Cosmic distance ladder

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Cosmic distance ladder

Post  be_map1512 on 25th October 2010, 22:37

The cosmic distance ladder (also known as the Extragalactic Distance Scale) is the succession of methods by which astronomers determine the distances to celestial objects. A real direct distance measurement to an astronomical object is only possible for those objects that are "close enough" (within about a thousand parsecs) to Earth. The techniques for determining distances to more distant objects are all based on various measured correlations between methods that work at close distances with methods that work at larger distances. Several methods rely on a standard candle, which is an astronomical object that has a known luminosity.

The ladder analogy arises because no one technique can measure distances at all ranges encountered in astronomy. Instead, one method can be used to measure nearby distances, a second can be used to measure nearby to intermediate distances, and so on. Each rung of the ladder provides information that can be used to determine the distances at the next higher rung.

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