In observational astronomy, an asterism is a popularly-known pattern or group of stars that can be seen in the night sky. This colloquial definition makes it appear quite similar to a constellation, but they differ in that a constellation is an recognized area of the sky, while an asterism is a visually obvious collection of stars and the lines used to mentally connect them; this distinction between terms remains somewhat inconsistent. An asterism may be understood as an informal group of stars within the area of an official or defunct former constellation; some include stars from more than one constellation. Asterisms range from simple shapes of just few stars to more complex collections of many bright stars, they are useful for people. For example, the asterisms known as The Plough comprises the seven brightest stars in the International Astronomical Union recognised constellation Ursa Major. Another is the asterism of the Southern Cross. In many early civilizations, it was common to associate groups of stars in connect-the-dots stick-figure patterns.
This process was arbitrary, different cultures have identified different constellations, although a few of the more obvious patterns tend to appear in the constellations of multiple cultures, such as those of Orion and Scorpius. As anyone could arrange and name a grouping of stars there was no distinct difference between a constellation and an asterism. E.g. Pliny the Elder in his book Naturalis Historia mentions 72 asterisms. A general list containing 48 constellations began to develop with the astronomer Hipparchus, was accepted as standard in Europe for 1,800 years; as constellations were considered to be composed only of the stars that constituted the figure, it was always possible to use any leftover stars to create and squeeze in a new grouping among the established constellations. Furthermore, exploration by Europeans to other parts of the globe exposed them to stars unknown to them. Two astronomers known for expanding the number of southern constellations were Johann Bayer and Nicolas Louis de Lacaille.
Bayer had listed twelve figures made out of stars. Many of these proposed constellations have been formally accepted, but the rest have remained as asterisms. In 1928, the International Astronomical Union divided the sky into 88 official constellations following geometric boundaries encompassing all of the stars within them. Any additional new selected groupings of stars or former constellations are considered as asterisms. However, depending on the particular literature source, any technical distinctions between the terms'constellation' and'asterism' remain somewhat ambiguous. E.g. Both the open clusters The Pleiades or Seven Sisters and The Hyades in Taurus are sometimes considered as an asterisms, but this depends on the source. Component stars of asterisms mark out simple geometric shapes; the Great Diamond consisting of Arcturus, Spica and Cor Caroli. An East-West line from Arcturus to Denebola forms an equilateral triangle with Cor Caroli to the North, another with Spica to the South; the Arcturus, Spica triangle is sometimes given the name Spring Triangle.
Together these two triangles form the Diamond. Formally, the stars of the Diamond are in the constellations Boötes, Virgo and Canes Venatici; the Summer Triangle of Deneb and Vega — α Cygni, α Aquilae, α Lyrae — is recognized in the northern hemisphere summer skies, as its three stars are all of the 1st magnitude. The stars of the Triangle are in the band of the Milky Way which marks the galactic equator, are in the direction of the galactic center; the Great Square of Pegasus is the quadrilateral formed by the stars Markab, Scheat and Alpheratz, representing the body of the winged horse. The asterism was recognized as the constellation ASH. IKU "The Field" on the MUL. APIN cuneiform tablets from about 1100 to 700 BC. One-third of the 1st-magnitude stars visible in the sky are in the so-called Winter Hexagon with Capella, Rigel, Sirius and Pollux with 2nd-magnitude Castor, on the periphery, Betelgeuse off-center. Although somewhat flattened, thus more elliptical than circular, the figure is so large that it cannot be taken in all at once, thus making the lack of true circularity less noticeable.
