Sidereal time

From Academic Kids

Sidereal time is time measured by the apparent diurnal motion of the vernal equinox, which is very close to, but not identical with, the motion of stars. They differ by the precession of the vernal equinox relative to the stars.

Solar time is measured by the apparent diurnal motion of the sun, and local noon in solar time is defined as the moment when the sun is at its highest point in the sky (exactly due south in the northern hemisphere and due north in the southern hemisphere). The time taken for the sun to return to its highest point is exactly 24 hours, or a solar day.

However, the stars appear to move in a slightly different way. During the course of one day, the earth has moved a short distance along its orbit around the sun, and so must rotate a small extra angular distance before the sun reaches its highest point. The stars, however, are so far away that the earth's movement along its orbit makes a generally negligible difference to their apparent direction (see, however parallax), and so they return to their highest point in slightly less than 24 hours. A mean sidereal day is about 23h56m in length. Due to variations in the rotation rate of the Earth, however, the rate of an ideal sidereal clock deviates from any simple multiple of a civil clock. In practice, the difference is kept track of by the difference UTCUT1, which is measured by radio telescopes and kept on file and available to the public at the IERS and at the United States Naval Observatory.

Sidereal time is defined as the hour angle of the vernal equinox. When the meridian of the vernal equinox is directly overhead, local sidereal time is 00:00. Greenwich Sidereal time is the hour angle of the vernal equinox at the prime meridian at Greenwich, England; local values differ according to longitude. When one moves eastward 15° in longitude, sidereal time is larger by one hour (note that it wraps around at 24 hours). Differences are counted to the accuracy of measurement, however, not just in whole hours. Greenwich sidereal time and UT1 differ from each other by a constant rate (1.00273790935). Sidereal time is used at astronomical observatories because sidereal time makes it very easy to work out which astronomical objects will be observable at a given time. Objects are located in the night sky using right ascension and declination relative to the celestial equator (analogous to longitude and latitude on Earth), and when sidereal time is equal to an object's right ascension, the object will be at its highest point in the sky, or culmination, at which time it is best placed for observation, as atmospheric extinction is minimised.

See also

External links

es:Tiempo sideral fr:Temps sidéral it:Tempo siderale


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