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Put your index finger in front of you and look at it with one eye closed. Change eye and you will see how your finger seems to move several inches. If you knew how much you move your finger, and what a distance separates his eyes you could calculate the distance to your finger by means of simple trigonometric calculations. It is as well as in astronomy is performed, the parallax and calculates the position and the distance to which they are the stars. Instead of eyes, he notes the position of the stars in the celestial vault, as the Earth traverses its orbit.
Now, for the first time, a spacecraft has sent a few photos from so far away that l as stars appear in different positions in comparison with what we see from Earth. We owe this achievement to the probe “New Horizons”, of the NASA, which in 2015 flew over the vicinity of Pluto, and that is to more than 6,400 million kilometers from the Earth. Is so far away that a radio signal, traveling at the speed of light, sent from the Earth takes six hours and a half to get to the ship.
“we can say that the “New Horizons” looking at a sky alien , different to any that we see from Earth,” he said in a press release of NASA, Alan Stern , principal investigator of the mission. “And this has allowed us something that we had not been able to do until now: to see the nearest stars visibly displaced from the positions that we see from the Earth.”
Animation with the two positions of proxima Centauri, one of the stars whose displacement has been observed due to the change of perspective of the “New Horizons” – NASAEstrellas rearranged
The “New Horizons” is not the ship more distant, since it gives that honor to the Voyager, located beyond the heliosphere, the area dominated by the solar wind. But these two decrepit ships, launched at the end of the seventies, they are already blind . Only have activated two instruments to measure magnetic fields and charged particles. Meanwhile, the “New Horizons” continues to reach out to the outskirts of the Solar System, after visiting Arrokoth, called Ultima Thule, in 2019 (here you can read about the spectacular journey of the tube), and it still counts with optical instruments, assets.
The last 22 and 23 April, the “New Horizons” set off his camera’s telescopic long-range , and looked at two nearby stars, in terms astrophysicists, proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, 4.4 light years and 7.8 light years, respectively.
When comparing photographs of this area taken by telescopes on the ground with what was observed by the probe, at the same time, scientists have clearly shown how the stars move, with the same ease that you can wink one eye or the other to see how it moves our finger.
The experiment of parallax, more distant
“This experiment provides the baseline for parallax, more extensive, more than 6,400 million kilometers (something like the maximum eye separation, in order to measure the distance to the finger) and the first demonstration of a parallax easily observable ,” said Tod Lauer , a member of the mission.
as it has added Brian May , astrophysicist collaborator of the “New Horizons” and ex-guitarist of Queen, these photographs “used the greatest distance between points of view in 180 years of stereoscopy”.
Thanks to this, a phenomenon that usually can be observed with very precise instruments, it has now been able to see with the naked eye thanks to the perspective of the “New Horizons”. And you can see as easily in a pair of three-dimensional maps.
NASA scientists believe that this technique could be useful in the future for the explorers, interstellar is orientasen in the galaxy, as did the navigators of the oceans in the past. For the moment, however, the tracking by radio waves of the network of deep space from NASA is much more accurate, at least within the solar system. There is still a lack for a human to see with their own eyes the galaxy from another perspective.