astronomical unit (AU)

astronomical unit (AU)

Length of the semimajor axis of Earth's orbit around the Sun, 92,955,808 mi (149,597,870 km), often defined simply as the average distance from Earth to the Sun. Direct measurement through the parallax method cannot be used for accurate determinations, because the Sun's glare blots out the light of the background stars necessary to make the measurement. The most precise values have been obtained by measuring the distance from Earth to other objects orbiting the Sun. This indirect method requires an accurate proportional mathematical model of the solar system; once the distance to one planet or other object is determined, then the distance to the Sun can be calculated.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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