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ASTROPHYSICS
HSC Physics Option Topic

What is this topic about?


To keep it as simple as possible, (K.I.S.S.) this topic involves the study of:
1. OBSERVING THE UNIVERSE FROM EARTH
2. PARALLAX & SPECTROSCOPY
3. PHOTOMETRIC METHODS
4. BINARY SYSTEMS & VARIABLE STARS
5. LIFE & DEATH OF STARS
1. OBSERVING THE UNIVERSE FROM EARTH
Galileos Use of the Telescope

How We Study the Universe from Earth

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the first person to use a


telescope to view the universe and make scientific
observations and measurements with it. He studied the planet
Jupiter and monitored its orbiting moons. He looked at
Venus and saw that it went through phases like the Moon. It
was the Moon itself he was able to study most closely.

Our ability to detect and study the Universe from the


surface of the Earth is totally dependent on
electromagnetic radiation (EMR) being received by our eyes
and scientific instruments.
The different parts (wavebands) of the EMR spectrum
do not all penetrate equally to the Earths surface. Some are
partially or completely absorbed by the atmosphere.

Naked eye view of the Moon

Detail revealed by a telescope

Photo by
Tom Denham

He saw and mapped the features of the moonscape and


even calculated the height of the lunar mountains by
measuring the length of the shadows they cast.

increasing wavelength, decreasing frequency

Waveband

Ultra-Violet

10-8

Most absorbed by ozone

Visible light

10-7

Penetrates

Infra-Red

10-7 - 10-3

Microwave

10-3 - 10-2

Absorbed by water vapour


in lower atmosphere (**)
Penetrates

Radio waves

>10-2

Most waves Penetrate


(v. long waves reflected)

Only those wavebands which penetrate to the surface can


be used for ground-based astronomy. To study the stars
using other wavebands the observatory must be launched
into space aboard satellites.

These observations brought Galileo into conflict with the


Church which supported the view that all the heavenly
bodies were perfect and could not have Earth-like features
like mountains, nor satellites of their own (as Galileo
observed for Jupiter). Any opinion opposing the Church
was heresy and punishable by torture and death!

** Infra-red is absorbed mainly by water vapour in the


lower atmosphere so ground-based observatories can be
used if situated on very high mountains, or flown in aircraft
and balloons.

Galileo was forced to publically deny his findings, but it was


too late... modern, telescopic Astronomy had begun!
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

Gamma
X-Ray

Wavelength (m)
Comment
(approx)
< 10-10
Absorbed in high
10-10 - 10-8 atmos. by O2 & N2

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Resolution & Sensitivity of Telescopes


The word telescope
usually brings to mind a
device that magnifies light
images.

Prac Work:
Sensitivity & Resolution
You may have done a practical activity to investigate why it
is desirable to have a larger aperture on a telescope.

Photo by
Richard Styles

There are many


ways this could be
done, but one of
the simplest
experiments is to
view distant objects
with telescopes or
binoculars of the
same magnification,
but different
aperture.

You need to clearly


understand 2 important
points:
Telescopes do not necessarily use light radiation.
Any waveband of EMR can be used, but only those
wavebands which penetrate to the surface can be used by
ground-based observatories.
Radio telescopes study the universe by
gathering radio waves emitted by
celestial objects

Binoculars
Magnification 10X
Aperture 21 mm

Telescope
Magnification 10X
Aperture 40 mm

By looking at exactly the same view with each device, you


can judge the detail and brightness of each image. If
comparing binoculars with a telescope, use only one eye
with the binoculars to try to make the experiment as fair as
possible.
The sort of results you get are shown in these photos,
although these have been enhanced to make the point.

Radio Telescope, Parkes, NSW


Photo by Chris Lienert

Naked-eye
view

Magnification is not the most important characteristic


of a telescope. High magnification is useless if the image is
unclear, or if it fails to detect faint or dull objects.
The important features of any telescope for Astronomy are
Resolution and Sensitivity.
Larger
Aperture

Resolution

Both
Magnified
10X

Smaller
Aperture

is the ability of a telescope


to distinguish between
2 very close objects.
It is measured by the
angular separation between
2 objects that can be seen
to be separate.
Typically, this angles
s value
is less than 1 of arc.
(1 = 1 arc second
= 1/60 arc minute
= 1/3600 degree)

Resolution is
increased by
a larger aperture
(lens, mirror or dish)
on the telescope,
and
using shorter
wavelength radiation
for observations.