Some prefer to regard it as a Heavenly'G'. The Winter Triangle visible in the northern sky's winter and comprise the first magnitude stars Procyon and Sirius. A familiar asterism is the Big Dipper, Plough or Charles's Wain, composed of the seven brightest stars in Ursa Major; these stars delineate the Bear's hindquarters and exaggerated tail, or alternatively, the "handle" forming the upper outline of the bear's head and neck. With its longer tail, Ursa Minor hardly appears bearlike at all, is known by its pseudonym, the Little Dipper; the Northern Cross in Cygnus. The upright runs from Deneb in the Swan's tail to Albireo in the beak; the transverse runs from Aljanah i
International Astronomical Union
The International Astronomical Union is an international association of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy. Among other activities, it acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies and any surface features on them; the IAU is a member of the International Council for Science. Its main objective is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation; the IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. The IAU has its head office on the second floor of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Working groups include the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, which maintains the astronomical naming conventions and planetary nomenclature for planetary bodies, the Working Group on Star Names, which catalogs and standardizes proper names for stars.
The IAU is responsible for the system of astronomical telegrams which are produced and distributed on its behalf by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. The Minor Planet Center operates under the IAU, is a "clearinghouse" for all non-planetary or non-moon bodies in the Solar System; the Working Group for Meteor Shower Nomenclature and the Meteor Data Center coordinate the nomenclature of meteor showers. The IAU was founded on 28 July 1919, at the Constitutive Assembly of the International Research Council held in Brussels, Belgium. Two subsidiaries of the IAU were created at this assembly: the International Time Commission seated at the International Time Bureau in Paris and the International Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams seated in Copenhagen, Denmark; the 7 initial member states were Belgium, France, Great Britain, Greece and the United States, soon to be followed by Italy and Mexico. The first executive committee consisted of Benjamin Baillaud, Alfred Fowler, four vice presidents: William Campbell, Frank Dyson, Georges Lecointe, Annibale Riccò.
Thirty-two Commissions were appointed at the Brussels meeting and focused on topics ranging from relativity to minor planets. The reports of these 32 Commissions formed the main substance of the first General Assembly, which took place in Rome, Italy, 2–10 May 1922. By the end of the first General Assembly, ten additional nations had joined the Union, bringing the total membership to 19 countries. Although the Union was formed eight months after the end of World War I, international collaboration in astronomy had been strong in the pre-war era; the first 50 years of the Union's history are well documented. Subsequent history is recorded in the form of reminiscences of past IAU Presidents and General Secretaries. Twelve of the fourteen past General Secretaries in the period 1964-2006 contributed their recollections of the Union's history in IAU Information Bulletin No. 100. Six past IAU Presidents in the period 1976–2003 contributed their recollections in IAU Information Bulletin No. 104. The IAU includes a total of 12,664 individual members who are professional astronomers from 96 countries worldwide.
83% of all individual members are male, while 17% are female, among them the union's former president, Mexican astronomer Silvia Torres-Peimbert. Membership includes 79 national members, professional astronomical communities representing their country's affiliation with the IAU. National members include the Australian Academy of Science, the Chinese Astronomical Society, the French Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academies, the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, KACST, the Council of German Observatories, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Science Council of Japan, among many others; the sovereign body of the IAU is its General Assembly. The Assembly determines IAU policy, approves the Statutes and By-Laws of the Union and elects various committees; the right to vote on matters brought before the Assembly varies according to the type of business under discussion.
