Local Reference Lines

Lines of declination and right ascension are fixed in relation to the celestial sphere and move with it as it rotates around an observer. Other useful reference lines relate to the local position of each observer and stay fixed with the observer while sky objects pass by.

At your site, the zenith is the point on the celestial sphere directly over your head. The celestial horizon is the great circle on the celestial sphere 90° from your zenith. Although the celestial sphere is filled with stars, you can see only those that are above your horizon. The celestial meridian is the great circle passing through your zenith and the north and south points on your horizon. Only half of the celestial meridian is above the horizon.

Refer to Figure 1.6. Identify the stargazer's zenith; celestial horizon; and celestial meridian. (a)_; (b)_; (c)_

West

West

East

Figure 1.6. A stargazer's local reference lines.

East

Figure 1.6. A stargazer's local reference lines.

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