What are six different methods to measure distances in Astronomy in regards of their respective range in terms of astronomical objects?

So far I can name 4: Parallax method, radar ranging, main-sequence fitting, cepheid variables.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is also type 1a supernovae, red shift (for distant objects), and possibly by studying the orbits of binary systems (but I'm not sure about that one). $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Apr 5, 2018 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the parallax method can be applied to globular clusters as well as individual stars, and can increase the range/accuracy by about 3 times (iirc). $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Apr 5, 2018 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Mick Thanks for sharing the other methods with me. This is interesting about the parallax method. $\endgroup$
    – bookfiend
    Apr 5, 2018 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ You will need to check what I have told you. I am just an armchair astronomer. $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Apr 5, 2018 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ The wikipedia page on the cosmic distance ladder could also help... $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2018 at 6:50

2 Answers 2


Using type Ia supernova light curves.

The RR Lyrae period-luminosity relation.

Moving cluster statistical parallax.

Surface brightness fluctuations.

Redshift-distance relation.

Using merging gravitational wave sources as standard sirens.

These and more can be pursued following this link. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_distance_ladder


At least 44 extragalactic distance measurement methods are known, apart from the parallax method which is only useful for objects in our own galaxy. Further reading about these can be done here: 1, 2, 3

Standard Candles

  • AGN time lag
  • BL Lac Object Luminosity
  • Brightest Stars
  • Carbon Stars
  • Cepheids
  • Color-Magnitude Diagrams
  • Gamma-Ray Burst
  • Globular Cluster Luminosity Function
  • Globular Cluster Surface Brightness Fluctuations
  • Horizontal Branch
  • Miras
  • Novae
  • Planetary Nebula Luminosity Function
  • RR Lyrae Stars
  • Red Clump
  • Red Supergiant Variables
  • SX Phoenicis Stars
  • Statistical
  • Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect
  • Surface Brightness Fluctuations
  • Tip of the Red Giant Branch
  • Type II Cepheids
  • Type Ia Supernovae

Standard Rulers

  • Dwarf Galaxy Diameter
  • Eclipsing Binary
  • Globular Cluster Radii
  • Gravitational Lenses
  • HII Region Diameters
  • Masers
  • Ring Diameter
  • Type II Supernovae Optical

Secondary Methods

  • D-Sigma
  • Diameter
  • Faber-Jackson
  • Fundamental Plane
  • GeV TeV ratio
  • Globular Cluster Fundamental Plane
  • Gravitational Wave
  • Infra-Red Astronomical Satellite
  • Mass Model
  • Tertiary
  • Tully Estimate
  • Tully-Fisher

Disclosure: The first referenced paper is authored by me.

  • $\begingroup$ Some of the bullet points make no sense in isolation. e.g., gravitational wave, Tully estimate, tertiary, GeV TeV ratio. I guess they can read your paper (you should disclose you are the author)? $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Apr 12, 2023 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ProfRob Thank you for your guidance 🙏🏼 I do agree and understand. However, I am finding it difficult to add even minor details for all the methods without making the answer too long. So, based on your guidance, I have added papers for further reading for those interested. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2023 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ @ProfRob Also added the disclosure as per your guidance. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2023 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ Looking at your paper, I don't really see the methods explained either, but also just listed - though you surely know what they mean. It would be nice to have some more direct reference at least for the, say, more obscure one like "tertiary" which don't immediately lend themselves to an easy search either. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2023 at 7:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's absolutely fine, I've no problem with that. I just wished this answer would become an excellent one and allow me to actually learn more than just a list of names by pointing me to the right direction for the listed methods. You surely know where all these methods are described reasonably :) while it will take me at least a day to find reasonable references for each. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2023 at 7:55

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