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parsec (pärˈsĕc) [key] [ par allax +  sec ond], in astronomy, basic unit of length for measuring interstellar and intergalactic distances, equal to 206,265 times the distance from the earth to the sun, 3.26 light-years, or 3.08 × 1013 km (about 19 million million mi). The distance in parsecs of an object from the earth is the reciprocal of the parallax of the object. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, has a parallax of 0.763” of arc and a distance of about 1.31 parsecs.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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