The astronomical magnitude scale

The astronomical magnitude scale.

The scale below is given as an instructive tool, to give a general idea of how the magnitude scale works. The scale below is intended to be roughly visual; the human eye’s (dark-adapted) detection efficiency peaks around 495 nanometers, while the formal photoelectric V peak (a filtered band intended to be close to visual) is around 550 nm; CCDs tend to peak around 700 nm. The examples are given for integer values are not “exact”, in that celestial objects are often measured to a precision or 0.1 or 0.01 magnitude; for example, Sirius shines at V = -1.47 (Yale Bright Star Catalogue), and the planet Venus varies in brightness generally from magnitude -4.5 to -3.7. Note that a comet of magnitude 5 will not be as easy to see as a star of magnitude 5, because that same amount of brightness that is concentrated in a point for the star is spread out over a region of the sky for a diffuse comet with a relatively-large coma.


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