(RA; symbol α: Greek letter alpha) is the astronomical term for one of the two coordinates of a point on the celestial sphere when using the equatorial coordinate system
. The other coordinate is the declination
. RA is comparable to longitude, measured from a zero point known as the vernal equinox point
. RA is measured in hours, minutes, and seconds. Being closely tied with sidereal time, it is both a unit of time and of angle. An hour of right ascension
is equal to 15 degrees of arc
, a minute of right ascension
equal to 15 minutes of arc, and a second of right ascension
equal to 15 seconds of arc. An alternative measure, used in navigation, is Sidereal Hour Angle. The main difference being that RA is measured Eastward, and SHA is measured Westward.
RA can be used to determine a star's location and to determine how long it will take for a star to reach a certain point in the sky. For example, if a star with RA = 01:30:00 is at your meridian, then a star with RA = 20:00:00 will be in the meridian 18.5 sidereal hours later.