The Statutes consider such business to be divided into two categories: issues of a "primarily scientific nature", upon which voting is restricted to individual members, all other matters, upon which voting is restricted to the representatives of national members. On budget matters, votes are weighted according to the relative subscription levels of the national members. A second category vote requires a turnout of at least two-thirds of national members in order to be valid. An absolute majority is sufficient for approval in any vote, except for Statute revision which requires a two-thirds majority. An equality of votes is resolved by the vote of the President of the Union. Since 1922, the IAU General Assembly meets every three years, with the ex
Astronomy in China has a long history, beginning from the Shang Dynasty. Chinese star names categorized in the twenty-eight mansions have been found on oracle bones unearthed at Anyang, dating back to the middle Shang Dynasty, the mansion system's nucleus seems to have taken shape by the time of the ruler Wu Ding. Detailed records of astronomical observations began during the Warring States period and flourished from the Han period onward. Chinese astronomy was equatorial, centered as it was on close observation of circumpolar stars, was based on different principles from those prevailing in traditional Western astronomy, where heliacal risings and settings of zodiac constellations formed the basic ecliptic framework. Needham has described the ancient Chinese as the most persistent and accurate observers of celestial phenomena anywhere in the world before the Islamic astronomers; some elements of Indian astronomy reached China with the expansion of Buddhism after the Eastern Han Dynasty, but the most detailed incorporation of Indian astronomical thought occurred during the Tang Dynasty, when numerous Indian astronomers took up residence in the Chinese capital, Chinese scholars, such as the Tantric Buddhist monk and mathematician Yi Xing, mastered its system.
Islamic astronomers collaborated with their Chinese colleagues during the Yuan Dynasty, after a period of relative decline during the Ming Dynasty, astronomy was revitalized under the stimulus of Western cosmology and technology after the Jesuits established their missions. The telescope was introduced in the seventeenth century. In 1669, the Peking observatory was redesigned and refitted under the direction of Ferdinand Verbiest. Today, China continues to be active with many observatories and its own space program. One of the main functions was for the purpose of timekeeping; the Chinese used a lunisolar calendar, because the cycles of the Sun and the Moon are different, intercalation had to be done. The Chinese calendar was considered to be a symbol of a dynasty; as dynasties would rise and fall and astrologers of each period would prepare a new calendar to be made, with observations for that purpose. Astrological divination was an important part of astronomy. Astronomers took careful note of guest stars, which appeared among the fixed stars.
The supernova that created the Crab Nebula observed in 1054, now known as the SN 1054, is an example of a guest star observed by Chinese astronomers, recorded by the Arab astronomers, although it was not recorded by their European contemporaries. Ancient astronomical records of phenomena like comets and supernovae are sometimes used in modern astronomical studies. Indian astronomy reached China with the expansion of Buddhism during the Later Han. Further translation of Indian works on astronomy was completed in China by the Three Kingdoms era. However, the most detailed incorporation of Indian astronomy occurred only during the Tang Dynasty when a number of Chinese scholars—such as Yi Xing— were versed both in Indian and Chinese astronomy. A system of Indian astronomy was recorded in China as Jiuzhi-li, the author of, an Indian by the name of Qutan Xida—a translation of Devanagari Gotama Siddha—the director of the Tang dynasty's national astronomical observatory. During the 8th century, the astronomical table of sines by the Indian astronomer and mathematician, were translated into the Chinese astronomical and mathematical book of the Treatise on Astrology of the Kaiyuan Era, compiled in 718 CE during the Tang Dynasty.
The Kaiyuan Zhanjing was compiled by Gautama Siddha, an astronomer and astrologer born in Chang'an, whose family was from India. He was notable for his translation of the Navagraha calendar into Chinese. Gautama Siddha introduced Indian numerals with zero in 718 in China as a replacement of counting rods. In 3rd-century C. E, the Matanaga avadha was translated into Chinese.although the original is believed to date earlier. It gives the lengths of monthly shadows of a 12-inch gnomon, the standard parameter of Indian astronomy; the work mentions the 28 Indian nakshatras. In the beginning of the second century, Sardulakarnavadana was translated into Chinese several times, This work contains the usual Sanskrit names of the 28 nakshatras. Starting with krttika. From the 1st century onward Lalitavistara was translated into Chinese several times, it is in this work that the famous Buddhist centesimal-scale counting occurs during the dialogue between Prince Gautamaand and the mathematician Arjuna. The first series of counts ends with tallaksana, beyond which eight more ganana series are mentioned.
