Chapter 19 Celestial Distances

19.5 For Further Exploration


Adams, A. “The Triumph of Hipparcos.” Astronomy (December 1997): 60. Brief introduction.

Dambeck, T. “Gaia’s Mission to the Milky Way.” Sky & Telescope (March 2008): 36–39. An introduction to the mission to measure distances and positions of stars with unprecedented accuracy.

Hirshfeld, A. “The Absolute Magnitude of Stars.” Sky & Telescope (September 1994): 35. Good review of how we measure luminosity, with charts.

Hirshfeld, A. “The Race to Measure the Cosmos.” Sky & Telescope (November 2001): 38. On parallax.

Trefil, J. Puzzling Out Parallax.” Astronomy (September 1998): 46. On the concept and history of parallax.

Turon, C. “Measuring the Universe.” Sky & Telescope (July 1997): 28. On the Hipparcos mission and its results.

Zimmerman, R. “Polaris: The Code-Blue Star.” Astronomy (March 1995): 45. On the famous cepheid variable and how it is changing.


ABCs of Distance: Astronomer Ned Wright (UCLA) gives a concise primer on many different methods of obtaining distances. This site is at a higher level than our textbook, but is an excellent review for those with some background in astronomy.

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO): This organization of amateur astronomers helps to keep track of variable stars; its site has some background material, observing instructions, and links.

Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel: A brief site about the first person to detect stellar parallax, with references and links.

Gaia: News from the Gaia mission, including images and a blog of the latest findings.

Hipparchos: Background, results, catalogs of data, and educational resources from the Hipparchos mission to observe parallaxes from space. Some sections are technical, but others are accessible to students.

John Goodricke: The Deaf Astronomer: A biographical article from the BBC.

Women in Astronomy: More about Henrietta Leavitt’s and other women’s contributions to astronomy and the obstacles they faced.


Gaia’s Mission: Solving the Celestial Puzzle: Describes the Gaia mission and what scientists hope to learn, from Cambridge University (19:58).

Hipparcos: Route Map to the Stars: This ESA video describes the mission to measure parallax and its results (14:32) . Direct link:


How Big Is the Universe: Astronomer Pete Edwards from the British Institute of Physics discusses the size of the universe and gives a step-by-step introduction to the concepts of distances (6:22)

Search for Miss Leavitt:, Video of talk by George Johnson on his search for Miss Leavitt (55:09).


Women in Astronomy: . Emily Rice (CUNY) gives a talk on the contributions of women to astronomy, with many historical and contemporary examples, and an analysis of modern trends (52:54).


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Douglas College Astronomy 1105 by Douglas College Department of Physics and Astronomy, Open Stax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.