Astrophysics (Index)About

parallax

(angle due to different lines of sight)

Parallax is the angle between the apparent location of an object as seen from two different places. It is used to measure their distance to stars (stellar parallax). If a very small angle can be measured accurately, a distance to a nearby star can be determined.

For measuring distances to a star, the parallax used is the angle between viewing the star from Earth at two times, half a year apart, when the positions of the Earth differ by 2 AU (the baseline). The angle cited as parallax (parallax angle) is typically half this, the angle from two positions 1 AU apart, e.g., from the Sun and the Earth. A parsec is the distance of a star with this (1 AU) parallax angle of 1 arcsecond. Typical "rough" capabilities of telescopes:

Instrument angular resolution distance
Ground-based telescope without adaptive optics 1 arcsecond 1 pc
With adoptive optics 50 milliarcseconds 20 pc
HST 50 milliarcseconds 20 pc
radio interferometer 5 milliarcseconds 200 pc
very-long-baseline interferometry (8000 km baseline) 1 milliarcsecond 1 kpc

Secular parallax consists of using the Sun's motion to gain a longer baseline, but the fact that the target star also has such a motion limits the information that can be gained.


(measure,distance)
Further reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallax
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_parallax

Referenced by pages:
All-Sky Compiled Catalogue (ASCC)
astrometry
astronomical quantities
baseline
cosmic distance ladder
ephemeris
fixed star
Gaia
General Catalogue of Trigonometric Parallaxes (GCTP)
Gould's Belt Distances Survey (GOBELINS)
Herschel Double Star Catalog (H)
Hipparcos
mass-luminosity relation
gravitational microlensing
parsec (pc)
General Catalog of Trigonometric Parallaxes (GCTP)
radial velocity (RV)
spectroscopic parallax
stellar distance determination
stellar kinematics
stellar luminosity determination
stellar parameter determination
stellar radius determination
USNO
VERA

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