This instrument moves only in the plane of the meridian on a horizontal east and west axis, and is used to determine the right ascensions and declinations of stars.
Formerly attempts were made to determine parallaxes by measuring changes in the absolute right ascensions and declinations of the stars from observations with the meridian circle.
The large differences between these results, derived from the same material, depend mainly on the different systematic corrections applied by each astronomer to the declinations of Bradley.
Since the transit circle is preferable to the equatorial for such observations wherein great accuracy is required, the declination and hour circles of an equatorial are employed, not for the determination of the right ascensions and declinations of celestial objects, but for directing the telescope with ease and certainty to any object situated in an approximately known position, and which may or may not be visible to the naked eye, or to define approximately the position of an unknown object.
Thus, any fixed telescope directed towards the mirror of a properly adjusted coelostat in motion will show all the stars in the field of view at rest; or, by rotating the polar axis independently of the clockwork, the observer can pass in review all the stars visible above the horizon whose declinations come within the limits of his original field of view.