2014-04-10. NASA's Hubble Extends Stellar Tape Measure 10 Times Farther Into Space.

posted Apr 10, 2014, 1:58 PM by Alan Gould
For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 4. Excerpt: ...astronomers now can precisely measure the distance of stars up to 10,000 light-years away -- 10 times farther than previously possible...employing a technique called spatial scanning, which dramatically improves Hubble's accuracy for making angular measurements. The technique, when applied to the age-old method for gauging distances called astronomical parallax, extends Hubble's tape measure 10 times farther into space. ...Parallax, a trigonometric technique, is the most reliable method for making astronomical distance measurements, and a practice long employed by land surveyors here on Earth. The diameter of Earth's orbit is the base of a triangle and the star is the apex where the triangle's sides meet. The lengths of the sides are calculated by accurately measuring the three angles of the resulting triangle. ...This new long-range precision was proven when scientists successfully used Hubble to measure the distance of a special class of bright stars called Cepheid variables, approximately 7,500 light-years away in the northern constellation Auriga. The technique worked so well, they are now using Hubble to measure the distances of other far-flung Cepheids. Such measurements will be used to provide firmer footing for the so-called cosmic "distance ladder." This ladder's "bottom rung" is built on measurements to Cepheid variable stars that, because of their known brightness, have been used for more than a century to gauge the size of the observable universe. They are the first step in calibrating far more distant extra-galactic milepost markers such as Type Ia supernovae. ...To make a distance measurement, two exposures of the target Cepheid star were taken six months apart, when Earth was on opposite sides of the sun. A very subtle shift in the star's position was measured to an accuracy of 1/1,000 the width of a single image pixel in Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, which has 16.8 megapixels total.  A third exposure was taken after another six months to allow for the team to subtract the effects of the subtle space motion of stars, with additional exposures used to remove other sources of error. ...visit: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble...  http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/april/nasas-hubble-extends-stellar-tape-measure-10-times-farther-into-space/#.U0cDuMdGLHQ.  By NASA RELEASE 14-104.