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Stellar distances?

I was surprised to see how different sources have wildly different estimates of distances to stars. Obviously stellar parallax is a little loose, but some of these show really gross differences. I know many of the more distant stars are going to be difficult, but why the huge variations on what seem to be recent lists?

I have seen differences in Rigel's distance varying from 500 light years to 900. Betelgeuse: 300 to 600. Canopus: 98 to 1200, (yeah, twelve hundred).

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carlosklinead07 profile image
17d2136cb28b profile image

Good question! Stellar distances have been improving in recent years thanks to Hipparcos and Tycho projects, but old values are still floating around, especially on the internet where it's hard to be sure where the numbers actually come from. Distances to some deep sky objects, particularly nebulae, will probably never be known with much accuracy because there's really no way of measuring them. If you want some fun, try checking the distances of planetary nebulae; you'll find the answers are "anybody's guess"!

aa11402617 profile image

Anyway you look at them these are all awfully round numbers which leads me to believe they are all just estimates. I suppose there's no way to accurately measure these vast distances. I suppose when you're talking 5 to 6 hundred light years it really is irrelevant.