Appears
darker because
less Sensitivity

Sensitivity

Less visible detail =


lower Resolution

of a telescope is a measure
of the amount of radiation
the telescope gathers.

Now you can appreciate why astronomers want bigger and


bigger telescopes. Its not to necessarily get more
magnification, but to achieve greater resolution and
sensitivity.

Sensitivity determines
whether very faint objects
can be detected.

Notice (at left) that resolution of a telescope is also


dependent on wavelength. The main wavebands used by
ground-based astronomers are visible light and radio
wavelengths. Since radio waves have much longer
wavelengths than light, a radio telescope suffers from much
lower resolution than a light telescope of the same aperture
size. This is why radio telescopes are usually built with very
large dish antennas... bigger is better!

The larger the lens, mirror


or dish which collects the
radiation, the greater the
sensitivity.

HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics


Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

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Problems with Ground-Based Astronomy

Active Optics
Modern, large telescopes are massive and heavy, and as the
telescope is moved to view the sky at different angles,
gravity causes distortions in the shape of the mirrors.
Temperature changes cause further distortions. These
changes are microscopically small, but cause distortion and
loss of resolution in the telescope images.

The first problem with studying the universe from Earth


has already been covered. The atmosphere absorbs many
of the wavebands of the EMR spectrum and limits which
ones are available for ground-based Astronomy.
The other main problem is atmospheric distortion. You are
familiar with distortion of images on a very hot day. The
moving convection currents of air refract the light passing
through it differently from moment to moment, creating a
distorted and wobbly image.

To compensate and smooth out these distortions, a system


of computer-controlled actuators push or pull on the back
of the mirror to microscopically adjust its shape.
This sounds indentical to the Adaptive Optics system,
but the big difference is the times scale of adjustments.
Correcting atmospheric twinkle requires adjustments up
to 1,000 time per second, while Active Optics needs to be
much slower. It looks for distortions only every minute or
so... deliberately ignoring atmospheric effects and seeking
gravity and temperature effects that can be adjusted for.

Photo by Dez Pain

These are some of the largest and most modern


optical observatories in the world. Equipped with
both Adaptive and Active Optics, they also use
Interferometry to achieve the best
view of the universe currently
available from
the ground

If you look at the stars on a clear night they seem to


twinkle. This is a similar effect... you are looking through
many kilometers of air which is constantly moving

Tropical snow in Hawaii;


observatories on Mauna Kea.
Photo by Diana

Many of the worlds large light-gathering telescopes have


theoretical resolutions of 0.01 (1/100 of an arcsecond,
equivalent to 0.0000028 of a degree) or less. However, in
practice they do not achieve such detailed views of the
universe because of this atmospheric distortion.

Interferometry
While Adaptive and Active Optics are used mainly on light
telecopes to compensate for distortions, Interferometry is a
general method for improving the resolution of any
telescope by linking together many (relatively small)
telescopes to create a huge virtual aperture.

Methods of Improving the View


There are several ways that have been developed to partially
overcome atmospheric distortion and other viewing
problems, and improve the resolution of ground-based
telescopes.

Perhaps the best known interferometry observatory is the


Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, USA, which was
featured in the movie Contact. This radio telescope
consists of 27 dishes which can be moved into different
positions in a pattern up to 36km in diameter.

Adaptive Optics
Many large optical telescopes are fitted with a system which
attempts to smooth out the twinkle effect caused by
atmospheric distortions.

When the signals from multiple dishes are combined, the


interference patterns (due to the different path length to
each dish) can be computer-analysed to give a radio
image with resolution equivalent to that of a single dish
36km across!

The light from a bright reference star is sampled up to


1,000 times per second and computer-analysed for
distortion effects. The computer then controls rapid
corrections to be made to the shape of the mirror(s) to
compensate for and smooth out the distortions.

Part of the VLA, New Mexico

Photo by Paul C.

The shape-changing of the mirror is achieved by


piezoelectric materials which exert small forces when
electrical voltages are applied. These work rapidly to alter
the shape of the mirror by tiny amounts... only 0.000004 of
a millimetre in some cases.
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

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Worksheet 1
Fill in the blanks. Check your answers at the back.

COMPLETED WORKSHEETS
BECOME SECTION SUMMARIES

The first person to use a telescope for Astronomy


was a).................................. He observed the
b).......................
of
Jupiter
and
the
c).............................. of Venus. He mapped the
features of the Moon and was able to calculate
d)............................................... from their shadows.

