A light year

The light-year is a unit of length used to express astronomical distances. It is about 9.5 quadrillion metres or 5.9 trillion miles.] As defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a light-year is the distance that light travels in vacuum in one Julian year (365.25 days). Because it includes the word “year”, the term light-year is sometimes misinterpreted as a unit of time.

The light-year is most often used when expressing distances to stars and other distances on a galactic scale, especially in non specialist and popular science publications. The unit usually used in professional astrometry is the parsec (symbol: pc, about 3.26 light-years; the distance at which one astronomical unit subtends an angle of one second of arc).