Institute of Astronomy

Paper by IoA Astronomer is Wikipedia's 3rd most-cited journal article

Published on 25/05/2018 

Nature has revealed a list of the most-cited journal articles on Wikipedia -- and IoA astronomer Floor van Leeuwen's 2007 paper comes in at number 3. "Validation of the new Hipparcos reduction", published in 2007 by Astronomy and Astrophysics, is the third-most-referenced paper on Wikipedia, cited by nearly 3,000 English Wikipedia pages.

The Hipparcos satellite, launched in 1989, was the first space experiment devoted to precision astrometry (the accurate measurement of the positions of celestial objects on the sky). The 'Hipparcos Catalogue', a high-precision catalogue of more than 118,200 stars, was published in 1997.

Following the publication of the Hipparcos Catalogue, it was realised that small motions of the satellite itself could affect the precision of the astrophysical data (as the description of the satellite motion provides the reference frame against which the astrophysical measurements are made). Improved modelling of the satellite pointing led to a factor of 5 improvement in accuracy: it was therefore decided that all the astrometry in the entire Hipparcos Catalogue should be re-reduced from scratch. The re-processing of data took 2.5 years, (over weekends, evenings, and holidays!) using similar methods to those now used for ESA's Gaia mission. The end result was worth it: a vastly improved catalogue, in which the parallax accuracy was improved up to five times.

The processing and the use of the data were described in a book published in 2007 (ASSL, vol.350), and the validation of the astrometric data was discussed in Dr. van Leeuwen's highly-cited 2007 paper above.

The paper is not only extensively referenced by Wikipedia, but also in the literature: it has accrued over 2700 citations in the past 10 years, and has been read nearly 13,000 times in the same period. Even after the data release from ESA's Gaia mission, this second reduction of the Hipparcos data is still the reference for the most accurate and complete astrometric data for the brightest stars.

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Page last updated: 25 May 2018 at 10:13