International Celestial Reference System

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The International Celestial Reference System (ICRS) is the current standard celestial reference system adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Its origin is at the barycenter of the Solar System, with axes that are intended to be "fixed" with respect to space.

ICRS coordinates are approximately the same as equatorial coordinates, and the differences at J2000.0 are:

  • The mean pole in the ICRS lies at 17.3±0.2 mas in the direction 12 h and 5.1±0.2 mas in the direction 18 h.
  • The mean equinox is shifted from the ICRS right ascension origin by 78±10 mas (direct rotation around the polar axis).

The defining extragalactic reference frame of the ICRS is the International Celestial Reference Frame (currently ICRF3)[1] based on hundreds of extra-galactic radio sources, mostly quasars, distributed around the entire sky. Because they are so distant, they are apparently stationary to our current technology, yet their positions can be measured very accurately by Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). The positions of most are known to 0.001 arcsecond or better.[2] At optical wavelengths, the ICRS is currently realized by the Hipparcos Celestial Reference Frame (HCRF), a subset of about 100,000 stars in the Hipparcos Catalogue.[3] The Gaia-CRF2, based on observations of over half a million extragalactic sources by the Gaia spacecraft, appeared in 2018 and has been described as "the first full-fledged optical realisation of the ICRS, that is to say, an optical reference frame built only on extragalactic sources."[4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF)". IERS. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  2. ^ "ICRS Narrative". U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  3. ^ "International Celestial Reference System (ICRS)". U S Naval Observatory, Astronomical Applications Department. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  4. ^ Gaia Collaboration; Mignard, F.; Klioner, S.; Lindegren, L.; et al. (2018), "Gaia Data Release 2. The celestial reference frame (Gaia-CRF2)", Astronomy & Astrophysics, 616 (A14): A14, arXiv:1804.09377, Bibcode:2018A&A...616A..14G, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201832916, S2CID 52838272
  5. ^ Lindegren, L.; Hernandez, J.; Bombrun, A.; Klioner, S.; et al. (2018), "Gaia Data Release 2 – The astrometric solution", Astronomy & Astrophysics, 616 (A2): A2, arXiv:1804.09366, Bibcode:2018A&A...616A...2L, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201832727, S2CID 54497421

Further reading[edit]

  • Kovalevsky, Jean; Mueller, Ivan Istvan; Kołaczek, Barbara (1989) Reference Frames in Astronomy and Geophysics, Astrophysics and Space Science Library, Volume 154 Kluwer Academic Publishers ISBN 9780792301820

External links[edit]