The word “Magnitude” in astronomy is the amount of brightness a celestial object upholds.
Talking about stars like Betelgeuse or a galaxy like Andromeda galaxy, they all have some brightness, which we can calculate by using the concept of magnitude astronomy.
However, magnitude is a unitless measurement of the brightness of astronomical objects in a pre-defined passband. The defined passband is either the visible or infrared spectrum. Moreover, we can observe the brightness across wavelengths as well.
On this page, we will understand magnitude astronomy and absolute magnitude astronomy in detail.
Magnitude of Astronomical Objects
Hipparchus of Nicaea was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, and geographer. He introduced an imprecise even so systematic measurement for the determination of the magnitude of objects.
He is a well-known ancient astronomical observer. Also, he is one of the greatest astronomers of antiquity.
Moreover, he introduced quantitative and accurate models for the movement of the Sun and Moon survival.
Magnitude Astronomy Definition
Here, we will understand the magnitude scale astronomy with a few examples on apparent visual magnitude:
Magnitude is the measure of the brightness of various celestial bodies, like stars and galaxies .
Therefore, the brighter is the object, the lower is its magnitude in integers.
In ancient times, astronomers ranked the star to six magnitude classes. The first magnitude class comprises the brightest stars.
One magnitude is the ratio of brightness of 2.512 times. For instance, a star having a magnitude of 5.0 is 2.512 times brighter than a star of magnitude 6.0.
Thus, a difference of five magnitudes relates to a brightness ratio of 100 to 1.
After standardizing and assigning zero points, the brightest class was found to contain a huge range of luminosities. Furthermore, the negative magnitudes were introduced to spread the range.
Magnitude Scale Astronomy
Astronomers use two different measurements of magnitude:
Firstly, let’s talk about the apparent magnitude:
The apparent magnitude (m) is the object’s brightness, as it appears in the night sky from Earth.
Apparent magnitude depends on an object's following attributes:
i = Intrinsic luminosity
Extinction reduces its brightness.
Secondly, we have an absolute magnitude:
The absolute magnitude (M) describes the intrinsic luminosity an object emits.
Likewise, the absolute magnitude (M) be equal to the apparent magnitude if the object is placed at some distance from the Earth. The distance should be around 10 parsecs for stars.
Apparent Magnitude of a Star
The Apparent Magnitude (m)of a star is the brightness of an object as it seems to an observer on Earth.
For instance, the visual magnitude of stars are as follows:
Sun’s apparent magnitude is - 26.7.
Furthermore, the Apparent Magnitude of the full Moon is around −11.
Additionally, the apparent magnitude of the bright star Sirius, - 1.5.
However, the faintest objects visible via the Hubble Space Telescope are of apparent magnitude 30.
Apparent Brightness of Stars
Apparent brightness is how a star appears when we view it from Earth; however, it depends on the absolute brightness and the distance of the star from the Earth.
For instance, the apparent visual magnitude scale of a star is + 3, and the absolute visual magnitude is 0.8.
Here, absolute brightness is the luminosity that is a measure of the total power radiated by the sun.
Therefore, two stars that appear to be equally bright or glistening even so they are closer, dinner star, and the farther one, brighter.
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Absolute Magnitude Definition Astronomy
Absolute magnitude is the brightness an object exhibits when viewed from a distance of 10 parsecs (32.6 light-years). The Sun’s absolute magnitude is 4.8.
We must know that the absolute magnitude varies inversely with the brightness of celestial objects.
So, if the magnitude of a star/galaxy is lower, it means that they are bright, and vice - versa.
The absolute magnitude of stars ranges from - 10 to +17. However, the magnitude of galaxies is lesser. Talking about the giant elliptical galaxy, M87, its absolute magnitude is - 22.
Here, - 22 means the M87 galaxy is as bright as 60,000 stars of - 10 magnitude.
Absolute Magnitude Astronomy
The brightness of the star is true or absolute only if all the stars are at a uniform distance from the earth.
The absolute magnitude of stars is measured in comparison to our Sun.
If m of Sun = 1
m < 1, brighter than the sun
Further, m > 1, less bright than Sun
Distance Modulus Astronomy
Do you know what distance modulus astronomy is? If not, to put it more simply, we have its definition:
A distance modulus is a way of expressing distances in astronomy.
It describes distances on a logarithmic scale all things considered in the astronomical magnitude system.
Do You Know?
In 1850, Norman Robert Pogson, an English governmental astronomer proposed a mathematical scale of stellar magnitudes with the ratio of two successive magnitudes being the fifth root of one hundred (~2.512).
Also, he referred to this relation as Pogson's ratio. Assuredly, this system is in current use.
Astronomers use a more complex definition of absolute magnitude for planets and small Solar System bodies.
They measure the absolute magnitude on the basis of its brightness at one astronomical unit from the observer and the Sun.