Sidereal time, at any moment (and at a given locality defined by its geographical longitude), more precisely LocalApparent Sidereal Time (LAST), is defined as the hour angle of the vernal equinox at that locality: it has the samevalue as the right ascension of any celestial body that is crossing the local meridian at that same moment.At the moment when the vernal equinox crosses the local meridian, Local Apparent Sidereal Time is 00:00.Greenwich Apparent Sidereal Time (GAST) is the hour angle of the vernal equinox at the prime meridian atGreenwich, England.Local Sidereal Time at any locality differs from the Greenwich Sidereal Time value of the same moment, by anamount that depends on the longitude of the locality. When one moves eastward 15° in longitude, sidereal time islarger by one hour (note that it wraps around at 24 hours). Unlike computing local solar time, differences inlongitude and time are counted here to the accuracy of measurement, not just in whole hours.Apparent Sidereal Time (Local or at Greenwich) differs from Mean Sidereal Time (for the same locality andmoment) by the Equation of the Equinoxes: This is a small difference in Right Ascension R.A. ( ) (parallel tothe equator), not exceeding about +/-1.2 seconds of time, and is due to nutation, the complex 'nodding' motion of theearth's polar axis of rotation. It corresponds to the current amount of the nutation in (ecliptic) longitude ( ) andto the current obliquity ( ) of the ecliptic, so that .Greenwich Mean Sidereal Time (GMST) and UT1 differ from each other in rate, with the second of sidereal time alittle shorter than that of UT1, so that (as at 2000 January 1 noon) 1.002737909350795 second of mean sidereal timewas equal to 1 second of Universal Time (UT1). The ratio is almost constant, varying but only very slightly withtime, reaching 1.002737909409795 after a century.
To an accuracy within 0.1 second per century, Greenwich (Mean) Sidereal Time (in hours and decimal parts of anhour) can be calculated asGMST = 18.697374558 + 24.06570982441908 * D ,where D is the interval, in days including any fraction of a day, since 2000 January 1, at 12h UT (interval countedpositive if forwards to a later time than the 2000 reference instant), and the result is freed from any integer multiplesof 24 hours to reduce it to a value in the range 0-24.
In other words, Greenwich Mean Sidereal Time exceeds mean solar time at Greenwich by a difference equal to thelongitude of the fictitious mean Sun used for defining mean solar time (with longitude converted to time as usual atthe rate of 1 hour for 15 degrees), plus or minus an offset of 12 hours (because mean solar time is reckoned from 0hmidnight, instead of the pre-1925 astronomical tradition where 0h meant noon).Sidereal time is used at astronomical observatories because sidereal time makes it very easy to work out whichastronomical objects will be observable at a given time. Objects are located in the night sky using right ascensionand declination relative to the celestial equator (analogous to longitude and latitude on Earth), and when siderealtime is equal to an object's right ascension, the object will be at its highest point in the sky, or
, at whichtime it is usually best placed for observation, as atmospheric extinction is minimised.Sidereal time is a measure of the position of the Earth in its rotation around its axis, or time measured by theapparent diurnal motion of the vernal equinox, which is very close to, but not identical to, the motion of stars. Theydiffer by the precession of the vernal equinox in right ascension relative to the stars.Earth's
also differs from its rotation period relative to the background stars by the amount of precessionin right ascension during one day (8.4 ms).
Its J2000 mean value is 23
Etymology of siderealis from Latin "sidereus" from sidus, sider- = star. Therefore, its meaning relates to a measurement of time relative tothe position of the stars.