Atomic-scale counting is mentioned. The Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva in the early fifth century.16 The astronomical parameters mentioned in this translation are comparable to those given in the Vedanga Jyotisha. Indian system of numeration appeared in the Chinese work Ta PaoChi Ching, translated by Upasunya The Chinese translations of the following works are mentioned in the Sui Shu, or Official History of the Sui Dynasty: Po-lo-men Thien Wen Ching in 21 books. Po-lo-men Chieh-Chhieh Hsien-jen Thien Wen Shuo in 30 books. Po-lo-men Thien Ching in one book. Mo-teng-Chia Ching Huang-thu in onebook. Po-lo-men Suan Ching in three books. Po-lo-men Su
A binary star is a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common barycenter. Systems of two or more stars are called multiple star systems; these systems when more distant appear to the unaided eye as a single point of light, are revealed as multiple by other means. Research over the last two centuries suggests that half or more of visible stars are part of multiple star systems; the term double star is used synonymously with binary star. Optical doubles are so called because the two stars appear close together in the sky as seen from the Earth, their "doubleness" depends only on this optical effect. A double star can be revealed as optical by means of differences in their parallax measurements, proper motions, or radial velocities. Most known double stars have not been studied adequately to determine whether they are optical doubles or doubles physically bound through gravitation into a multiple star system. Binary star systems are important in astrophysics because calculations of their orbits allow the masses of their component stars to be directly determined, which in turn allows other stellar parameters, such as radius and density, to be indirectly estimated.
This determines an empirical mass-luminosity relationship from which the masses of single stars can be estimated. Binary stars are detected optically, in which case they are called visual binaries. Many visual binaries have long orbital periods of several centuries or millennia and therefore have orbits which are uncertain or poorly known, they may be detected by indirect techniques, such as spectroscopy or astrometry. If a binary star happens to orbit in a plane along our line of sight, its components will eclipse and transit each other. If components in binary star systems are close enough they can gravitationally distort their mutual outer stellar atmospheres. In some cases, these close binary systems can exchange mass, which may bring their evolution to stages that single stars cannot attain. Examples of binaries are Sirius, Cygnus X-1. Binary stars are common as the nuclei of many planetary nebulae, are the progenitors of both novae and type Ia supernovae; the term binary was first used in this context by Sir William Herschel in 1802, when he wrote: If, on the contrary, two stars should be situated near each other, at the same time so far insulated as not to be materially affected by the attractions of neighbouring stars, they will compose a separate system, remain united by the bond of their own mutual gravitation towards each other.
This should be called a real double star. By the modern definition, the term binary star is restricted to pairs of stars which revolve around a common center of mass. Binary stars which can be resolved with a telescope or interferometric methods are known as visual binaries. For most of the known visual binary stars one whole revolution has not been observed yet, they are observed to have travelled along a curved path or a partial arc; the more general term double star is used for pairs of stars which are seen to be close together in the sky. This distinction is made in languages other than English. Double stars may be binary systems or may be two stars that appear to be close together in the sky but have vastly different true distances from the Sun; the latter are termed optical optical pairs. Since the invention of the telescope, many pairs of double stars have been found. Early examples include Acrux. Mizar, in the Big Dipper, was observed to be double by Giovanni Battista Riccioli in 1650; the bright southern star Acrux, in the Southern Cross, was discovered to be double by Father Fontenay in 1685.
John Michell was the first to suggest that double stars might be physically attached to each other when he argued in 1767 that the probability that a double star was due to a chance alignment was small. William Herschel began observing double stars in 1779 and soon thereafter published catalogs of about 700 double stars. By 1803, he had observed changes in the relative positions in a number of double stars over the course of 25 years, concluded that they must be binary systems. Since this time, many more double stars have been measured; the Washington Double Star Catalog, a database of visual double stars compiled by the United States Naval Observatory, contains over 100,000 pairs of double stars, including optical doubles as well as binary stars. Orbits are known for only a few thousand of these double stars, most have not been ascertained to be either true binaries or optical double stars; this can be determined by observing the relative motion of the pairs. If the motion is part of an orbit, or if the stars have similar radial velocities and the difference in their proper motions is small compared to their common proper motion, the pair is physical.
