Concept

Limiting magnitude

Summary
In astronomy, limiting magnitude is the faintest apparent magnitude of a celestial body that is detectable or detected by a given instrument. In some cases, limiting magnitude refers to the upper threshold of detection. In more formal uses, limiting magnitude is specified along with the strength of the signal (e.g., "10th magnitude at 20 sigma"). Sometimes limiting magnitude is qualified by the purpose of the instrument (e.g., "10th magnitude for photometry") This statement recognizes that a photometric detector can detect light far fainter than it can reliably measure. The limiting magnitude of an instrument is often cited for ideal conditions, but environmental conditions impose further practical limits. These include weather, moonlight, skyglow, and light pollution. The International Dark-Sky Association has been vocal in championing the cause of reducing skyglow and light pollution. List of brightest stars The limiting magnitude for naked eye visibility refers to the faintest stars that can be seen with the unaided eye near the zenith on clear moonless nights. The quantity is most often used as an overall indicator of sky brightness, in that light polluted and humid areas generally have brighter limiting magnitudes than remote desert or high altitude areas. The limiting magnitude will depend on the observer, and will increase with the eye's dark adaptation. On a relatively clear sky, the limiting visibility will be about 6th magnitude. However, the limiting visibility is 7th magnitude for faint stars visible from dark rural areas located 200 kilometers from major cities. There is even variation within metropolitan areas. For those who live in the immediate suburbs of New York City, the limiting magnitude might be 4.0. This corresponds to roughly 250 visible stars, or one-tenth the number that can be perceived under perfectly dark skies. From the New York City boroughs outside Manhattan (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx), the limiting magnitude might be 3.0, suggesting that at best, only about 50 stars might be seen at any one time.
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