Expressing larger and smaller physical quantities
Once the fundamental units are defined, it is easier to express larger and smaller units of the same physical quantity. In the metric (SI) system these are related to the fundamental unit in multiples of 10 or 1/10. Thus 1 km is 1000 m and 1 mm is 1/1000 metre. Table lists the standard SI prefixes, their meanings and abbreviations.
In order to measure very large distances, the following units are used.
(i) Light year
Light year is the distance travelled by light in one year in vacuum.
List: Prefixes for power of ten
Power of ten Prefix Abbreviation
10âˆ'15 femto F
10âˆ'12 pico p
10âˆ'9 nano n
10âˆ'6 micro m
10âˆ'3 milli m
10âˆ'2 centi c
10âˆ'1 deci d
101 deca da
102 hecto h
103 kilo k
106 mega M
109 giga G
1012 tera T
1015 peta P
Distance travelled = velocity of light x 1 year
1 light year = 3 x 108 m sâˆ'1 x 1 year (in seconds)
= 3 x 108 x 365.25 x 24 x 60 x 60
= 9.467 x 1015 m
light year = 9.467 x 1015 m
(ii) Astronomical unit
Astronomical unit is the mean distance of the centre of the Sun from the centre of the Earth.
1 Astronomical unit (AU) = 1.496 x 1011 m
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