It has been seen that the parallaxes afford little information as to the distribution of the main bulk of the stars and that the chief evidence on this point must be obtained indirectly from their proper motions.
Although some lurking errors impaired the authority of the concluded parallaxes this work ranks as a valuable contribution to astronomy, since it showed the possibility of employing photography in such delicate investigations.
Brinkley's imaginary star-parallaxes (Phil.
For stellar parallaxes see Star; the solar parallax is discussed below.
Cassini's new method of parallaxes was inserted in the Ada Eruditorum of Leipzig in 1685.
As early as 1573, Thomas Digges had suggested that this theory should necessitate a parallactic shifting of the stars, and, consequently, if such stellar parallaxes existed, then the Copernican theory would receive additional confirmation.
Many observers claimed to have determined such parallaxes, but Tycho Brahe and G.
When James Bradley and Samuel Molyneux entered this sphere of astronomical research in 1725, there consequently prevailed much uncertainty as to whether stellar parallaxes had been observed or not; and it was with the intention of definitely answering this question that these astronomers erected a large telescope at the house of the latter at Kew.
Distances and .Parallaxes of the Stars.-As the earth traverses annually its path around the sun, and passes from one part of its orbit to another, the direction in which a fixed star is seen changes.
The determination of stellar parallaxes is a matter of great difficulty on account of the minuteness of the angle to be measured, for in no case does the parallax amount to I"; moreover, there is always an added difficulty in determining an annual change of position, for seasonal instrumental changes are liable to give rise to a spurious effect which will also have an annual period.
Formerly attempts were made to determine parallaxes by measuring changes in the absolute right ascensions and declinations of the stars from observations with the meridian circle.
In the table are collected the parallaxes and other data of all stars for which the most probable value of the parallax exceeds 0.20".
Although much work has been done recently in measuring parallaxes, the number of stars included in such a list has not been increased, but rather has been considerably diminished; many large parallaxes, which were formerly provisionally accepted, have been reduced on revision.
To convert parallaxes into distance we may remember that a parallax of i" denotes a distance of 182 billion miles, or 206,000 times the distance of the sun from the earth.
Although the parallaxes hitherto measured have added greatly to our general knowledge of stellar distances and absolute luminosities of stars, a collection of results derived by various observers choosing specially selected stars is not suitable for statistical discussion.
It is noteworthy that no parallaxes exceeding 0.20" were found; the mean was about o 05".
To arrive at some estimate of the speed of the solar motion, we may consider the motions of those stars whose parallaxes have been measured, and whose actual linear speed is accordingly known (disregarding motion in the line of sight).
A very weighty objection is that the stars whose parallaxes are determined are mainly those of large proper motion and therefore not fairly representative of the bulk of the stars; in fact their peculiar motions will not neutralize one another in the mean.
This result, while it does not afford any means of determining the parallaxes of individual stars, enables us to determine the mean parallax of a group of stars, if we may assume their peculiar motions practically to cancel one another.
Several estimates have been made which agree well together; whether direct use is made of known parallaxes, or comparison is made with binaries of well-determined orbits of the same spectral type as the sun, in which therefore it may be assumed there is the same relation between mass and brilliancy (Gore), the result is found that the sun's magnitude is - 26.5, or the sun is Io n times as brilliant as a first magnitude star; it would follow that the sun viewed from a Centauri would appear as of magnitude 0.7, and from a star of average distance which has a parallax certainly less than o 1 ", it would be at least fainter than the fifth magnitude, or, say, upon the border-line for naked-eye visibility.
Moreover, the absence of sensible parallaxes in the stellar heavens seemed inconsistent with its validity; and a mobile earth outraged deep-rooted prepossessions.
Only spurious star-parallaxes had claimed the attention of astronomers until F.
A wide photographic survey, by which parallaxes might be secured wholesale, has further been recommended by Kapteyn; but is unlikely to be undertaken in the immediate future.
The exhaustive ascertainment of stellar parallaxes, combined with the visible facts of stellar distribution, would enable us to build a perfect plan of the universe in three dimensions.