One of the main problems of ground-based


astronomy
is
distortion
cause
by
o).................................................................. This can
be smoothed out by a system of
p)..................... ................................................
Light from a reference star is sampled up to
q)......................... times per second to detect the
distortion. The shape of the mirror is then
altered by applying tiny forces using
r)............................................... materials.

From ground level, we can observe the universe


using only the e).................................. of EMR
which can penetrate the f)......................................
Basically this means only visible g)..........................
and h)................................ waves (including
microwaves). Additionally, i).....................................
can be used as long as the observatory is located
on high mountains.

Another problem is distortion of the telescope


itself as it moves to different positions. This
corrected by s)......................................... Optics,
which works in much the same way, but on a
slower time scale.

Magnification is not the main attribute of a


telescope. More important are:
Resolution, defined as j).........................................
......................................................................................,
and
k)..................................., which is a measure of
the amount of l)..........................................................

Interferometry is a method of achieving better


t)................................................ by combining the
images from many u)...........................................
The resulting v)...............................................
patterns are analysed by computer to generate an
image equivalent to that achieved by a single,
much larger telescope.

Both of these attributes are improved by


increasing the size of the telescopes
m).............................................. Resolution is also
improved
at
n).....................................
(longer/shorter) wavelengths.

Practice Questions 1

These are not intended to be "HSC style" questions, but to challenge your basic knowledge and
understanding of the topic, and remind you of what you NEED to know at the K.I.S.S. principle level.
When you have confidently mastered this level,
it is strongly recommended you work on questions from past exam papers.
Mark values shown are suggestions only, and indicate the depth of answer required.

3. (6 marks)
Compare and contrast Adaptive Optics and
Active Optics, including reference to the
reasons for applying each technology to a
telescope.

1. (5 marks)
List the wavebands used by astronomers to
study the universe, and discuss why some are
more easily detected from space.
2. (5 marks)
Define the terms resolution and sensitivity
of telescopes, and discuss the factors which affect
each.
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

4. (3 marks)
What is interferometry?

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2. PARALLAX & SPECTROSCOPY


Calculating Distances From Parallax

Parallax

Traditionally, the measurement of the distance to a star has


been done by photographing the star on 2 nights 6 months
apart, and analysing the photographs to determine the
parallax angle.
Photo 1
Photo 2

Parallax is the apparent displacement of an object against a


more distant background, when viewed from a different
angle.

A Simple Example of Parallax:


Hold up one finger and view it with one eye against a
distant tree or post. Hold the finger still while
switching to view it with your other eye.
Your finger appears to move relative to the distant
"landmark".

Scale shows angular separations in increments of 0.01 arcsec

In the above simulation, one of the stars in the


photographs seems to have moved in relation to the rest of
the star field. Careful measurements of the photos, with a
knowledge of the angular positions of the stars, allows the
parallax angle to be measured. In this example, the stars
parallax is 0.035 arcsec horizontally, and 0.01 arcsec
vertically. Using Pythagoruss Theorem, this gives a total of
0.0364 arcsec.

This apparent displacement is called "PARALLAX"

Parallax can be used to measure the distance to a star, by


measuring the angle p indicated in the diagram.
Earth

line

of o
bse
r

vati

Sun

Earth,
6 months later

on

Star being
observed

angle p

From the parallax angle the distance to the star is calculated


as follows:

More
distant
stars

d= 1
p

The position of the star


appears to change against
the background stars.

d = distance to the star, in parsecs (pc).


p = parallax angle, in arcseconds (arcsec).

Units of Distance in Astronomy

Example Calculation
In the photos above, one star shows a parallax angle of
0.0364 arcsec.
Calculate the distance to the star in parsecs and in light
years.

Before going any further, you need to know the units of


distance used by astronomers.
Beyond our Solar System it rapidly becomes inconvenient
to measure distances in kilometres because the distances
are so large.

Solution
d = 1/p = 1/0.0364 = 27.5 pc

The Light Year


A light year is the distance that a photon of light travels, in
a vacuum, in one year. With a velocity, c = 3.00x108 ms-1
you can calculate that
1 light year = 9.46x1015m
(thats about 10 billion billion kilometres)

In light years;

Limitations of Measuring Distance by Parallax

The more distant the star, the smaller the parallax angle.
Beyond a certain distance it becomes impossible for even
our best telescopes to detect and measure any parallax.

The Parsec (pc)


Parsec is short for parallax-second and is the distance
at which a star has a parallax angle (angle p in the diagram
above) of 1 arcsecond (1).

