Welcome to the NavList Message Boards.


A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

Compose Your Message

Add Images & Files
    Re: Stellar Apparent Motion Question
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2004 Dec 19, 23:41 +0000

    A questioner asked-
    >Listed below are declinations of two stars tabulated
    >every 90 days or so, from the 2005 Nautical Almanac.
    >Alpheratz 2005
    >   01 Jan N29?07.2
    >   31 Mar N29?07.0 (-0.2)
    >   30 Jun N29?07.1 (+0.1)
    >   30 Sep N29?07.4 (+0.3)
    >   31 Dec N29?07.6 (+0.3)
    >Elnath 2005
    >   01 Jan N28?36.8 ( 0.0)
    >   31 Mar N28?36.8 ( 0.0)
    >   30 Jun N28?36.8 ( 0.0)
    >   30 Sep N28?36.8 ( 0.0)
    >   31 Dec N28?36.9 (+0.1)
    >Why does one vary first south, then north, and then
    >not return to its "starting point"?
    >Why does the second vary at a rate far different from
    >the first?
    >Is it varying parallax (from Earth's orbit) for two
    >stars at greatly varying distances from earth? If so,
    >why does Alpheratz not return to its starting point?
    >Parallax from the "expanding universe"??
    Response from George.
    No, it's NOTHING to do with parallax. The Earth's orbit is so tiny compared
    with star distances that even for the nearest stars parallax is quite
    negligible (0.8" max) at the precision of 0.1' that the Almanac quotes.
    There are a number of other effects that combine together. Not only do they
    affect declination, but also Right Ascension (and so SHA), and so affect
    1.The most important is a steady change in the direction of the Earth's
    spin axis due to PRECESSION, which causes the direction of the "North Pole"
    in the sky to move in an immense circle, taking about 26,000 years to do
    so. The plane of the Earth's equator  tilts accordingly. As declinations
    are measured from the plane of the equator, the declination of a star
    steadily changes even though the star itself is fixed in the sky. Some
    stars show a steadily increasing declination, some decreasing, depending on
    their position in the sky with respect to the equator and Aries, the
    maximum change being about ?20" per year. Precession is the main reason why
    the declination hasn't returned to its initial value after a year has
    The main reason for the difference in the declination changes over the
    year, comparing Alpheratz and Elnath, is that the SHA of Alpheratz is near
    to 360 degrees, which makes its declination sensitive to precession,
    whereas Elnath has a SHA roughly 270 degrees, which means the declination
    does not much change with precession.
    2. NUTATION is another motion of the Earth's polar axis, mostly caused by
    the Moon. The main component is a cyclic wobble with a period of nearly 19
    years and can affect declinations by up to ?9" or so, but there are many
    smaller and faster terms. Stars are differently affected by nutation,
    according to their position in the sky.
    3. ABERRATION. The Earth is travelling in its orbit at a speed that's much
    less than the speed of light, but still fast enough to distort slightly the
    direction that light appears to be coming from. Stars seen in the direction
    that the Earth is travelling towards (and from) are unaffected, but of
    course that direction changes through the year, so there's an annual
    displacement of the apparent position of stars, depending on where they are
    in the sky, of up to ?20" or so. This will affect the declinations of stars
    away from the equator more than stars near it. It's a rather important
    effect and the Almanac takes it into account.
    4. PROPER MOTION. Some stars are close enough, and are moving fast enough,
    that their apparent motion with respect to the sky background of "fixed"
    stars has to be taken into account For example, the close star Rigil Kent
    (Alpha Centauri by another name) has a dec that changes by about +.7" per
    year, and Right Ascension that changes by about -3.6" per year. That change
    will go on for ever, so it can accumulate up, even if it's not very
    important over one almanac-year.
    Even the Greeks understood about precession, but in my view it was a
    considerable achievement of astronomers of the 17th/18th centuries to sort
    out the other corrections.
    If the questioner is keen to follow up these matters, and isn't upset by a
    mathematical approach, I recommend investment in a copy of Meeus,
    Astronomical Algorithms, which has all he could ask for, and much more.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

    Browse Files

    Drop Files


    What is NavList?

    Join NavList

    (please, no nicknames or handles)
    Do you want to receive all group messages by email?
    Yes No

    You can also join by posting. Your first on-topic post automatically makes you a member.

    Posting Code

    Enter the email address associated with your NavList messages. Your posting code will be emailed to you immediately.

    Email Settings

    Posting Code:

    Custom Index

    Start date: (yyyymm dd)
    End date: (yyyymm dd)

    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site