One of the tasks that remains for visual observers of double stars is to obtain sufficient observations to prove or disprove gravitational connection. Binary stars are classified into four types accordi
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process, it is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, or 109 times that of Earth, its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen; the Sun is a G-type main-sequence star based on its spectral class. As such, it is informally and not accurately referred to as a yellow dwarf, it formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System; the central mass became so hot and dense that it initiated nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that all stars form by this process.
The Sun is middle-aged. It fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result; this energy, which can take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to escape from its core, is the source of the Sun's light and heat. In about 5 billion years, when hydrogen fusion in its core has diminished to the point at which the Sun is no longer in hydrostatic equilibrium, its core will undergo a marked increase in density and temperature while its outer layers expand to become a red giant, it is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of Mercury and Venus, render Earth uninhabitable. After this, it will shed its outer layers and become a dense type of cooling star known as a white dwarf, no longer produce energy by fusion, but still glow and give off heat from its previous fusion; the enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity.
The synodic rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of solar calendars, one of, the predominant calendar in use today. The English proper name Sun may be related to south. Cognates to English sun appear in other Germanic languages, including Old Frisian sunne, Old Saxon sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, modern Dutch zon, Old High German sunna, modern German Sonne, Old Norse sunna, Gothic sunnō. All Germanic terms for the Sun stem from Proto-Germanic *sunnōn; the Latin name for the Sun, Sol, is not used in everyday English. Sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on another planet, such as Mars; the related word solar is the usual adjectival term used for the Sun, in terms such as solar day, solar eclipse, Solar System. A mean Earth solar day is 24 hours, whereas a mean Martian'sol' is 24 hours, 39 minutes, 35.244 seconds. The English weekday name Sunday stems from Old English and is a result of a Germanic interpretation of Latin dies solis, itself a translation of the Greek ἡμέρα ἡλίου.
The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star. The Sun has an absolute magnitude of +4.83, estimated to be brighter than about 85% of the stars in the Milky Way, most of which are red dwarfs. The Sun is heavy-element-rich, star; the formation of the Sun may have been triggered by shockwaves from more nearby supernovae. This is suggested by a high abundance of heavy elements in the Solar System, such as gold and uranium, relative to the abundances of these elements in so-called Population II, heavy-element-poor, stars; the heavy elements could most plausibly have been produced by endothermic nuclear reactions during a supernova, or by transmutation through neutron absorption within a massive second-generation star. The Sun is by far the brightest object in the Earth's sky, with an apparent magnitude of −26.74. This is about 13 billion times brighter than the next brightest star, which has an apparent magnitude of −1.46. The mean distance of the Sun's center to Earth's center is 1 astronomical unit, though the distance varies as Earth moves from perihelion in January to aphelion in July.
At this average distance, light travels from the Sun's horizon to Earth's horizon in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds, while light from the closest points of the Sun and Earth takes about two seconds less. The energy of this sunlight supports all life on Earth by photosynthesis, drives Earth's climate and weather; the Sun does not have a definite boundary, but its density decreases exponentially with increasing height above the photosphere. For the purpose of measurement, the Sun's radius is considered to be the distance from its center to the edge of the photosphere, the apparent visible surface of the Sun. By this measure, the Sun is a near-perfect sphere with an oblateness estimated at about 9 millionths, which means that its polar diameter differs from its equatorial diameter by only 10 kilometres; the tidal effect of the planets is weak and does not affect the shape of the Sun. The Sun rotates faster at its equator than at its poles; this differential rotation is caused by convective motion
In observational astronomy, a double star or visual double is a pair of stars that appear close to each other as viewed from Earth with the aid of optical telescopes. This occurs because the pair either forms a binary star or is an optical double, a chance line-of-sight alignment of two stars at different distances from the observer. Binary stars are important to stellar astronomers as knowledge of their motions allows direct calculation of stellar mass and other stellar parameters. Since the beginning of the 1780s, both professional and amateur double star observers have telescopically measured the distances and angles between double stars to determine the relative motions of the pairs. If the relative motion of a pair determines a curved arc of an orbit, or if the relative motion is small compared to the common proper motion of both stars, it may be concluded that the pair is in mutual orbit as a binary star. Otherwise, the pair is optical. Multiple stars are studied in this way, although the dynamics of multiple stellar systems are more complex than those of binary stars.
