes located at La Palma in the Canary Islands, at Mauna Kea Observatories at the Hawaiian Islands. He publishes his pictures in astronomical magazines and has written a book on astrophotography called Infinity Rising, his imaging and image-processing abilities brought him the Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 2004. CCDLand – Nik Szymanek's web page Szymanek, Nik.
"Nik Szmanek's Pear Tree Observatory". Deep Sky Videos. Brady Haran
Charles Messier was a French astronomer most notable for publishing an astronomical catalogue consisting of 110 nebulae and star clusters, which came to be known as the Messier objects. The purpose of the catalogue was to help astronomical observers, in particular comet hunters like himself, distinguish between permanent and transient visually diffuse objects in the sky. Messier was born in Badonviller in the Lorraine region of France, being the tenth of twelve children of Françoise B. Grandblaise and Nicolas Messier, a Court usher. Six of his brothers and sisters died. Charles' interest in astronomy was stimulated by the appearance of the spectacular, great six-tailed comet in 1744 and by an annular solar eclipse visible from his hometown on 25 July 1748. In 1751 Messier entered the employ of Joseph Nicolas Delisle, the astronomer of the French Navy, who instructed him to keep careful records of his observations. Messier's first documented observation was that of the Mercury transit of 6 May 1753, followed by his observations journals at Cluny Hotel and at the French Navy observatories.
In 1764, Messier was made a fellow of the Royal Society. Messier discovered 13 comets: C/1760 B1 c/2760 C/1763 S1 C/1764 A1 C/1766 E1 C/1769 P1 D/1770 L1 C/1771 G1 C/1773 T1 C/1780 U2 C/1788 W1 C/1793 S2 C/1798 G1 C/1785 A1 Near the end of his life, Messier self-published a booklet connecting the great comet of 1769 to the birth of Napoleon, in power at the time of publishing. According to Meyer: As hard as it may seem to accept, the memoir is an ingratiation to Napoleon in order to receive attention and monetary support, it is full of opportunism. Messier did not refrain from utilizing astrology to reach his goal. Messier comes to the point on the first page of the memoir, by stating that the beginning of the epoch of Napoleon the Great... coincides with the discovery of one of the greatest comets observed. Messier is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, in Section 11; the grave is plain and faintly inscribed, while it is not on most maps of the cemetery, it can be found near the grave of Frédéric Chopin to the west and directly north, behind the small mausoleum of the jeweller Abraham-Louis Breguet.
Messier's occupation as a comet hunter led him to continually come across fixed diffuse objects in the night sky which could be mistaken for comets. He compiled a list of them, in collaboration with his friend and assistant Pierre Méchain, to avoid wasting time sorting them out from the comets they were looking for; the entries are now known to be galaxies, planetary nebulae, other types of nebulae, star clusters. Messier did his observing with a 100 mm refracting telescope from Hôtel de Cluny, in downtown Paris, France; the list he compiled contains only objects found in the area of the sky he could observe, from the north celestial pole to a declination of about −35.7°. They are not organized scientifically by object type, or by location; the first version of Messier's catalogue contained 45 objects and was published in 1774 in the journal of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. In addition to his own discoveries, this version included objects observed by other astronomers, with only 17 of the 45 objects being Messier's.
By 1780 the catalog had increased to 80 objects. The final version of the catalogue was published in 1781, in the 1784 issue of Connaissance des Temps; the final list of Messier objects had grown to 103. On several occasions between 1921 and 1966, astronomers and historians discovered evidence of another seven objects that were observed either by Messier or by Méchain, shortly after the final version was published; these seven objects, M104 through M110, are accepted by astronomers as "official" Messier objects. The objects' Messier designations, from M1 to M110, are still used by professional and amateur astronomers today and their relative brightness makes them popular objects in the amateur astronomical community; the crater Messier on the Moon and the asteroid 7359 Messier were named in his honor. Deep sky object List of Messier objects Messier object Messier marathon Caldwell catalogue O'Meara, Stephen James. Deep Sky Companions: The Messier Objects. Cambridge University Press. Charles Messier Biography at Students for the Development of Space.