It turns out that the parallax method is only useful for


measuring the distance to stars which are relatively close.
Advances in technology help to push this limit outwards,
(this is discussed on the next page) but for serious
astronomical distances the parallax method is useless. As
you will learn later, there are other ways.

One arcsecond is an extremely small angle (1/3600 of 1


degree) so 1 parsec turns out to be a long distance...
1 parsec = 3.26 light years
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

d = 27.5 x 3.26 = 89.7 light years

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What Distance Can Parallax Measure?

Spectroscopy

Spectroscopy is a technique which allows determination of


chemical composition
surface temperature
velocity, and more...
...of stars and other celestial objects. Because of this,
spectroscopy has become one of the most important
techniques in astronomy.

From ground-based observatories, the smallest parallax


angle that can be measured is about 0.03 arcsec.
The distance to a star with 0.03 parallax is:
d = 1/p = 1/0.03 = 33 pc
= 108 light years

First, understand the basics...

This might seem a long way, but considering that our galaxy
is about 130,000 light years in diameter, 100 light years is
really not far at all.

Continuous Light Spectrum

You should be familiar with the idea of a spectrum of


light. For example, if white light is passed through a
prism, the different frequencies are separated, and the
familiar rainbow colours appear.

Much better results are possible from space, above the


distortion of the atmosphere. There are a number of
satellites in orbit (including the famous Hubble Space
Telescope) which are capable of gathering data for parallax
measurements.

white light is
a mixture of
frequencies
different
frequencies
spread out to
form a spectrum

Planet & Sun Photo by Adam Ciesielski

Artists impression of
observatory Gaia in orbit
150,000 km from Earth

Red
Orange
Yellow

(use your imagination...


we cant print colours)

Green
Blue
Violet

Data link to Earth

A perfect hot radiator of light (known as a Black Body)


will emit every frequency of light to produce a continuous
spectrum... a full and complete rainbow.

Emission & Absorption Spectra

r
Sta

If the light emitted by atoms of a particular element is put


through a prism, the spectrum shows very narrow bright
lines on a dark background because only certain
frequencies are given out. The pattern of lines is
characteristic for each element.

ht
lig

The Hipparcos satellite for example, can measure parallax


angles as small as 0.001 arcsec. A star with this parallax is
at a distance of:
d = 1/p = 1/0.001 = 1,000 pc
> 3,000 light years

If the same element absorbs light (from a continuous


spectrum source) it will be at exactly the same characteristic
frequencies. The spectrum will have dark lines on a bright
rainbow background.
The following diagram shows 3 ficticious elements, just to
give the general idea.

Hipparcos was launched in 1989 and has mapped 100,000


stars to high precision, and another million stars
approximately.

Element
A

Element
B

Element
C

Construction is underway of a space observatory Gaia to


be launched in 2011. Gaia is basically a technological
update of the Hipparcos system, and will be capable of
measuring parallax angles down to 0.00002 arcsec. (This is
about a billionth of one degree... enough to resolve a single
human hair at a range of 10,000km!)
Gaia will be able to accurately locate stars at a distance of
d = 1/p = 1/0.00002 = 50,000 pc
> 150,000 light years
Gaia will allow our entire galaxy to be accurately mapped as
never before, although the plan is to map only 1 billion
of the 100 billion stars in the galaxy.
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

Emission

Absorption Emission

Absorption Emission

Absorption

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Studying Astronomical Spectra

Practical Work: Observing Emission Spectra

In its simplest form, a spectroscope is simply a prism (to


disperse the different frequencies) and an optical system to
view or photograph the spectral lines. A simple
spectroscope is shown schematically in the diagram at left.

You may have observed some emission spectra by using a


spectrometer to view the light from discharge tubes filled
with various low-pressure gases.
Neon is one of the easiest to observe.

In modern astronomy things have improved a little...

High Voltage

Tube filled with low pressure gas

from induction coil


applied
Slit & lens

Tube glows
with emitted
light

Prisms have been replace with Diffraction Gratings


Glass prisms absorb some of the light and reduce the
sensitivity of the system, so they are no longer used.
Instead, diffraction gratings are use to disperse the
frequencies of light and form the spectrum.

Spectroscope
Prism

Optical
viewing system

A diffraction grating uses interference effects to spread out


the frequencies. They have both superior resolution and
superior sensitivity compared to a prism.

Telescope can be
rotated to view the
different lines of the
emission spectrum

Slit & lens

Spectroscope
Diffraction
Grating

Optical
System

Light from
a star

You will have seen that the light from a discharge tube is
composed of separate lines of light. A neon discharge tube,
for example, glows with light which looks pink-red to the
eye. The spectroscope reveals several lines of light... red,
green and blue.

