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An eclipsing-binary distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud accurate to two per cent


In the era of precision cosmology, it is essential to determine the Hubble constant to an accuracy of three per cent or better1,2. At present, its uncertainty is dominated by the uncertainty in the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), which, being our second-closest galaxy, serves as the best anchor point for the cosmic distance scale2,3. Observations of eclipsing binaries offer a unique opportunity to measure stellar parameters and distances precisely and accurately4,5. The eclipsing-binary method was previously applied to the LMC6,7, but the accuracy of the distance results was lessened by the need to model the bright, early-type systems used in those studies. Here we report determinations of the distances to eight long-period, late-type eclipsing systems in the LMC, composed of cool, giant stars. For these systems, we can accurately measure both the linear and the angular sizes of their components and avoid the most important problems related to the hot, early-type systems. The LMC distance that we derive from these systems (49.97 ± 0.19 (statistical) ± 1.11 (systematic) kiloparsecs) is accurate to 2.2 per cent and provides a firm base for a 3-per-cent determination of the Hubble constant, with prospects for improvement to 2 per cent in the future.

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Figure 1: Change of the brightness of the binary system OGLE-LMC-ECL-06575 and the orbital motion of its components.
Figure 2: Error estimation of the distance for one of our target binary systems.
Figure 3: Location of the observed eclipsing systems in the LMC.
Figure 4: Consistency among the distance determinations for the target binary systems.


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We acknowledge financial support for this work from the BASAL Centro de Astrofísica y Tecnologias Afines (CATA), the Polish Ministry of Science, the Foundation for Polish Science (FOCUS, TEAM), the Polish National Science Centre and the GEMINI-CONICYT fund. The OGLE project has received funding from the European Research Council ‘Advanced Grant’ Program. We thank the staff astronomers at Las Campanas and ESO La Silla, who provided expert support in data acquisition. We thank J. F. Gonzalez for making the IRAF scripts rvbina and spbina available to us. We also thank O. Szewczyk and Z. Kołaczkowski for their help with some of the observations.

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Authors and Affiliations



G.P.: photometric and spectroscopic observations and reductions. D.G.: spectroscopic observations, modelling and data analysis. W.G.: observations and data analysis. I.B.T.: observations, RV determination, data analysis. B.P.: spectroscopic observations and reductions, RV measurements. A.U., I.S. and S. K.: optical observations and data reductions. P.K., K.S., M.K., M.K.S., R.P., Ł.W., K.U., P.P., M.G. and P.K.: observations. G.B., P.G.P.M., N.N., F.B., R.P.K., J.S., A.G. and R.S.: data analysis. S.V.: analysis of the spectra. G.P. and W.G. worked jointly to draft the manuscript with all authors reviewing and contributing to its final form

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Correspondence to G. Pietrzyński.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Pietrzyński, G., Graczyk, D., Gieren, W. et al. An eclipsing-binary distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud accurate to two per cent. Nature 495, 76–79 (2013).

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