In astronomy and navigation, the celestial sphere is an imaginary sphere of arbitrarily large radius, concentric with Earth. All objects in the observer's sky can be thought of as projected upon the inside surface of the celestial sphere, as if it were the underside of a dome or a hemispherical screen. The celestial sphere is a practical tool for spherical astronomy, allowing observers to plot positions of objects in the sky when their distances are unknown or unimportant.
Because astronomical objects are at such remote distances, casual observation of the sky offers no information on the actual distances. All objects seem equally far away, as if fixed to the inside of a sphere of large but unknown radius,〔
, p. 14〕
which rotates from east to west overhead while underfoot, the Earth seems to stand still. For purposes of spherical astronomy, which is concerned only with the directions to objects, it makes no difference whether this is actually the case, or if it is the Earth which rotates while the celestial sphere stands still.
The celestial sphere can be considered to be infinite in radius. This means any point within it, including that occupied by the observer, can be considered the center. It also means that all parallel lines, be they millimetres apart or across the Solar System from each other, will seem to intersect the sphere at a single point, analogous to the vanishing point of graphical perspective.〔
, p. 19, at Google books.〕
All parallel planes will seem to intersect the sphere in a coincident great circle〔
, p. 90, at Google books.〕
(a “vanishing circle”).
Conversely, observers looking toward the same point on an infinite-radius celestial sphere will be looking along parallel lines, and observers looking toward the same great circle, along parallel planes. On an infinite-radius celestial sphere, all observers see the same things in the same direction.
For some objects, this is over-simplified. Objects which are relatively near to the observer (for instance, the Moon) will seem to change position against the distant celestial sphere if the observer moves far enough, say, from one side of the Earth to the other. This effect, known as parallax, can be represented as a small offset from a mean position. The celestial sphere can be considered to be centered at the Earth's center, the Sun's center, or any other convenient location, and offsets from positions referred to these centers can be calculated.〔
, p. M3-M4〕
In this way, astronomers can predict geocentric or heliocentric positions of objects on the celestial sphere, without the need to calculate the individual geometry of any particular observer, and the utility of the celestial sphere is maintained. Individual observers can work out their own small offsets from the mean positions, if necessary. In many cases in astronomy, the offsets are insignificant.
The celestial sphere can thus be thought of as a kind of astronomical shorthand, and is applied very frequently by astronomers. For instance, the ''Astronomical Almanac'' for 2010 lists the apparent geocentric position of the Moon, 1 Jan 2010 at 0h Terrestrial Time, in equatorial coordinates, as right ascension 6h 57m 48s.86, declination +23° 30' 05".5. Implied in this position is that it is as projected onto the celestial sphere; any observer at any location looking in that direction would see the "geocentric Moon" in the same place against the stars. For many rough uses (for instance, calculating an approximate phase of the Moon), this position, as seen from the Earth's center, is adequate. For applications requiring precision (for instance, calculating the shadow path of an eclipse), the ''Almanac'' gives formulae and methods for calculating the ''topocentric'' coordinates, that is, as seen from a particular place on the Earth's surface, based on the geocentric position.〔
''Astronomical Almanac 2010'', sec. D〕
This greatly abbreviates the amount of detail necessary in such almanacs, as each observer can handle their own specific circumstances.
抄文引用元・出典: フリー百科事典『 ウィキペディア（Wikipedia）』