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Thread: Distance between stars.

  1. #1 Distance between stars. 
    Forum Ph.D.
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    Is it possible for someone with basic astronomical equipment to measure, with reasonable accuracy, the distance between 2 stars, say Rigel and Polaris.
    The figures for the distances of these 2 stars, from the Solar System, are generally accepted.
    Am I right in thinking 2 lines, drawn from the Sun to these 2 objects, to the correct scale, would give the correct answer as long as the angle RSP could be worked out?
    Then the distance R - P would give the distance?


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  3. #2  
    KJW
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    Seems like basic trigonometry, provided that the assumption of Euclidean (flat) space is sufficiently accurate. But you may need to account for the motion of each star relative to the sun.


    Last edited by KJW; August 25th, 2019 at 02:23 PM.
    There are no paradoxes in relativity, just people's misunderstandings of it.
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  4. #3  
    Forum Isotope
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    Is it possible for someone with basic astronomical equipment to measure, with reasonable accuracy, the distance between 2 stars, say Rigel and Polaris.
    The figures for the distances of these 2 stars, from the Solar System, are generally accepted.
    Am I right in thinking 2 lines, drawn from the Sun to these 2 objects, to the correct scale, would give the correct answer as long as the angle RSP could be worked out?
    Then the distance R - P would give the distance?
    As KJW says, the geometry is straightforward enough. The real issues are what you assume for the capabilities of "basic astronomical equipment", what pre-existing data you will use, what measurements you intend to make, and what accuracy you desire of the result. From what you've written, it seems that you are willing to accept distance figures from a tabulated source. How about declinations? Or do you intend to measure those? How about the angular separation of the two stars? Are you intending to measure those or will you use tabulated data?

    Once you've answered those questions, you can do some trig calculations and determine for yourself whether your equipment is capable of providing the desired accuracy.
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