The Sun

Stars: Useful Basics on Absolute and Apparent Magnitude

Magnitude is a unitless measure of the brightness of a star in a defined passband, often in the visible or infrared spectrum, but sometimes across all wavelengths.

The apparent magnitudes of known objects range from the Sun at -26.7 to objects in deep Hubble Space Telescope images of around magnitude +30.
The apparent magnitudes of known objects range from the Sun at -26.7 to objects in deep Hubble Space Telescope images of around magnitude +30.

Magnitude Scale

The magnitude scale is logarithmic and defined such that each step of one magnitude changes the brightness by a factor of the fifth root of 100, ~2.512. (1st magnitude star is 100 times brighter than a 6th magnitude star).


Types of Magnitude

Astronomers use two different definitions of magnitude: apparent magnitude and absolute magnitude.


Apparent Magnitude

Apparent magnitude is a measure of the brightness of a star or other astronomical object observed from the Earth. An object’s apparent magnitude depends on its intrinsic luminosity, its distance from Earth, and any extinction of the object’s light caused by interstellar dust along the line of sight to the observer.

The brightest astronomical objects have negative apparent magnitudes: for example, Venus at -4.2 and Sirius at -1.46.


You might want to see Solar system: Some Quick facts you need to know.


The planet Venus is one of the brightest objects in the sky.
The planet Venus is one of the brightest objects in the sky.

The faintest stars visible with the naked eye on the darkest night have apparent magnitudes of about +6.5. The apparent magnitudes of known objects range from the Sun at -26.7 to objects in deep Hubble Space Telescope images of around magnitude +30.

Apparent magnitude is usually denoted by ‘m’.

Let the brightness of the first magnitude star be B1, the second magnitude star be B2,………….., 6th magnitude star be B6.

Then

Consider two stars with brightness Bm and Bn, with m and n being their apparent magnitudes with n>m.

Apparent magnitude is inversely proportional to the square of the distance of the object from the Earth.


You might be interested in Voyager Probes: Top 10 Amazing Facts To Make You Awestruck.


Absolute Magnitude

Absolute magnitude is another measure of the brightness of a star/astronomical object. It is defined as the object’s apparent magnitude as seen from a specific distance, conventionally 10 parsecs (32.6 ly).

The Hubble Space Telescope can see astronomical objects that are very faint magnitude for most telescopes.
The Hubble Space Telescope can see astronomical objects that are very faint for most telescopes.

Absolute magnitude is usually denoted by ‘M’.

The more luminous an object, the smaller the numerical value of its absolute magnitude.

The Sun has an absolute magnitude of +4.83 in the visual band, whereas Milky Way has an absolute magnitude of -20.8.


You might want to see Exciting Visit of an Interstellar Object Will Make You Feel Eerie.


Let the apparent magnitude of a star be m and its absolute magnitude is M.

Where m is the apparent magnitude, M is the absolute magnitude and D is the distance in parsecs. Apparent or absolute bolometric magnitude mbol is a measure of an object’s apparent or absolute brightness integrated over all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. The zero-point of the apparent bolometric magnitude of 0 mag is equivalent to a received irradiance of 2.518×10-8watts/meter square.

Also see Betelgeuse is Surprisingly Smaller, Closer to Us.


For more content and updates, do follow us on Social Media

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.