The following are three types of paired stars: Optical doubles are unrelated stars that appear close together through chance alignment with Earth. Visual binaries are gravitationally-bound stars. Non-visual binaries are stars whose binary status was deduced through more esoteric means, such as occultation, spectroscopy, or anomalies in proper motion. Improvements in telescopes can shift non-visual binaries into visual binaries, as happened with Polaris A in 2006, it is only the inability to telescopically observe two separate stars that distinguish non-visual and visual binaries. Mizar, in Ursa Major, was observed to be double by Benedetto Galileo; the identification of other doubles soon followed: Robert Hooke discovered one of the first double-star systems, Gamma Arietis, in 1664, while the bright southern star Acrux, in the Southern Cross, was discovered to be double by Fontenay in 1685. Since that time, the search has been carried out and the entire sky has been examined for double stars down to a limiting apparent magnitude of about 9.0.
At least 1 in 18 stars brighter than 9.0 magnitude in the northern half of the sky are known to be double stars visible with a 36-inch telescope. The unrelated categories of optical doubles and true binaries are lumped together for historical and practical reasons; when Mizar was found to be a binary, it was quite difficult to determine whether a double star was a binary system or only an optical double. Improved telescopes and photography are the basic tools used to make the distinction. After it was determined to be a visual binary, Mizar's components were found to be spectroscopic binaries themselves. Observation of visual double stars by visual measurement will yield the separation, or angular distance, between the two component stars in the sky and the position angle; the position angle specifies the direction in which the stars are separated and is defined as the bearing from the brighter component to the fainter, where north is 0°. These measurements are called measures. In the measures of a visual binary, the position angle will change progressively and the separation between the two stars will oscillate between maximum and minimum values.
Plotting the measures in the plane will produce an ellipse. This is the projection of the orbit of the two stars onto the celestial sphere. Although it is expected that the majority of catalogued visual doubles are visual binaries, orbits have been computed for only a few thousand of the over 100,000 known visual double stars. Confirmation of a visual double star as a binary star can be achieved by observing the relative motion of the components. If the motion is part of an orbit, or if the stars have similar radial velocities or the difference in their proper motions is small compared to their common proper motion, the pair is physical; when observed over a short period of time, the components of both optical doubles and long-period visual binaries will appear to be moving in straight lines. Some bright visual double stars have a Bayer designation. In this case, the components may be denoted by superscripts. An example of this is α Crucis, whose components are α2 Crucis. Since α1 Crucis is a spectroscopic binary, this is a multiple star.
Superscripts are used to distinguish more distant, physically unrelated, pairs of stars with the same Bayer designation, such as α1,2 Capricorni, ξ1,2 Centauri, ξ1,2 Sagittarii. These optical pairs are resolvable by the naked eye. Apart from these pairs, the components of a double star are denoted by the letters A and B appended to the designation, of whatever sort, of the double star. For example, the components of α Canis Majoris are α Canis Majoris A and α Canis Majoris B; the letters AB may be used together to designate the pair. In the case of multiple stars, the letters C, D, so on may be used to denote additional components in order of increasing separation from the brightest star, A. Visual doubles are designated by an abbreviation for the name of their discoverer followed by a catalogue number unique to that observer. For example, the pair α Centauri AB was discovered by Father Ri
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.