In astronomy, the hour circle is the great circle through a given object and the two celestial poles. Together with declination and distance (from the planet's centre of mass), it determines the location of any celestial object. As such, it is a higher concept than the meridian as defined in astronomy, which takes account of the terrain and depth to the centre of Earth at a ground observer's location. The hour circles, specifically, are perfect circles perpendicular (at right angles) to the celestial equator. By contrast, the declination of an object viewed on the celestial sphere is the angle of that object to/from the celestial equator (thus ranging from +90° to −90°).
The location of stars, planets, and other similarly distant objects is usually expressed in the following parameters, one for each of the three spatial dimensions: their declination, right ascension (epoch-fixed hour angle), and distance. These are as located at the vernal equinox for the epoch (e.g. J2000) stated.