Science

# What is the parallax method?

456 ###### 2008-11-29 19:12:27

The parallax method is a way of measuring distances of far-away objects. Astronomers use parallax to measure the distance to stars.

Parallax is a measurement of the shift of a nearby object compared to distant objects when observed from two different positions.

You can see this effect for yourself. Cover your right eye and look directly at something some distance away, like a tree or house. Hold your hand at arms' length and stick up one finger, and cover the tree with your finger.

Now uncover your right eye and cover the left eye, WITHOUT moving your hand. Your finger is no longer covering the tree. The "parallax shift", the distance that your finger appeared to move (relative to the tree in the background) can be used to measure how far away things are.

For nearby objects in the solar system - for example, a comet or an asteroid - two observatories can observe the same object at the same time, and measure the "parallax angle" between the comet and a distant star. Knowing how far apart the two observatories are will let you calculate the distance to the comet.

For other "nearby" stars, we assume that the stars themselves aren't moving quickly. Take one measurement today, and another measurement exactly six months later. We know the distance between the two observations is 184 million miles (twice the Earth's orbital radius). If our reference star is far enough away, we can use the parallax angle to calculate the nearby star's distance.

For VERY distant objects, this doesn't work, for two reasons.

1. The parallax angle is too tiny to be measured accurately

2. We cannot be sure that the reference star in the background is far enough away from the "nearby" star to accurately calculate the distance.

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## Related Questions describe the parallax method of determining distance to stars For nearby stars, the parallax method gives the most accurate measure of distances.For nearby stars, the parallax method gives the most accurate measure of distances.For nearby stars, the parallax method gives the most accurate measure of distances.For nearby stars, the parallax method gives the most accurate measure of distances. Parallax is a method used to find the distances of stars. Parallax would be easier to measure if the Earth were farther from the sun. This way, there will be a wider angle to the stars using the parallax method. The closer the star, the greater the parallax angle, which is why you can't measure the distance to very distant stars using the parallax method.  What must be known is the distance. And the most accurate method to measure the distance of nearby stars is the parallax - but this method won't work for stars that are far away.     Because that is the entire idea of the parallax method - get measurements from two points, as far away as possible.It would be possible to do measurements a month apart, for example, or a week apart; but that would give a smaller parallax angle, and thus a larger error.Because that is the entire idea of the parallax method - get measurements from two points, as far away as possible.It would be possible to do measurements a month apart, for example, or a week apart; but that would give a smaller parallax angle, and thus a larger error.Because that is the entire idea of the parallax method - get measurements from two points, as far away as possible.It would be possible to do measurements a month apart, for example, or a week apart; but that would give a smaller parallax angle, and thus a larger error.Because that is the entire idea of the parallax method - get measurements from two points, as far away as possible.It would be possible to do measurements a month apart, for example, or a week apart; but that would give a smaller parallax angle, and thus a larger error. The parallax method is used to measure the distance of nearby stars. With current technology, stars up to about 1600 light-years away can be measured this way. To use parallax, one needs "unaffected" background stars, so the most distant stars cannot be ranged by this method. Parallax is the apparent change in position of an object when you look at it from different angles. Astronomers often us parallax to measure distances to nearby stars. This method can be used to determine stars' distances up to 400 light-years from Earth. The parallax of a star indicates how far the star is. The smaller the parallax, the farther the star.The parallax of a star indicates how far the star is. The smaller the parallax, the farther the star.The parallax of a star indicates how far the star is. The smaller the parallax, the farther the star.The parallax of a star indicates how far the star is. The smaller the parallax, the farther the star. 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For example, if you use the parallax method, you can only measure the parallax angle up to a certain precision; the farther the star is from us, the smaller the parallax angle, and therefore the larger will the uncertainty be.Specifically in the case of Deneb, it seems that it is surrounded by a shell of material; this makes it more difficult to measure the parallax exactly.

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