Retrieved July 2007 Short biography of Charles Messier and history of the Messier Object Catalog by Jon Zander at OurDarkSkies.com. Retrieved July 2007 Life of a Comet Hunter: Messier and Astrobiology Professor Mark Brake and Martin Griffiths, Astrobiology Magazine European Edition, Spring 2007. Retrieved July 2007 Interactive Messier Catalog Greenhawk Observatory Amateur Photos of Charles Messier Objects Biography – Messier website. Messier Marathon Attempts to find as many Messier objects as possible in one night. New General Catalog and Index Catalog revisions NGC/IC Project is a collaborative effort between professional and amateur astronomers to identify all of the original NGC and IC objects, such that the identity of each of the NGC and IC objects is known with as much certainty as we can reasonably bring to it from the existing historical record. Retrieved July 2007 Clickable table of Messier objects Charles Messier explains his catalog on YouTube Charles Messier, a virtual exhibition by the Paris Observatory digital librar
Stellar evolution is the process by which a star changes over the course of time. Depending on the mass of the star, its lifetime can range from a few million years for the most massive to trillions of years for the least massive, longer than the age of the universe; the table shows the lifetimes of stars as a function of their masses. All stars are born from collapsing clouds of gas and dust called nebulae or molecular clouds. Over the course of millions of years, these protostars settle down into a state of equilibrium, becoming what is known as a main-sequence star. Nuclear fusion powers a star for most of its life; the energy is generated by the fusion of hydrogen atoms at the core of the main-sequence star. As the preponderance of atoms at the core becomes helium, stars like the Sun begin to fuse hydrogen along a spherical shell surrounding the core; this process causes the star to grow in size, passing through the subgiant stage until it reaches the red giant phase. Stars with at least half the mass of the Sun can begin to generate energy through the fusion of helium at their core, whereas more-massive stars can fuse heavier elements along a series of concentric shells.
Once a star like the Sun has exhausted its nuclear fuel, its core collapses into a dense white dwarf and the outer layers are expelled as a planetary nebula. Stars with around ten or more times the mass of the Sun can explode in a supernova as their inert iron cores collapse into an dense neutron star or black hole. Although the universe is not old enough for any of the smallest red dwarfs to have reached the end of their lives, stellar models suggest they will become brighter and hotter before running out of hydrogen fuel and becoming low-mass white dwarfs. Stellar evolution is not studied by observing the life of a single star, as most stellar changes occur too to be detected over many centuries. Instead, astrophysicists come to understand how stars evolve by observing numerous stars at various points in their lifetime, by simulating stellar structure using computer models. Stellar evolution starts with the gravitational collapse of a giant molecular cloud. Typical giant molecular clouds are 100 light-years across and contain up to 6,000,000 solar masses.
As it collapses, a giant molecular cloud breaks into smaller pieces. In each of these fragments, the collapsing gas releases gravitational potential energy as heat; as its temperature and pressure increase, a fragment condenses into a rotating sphere of superhot gas known as a protostar. A protostar continues to grow by accretion of gas and dust from the molecular cloud, becoming a pre-main-sequence star as it reaches its final mass. Further development is determined by its mass. Mass is compared to the mass of the Sun: 1.0 M☉ means 1 solar mass. Protostars are encompassed in dust, are thus more visible at infrared wavelengths. Observations from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer have been important for unveiling numerous Galactic protostars and their parent star clusters. Protostars with masses less than 0.08 M☉ never reach temperatures high enough for nuclear fusion of hydrogen to begin. These are known as brown dwarfs; the International Astronomical Union defines brown dwarfs as stars massive enough to fuse deuterium at some point in their lives.
Objects smaller than 13 MJ are classified as sub-brown dwarfs. Both types, deuterium-burning and not, shine dimly and die away cooling over hundreds of millions of years. For a more-massive protostar, the core temperature will reach 10 million kelvin, initiating the proton–proton chain reaction and allowing hydrogen to fuse, first to deuterium and to helium. In stars of over 1 M☉, the carbon–nitrogen–oxygen fusion reaction contributes a large portion of the energy generation; the onset of nuclear fusion leads quickly to a hydrostatic equilibrium in which energy released by the core maintains a high gas pressure, balancing the weight of the star's matter and preventing further gravitational collapse. The star thus evolves to a stable state, beginning the main-sequence phase of its evolution. A new star will sit at a specific point on the main sequence of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, with the main-sequence spectral type depending upon the mass of the star. Small cold, low-mass red dwarfs fuse hydrogen and will remain on the main sequence for hundreds of billions of years or longer, whereas massive, hot O-type stars will leave the main sequence after just a few million years.
A mid-sized yellow dwarf star, like the Sun, will remain on the main sequence for about 10 billion years. The Sun is thought to be in the middle of its main sequence lifespan; the core exhausts its supply of hydrogen and the star begins to evolve off of the main sequence. Without the outward pressure generated by the fusion of hydrogen to counteract the force of gravity the core contracts until either electron degeneracy pressure becomes sufficient to oppose gravity or the core becomes hot enough for helium fusion to begin. Which of these happens first depends upon the star's mass. What happens after a low-mass star ceases to produce energy through fusion has not been directly observed. Recent astrophysical models suggest that red dwarfs of 0.1 M☉ may stay on the main sequence for some six to twelve tril