Astrophysics (Index)About

Vega system

(Johnson system)
(magnitude calibration such that Vega has zero magnitude)

The Vega system or Johnson system of magnitude sets the zero point for magnitudes, basically using the magnitude of the star Vega as zero. This is used for a general (visible light) magnitude, bolometric magnitude, and for magnitudes associate with individual passbands of photometric systems, i.e., a star's B-magnitude would be zero if it matches the b-magnitude of Vega. Though the Vega system's principle is "Vega's magnitude is zero", in fact, absolute brightnesses have been adopted for the system that only approximate Vega's current magnitudes: though Vega was chosen as a star with stable magnitudes, all stars experience some variation and current technology senses the differences.

A consequence of magnitudes being logarithmic is no magnitude cannot represent "zero flux" since zero has no logarithm (or it might be referred to as "minus infinity"). A brightness must be chosen to be represented by "zero magnitude", which defines the magnitude's scale.

The Vega system can be thought of as part of (or the same thing as) the UBV photometric system. The term Vega system might also be used more generically as part of the description or means of using other photometric systems, i.e., merely meaning the magnitudes are calibrated so Vega is zero. Other systems include the AB system, which makes no pretense of matching any particular star.

Further reading:

Referenced by page:
AB system