ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
Astro-ph preprint submitted on 30 September 2011.
The Hipparcos satellite was launched in 1989. It was the first, and remains to date the only, attempt at performing large-scale astrometric measurements from space. Hipparcos marked a fundamentally new approach to the field of astrometry, revolutionising our knowledge of the positions, distances, and space motions of the stars in the solar neighbourhood. In this retrospective, I look back at the processes which led to the mission's acceptance, provide a short summary of the underlying measurement principles and the experiment's scientific achievements, and a conclude with a brief summary of its principal legacy - the Gaia mission.
Published as: "EAS Tycho Brahe prize lecture 2011", The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review, Volume 19, Issue 1, December 2011, Article 45. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00159-011-0045-5
From prehistoric times, mankind has looked up at the night sky, and puzzled at the changing positions of the stars. How far away they are is a question that has confounded scientists for centuries. Over the last few hundred years, many scientific careers – and considerable resources – have been devoted to measuring their positions and motions with ever increasing accuracy. And in the last two decades of the 20th century, the European Space Agency developed and launched the Hipparcos satellite, around which this account revolves, to carry out these exacting measurements from space.
What has prompted these remarkable developments? Why have governments been persuaded to fund them? What are scientists learning from astronomy's equivalent of the Human Genome Project? This book traces the subject's history, explains why such enormous efforts are considered worthwhile, and interweaves these with a first-hand insight into the Hipparcos project, and how big science is conducted at an international level. The involvement of amateur astronomers, and the Hipparcos contributions to climate research, 'death stars' passing close to the Sun, and the search for extra-solar planets and even intelligent life itself, are some of the surprising facets of this unusual space mission.
Table of Contents
Prologue - Hipparcos Launch
1. Our Place in the Cosmos
2. Why Star Positions?
3. Early History
4. Developments 1850-1980
5. The Push to Space
6. From Concept to Launch
7. Disaster Unfolds
8. Mission Recovery
9. Science in the Making
10. The Finishing Touches
11. Our Galaxy
12. Inside the Stars
13. Our Solar System and Habitability
14. The Future
The Hipparcos satellite, developed and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 1989, was the first space mission dedicated to astrometry - the accurate measurement of positions, distances, and proper motions of stars. Amongst the key achievements of its measurements are refining the cosmic distance scale, characterising the large-scale kinematic motions in the Solar neighbourhood, providing precise luminosities for stellar modelling, and confirming Einstein's prediction of the effect of gravity on starlight. This authoritative account of the Hipparcos contributions over the last decade is an outstanding reference for astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists. It reviews the applications of the data in different areas, describing the subject and the state-of-the-art before Hipparcos, and summarising all major contributions to the topic made by Hipparcos. It contains a detailed overview of the Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogues, their annexes and their updates. Each chapter ends with comprehensive references to relevant literature.
Table of Contents1. The Hipparcos and Tycho catalogues;
2. Derived catalogues and applications;
3. Double and multiple stars;
4. Photometry and variability;
5. Luminosity calibration and distance scale;
6. Open clusters, groups and associations;
7. Stellar structure and evolution;
8. Specific stellar types and the ISM;
9. Structure of the Galaxy;
10. Solar System and exo-planets;