solar coordinates

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Term: solar coordinates

Specifications for a location on the solar surface.  The location of a specific feature on the Sun (for example, a sunspot) is complicated by the fact that there is a tilt of 7.25 degrees between the ecliptic plane and the solar equatorial plane as well as a true wobble of the solar rotational axis. (Only twice a year are the solar north pole and the celestial north pole aligned.)  Consequently, to specify a location on the solar surface, three coordinates (P, B, L) are necessary to define a grid. Daily values for the coordinates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) are listed in The Astronomical Almanac published annually by the U.S. Naval Observatory. The terms used to refer to the coordinates are defined as follows:
P-angle:  The position angle between the geocentric north pole and the solar rotational north pole measured eastward from geocentric north. The range in P is plus or minus 26.31°.
Bo:   Heliographic latitude of the central point of the solar disk; also called the B-angle. The range of B is plus or minus 7.23°, correcting for the tilt of the ecliptic with respect to the solar equatorial plane.
Example:  If (P, B) = (-26.21°, -6.54°), the heliographic latitude of the central point on the solar disk is -6.54° (the north rotational pole is not visible), and the angle between the projection onto the disk of the geocentric north pole and the solar north rotational pole is 26.21° to the west.
 L:   Heliographic longitude of the central point of the solar disk. The longitude value is determined with reference to a system of fixed longitudes rotating on the Sun at a rate of 13.2 degrees/day (the mean rate of rotation observed from central meridian transits of sunspots). The standard meridian on the Sun is defined to be the meridian that passed through the ascending node of the Sun’s equator on 1 January 1854 at 1200 UTC and is calculated for the present day by assuming a uniform sidereal period of rotation of 25.38 days.  Once P, B, and L are known, the latitude, central meridian distance, and longitude of a specific solar feature can be determined as follows:
Latitude.  The angular distance from the solar equator, measured north or south along the meridian.
Central meridian distance (CMD).  The angular distance in solar longitude measured from the central meridian. This position is relative to the view from Earth and will change as the Sun rotates. Therefore, this coordinate should not be confused with heliographic positions that are fixed with respect to the solar surface.
Longitude.  The angular distance from a standard meridian (0 degrees heliographic longitude), measured from east to west (0 to 360 degrees) along the Sun’s equator. It is computed by combining CMD with the longitude of the central meridian at the time of the observation, interpolating between ephemeris values (for 0000 UT) by using the synodic rate of solar rotation (27.2753 days, 13.2 degrees/day).

Created 2023.04.16
Last Modified 2023.04.16
Contributed by Ryan McGranaghan