Spectrum is focused onto photographic


film or electronic detectors (CCDs)

General Types of Spectra

Each line is one single, pure frequency of light.

Each different type of celestial object produces a different


type of spectrum.

What Causes the Spectral Lines?

Stars produce Absorption Spectra


The hot surface of a star is basically a Black Body
Radiator so it emits a full rainbow of frequencies.
However, every star is surrounded by an atmosphere of
cooler gas. As the stars light passes through this gas some
frequencies are absorbed at the characteristic frequencies of
the elements in the atmosphere.

You are reminded of atomic structure, especially the idea


of the electrons in orbits around the nucleus.
Allowed orbit positions.
Electrons cannot orbit
anywhere else.

nucleus

Electrons can jump


from one orbit to another,
but must absorb energy to
jump higher, or emit
energy to drop lower.

Galaxies produce Continuous Spectra


The light from a galaxy is the combination of light from
billions of stars and glowing gas clouds and so it is
essentially a continuous spectrum, not only of visible light
but radio, infra-red and the entire EMR range.
Emission Nebulae produce Emission Spectra
An emission nebula is an immense cloud of gas
surrounding very hot stars. The high energy radiation from
the stars (e.g. ultra-violet) is absorbed by the gas cloud,
which then re-radiates the energy as an emission spectrum.
The spectral lines are those of the gases in the cloud,
mainly hydrogen.

The jump from one orbit to another involves a precise


quantity of energy. You are reminded of Planks Quantum
Theory and how the quantum energy of a photon of light
is related to its frequency: E = hf

Quasars produce Emission Spectra


Quasars are very distant, mysterious objects which produce
enormous amounts of energy for their size. It is thought
they are associated with massive black holes, and the
energy they radiate may be produced as matter is
swallowed into the intense gravitational field of the black
hole. The emission lines of a quasars spectrum are highly
Red-Shifted (see later) indicating high velocity away from
us, and that they are very far away.

Since each orbit jump involves a precise quantum of


energy, any light energy absorbed or emitted must have a
precise frequency and wavelength.
The lines of an emission or absorption spectrum are
photons of precise frequency/wavelength, either being
emitted or absorbed as electrons jump from orbit to orbit.
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
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Analysis of Stellar Spectra

Intensity-Wavelength Graphs

The spectrum of light from a star gives an astronomer


information about the composition, temperature, surface
density and motion of the star.

The colours listed in the table at left are generally not


obvious to the naked eye, but when the intensity of each
part of the spectrum is measured it is found that some
colours are more intense than others.

Spectra Allow Star Classification

Remember that the spectrum of a star is an emission


spectrum formed by absorption of certain frequencies as
the full rainbow of frequencies pass through the stars
atmosphere.

This connects with the distribution of frequencies emitted


by Black Bodies at different temperatures which has been
covered in previous topics.
Basically, a hotter black body object (star) emits more
energy than a cooler one. Not only is there more energy,
but the distribution of wavelengths is different.

Intensity of Energy Radiated

However, which elements of the atmosphere are especially


prominent in absorbing their unique spectral lines depends
on the surface temperature of the star. For example, there
is always some helium in a stars atmosphere, but the
absorption lines due to helium do not become really
prominent until the surface temperature is very high.
Astronomers have devised a classification system, based on
the spectral lines:
Spectral
Class

Colour

Surface
Spectral Features
Temp (K)

Blue

>30,000

Strong ionized He.

Blue-White

15,000 to
30,000

Strong
neutral He lines.

White

10,000 to
15,000

Prominent
hydrogen lines.

White-yellow 7-10,000

Strong metal lines


and weak H lines

Yellow

5-7,000

Prominent Ca2+
lines

Orange

3,500-5,000 Strong lines from


metals

Red

2,500-3,500 Strong lines due to


molecules

o
at 30,000 K

Example star
cool star at
o

3,000 K

peak wavelength
longer
4x10-77

5x10-77

6x10-77

7x10-77

Wavelength (m) of Radiation

Colours: Violet Blue Green Yellow Orange

Red

So, if the spectrum of a star is analysed to find the peak


wavelength, this can be used to calculate the surface
temperature.
(Details of this calculation are not required by the syllabus)
For example, in the graph above, the example star has
maximum energy emission at a wavelength of about
-7
5.6x10 m (reading from the wavelength scale). This
corresponds to a dominant colour yellow and surface
temperature of 5,200oK.

To help you remember the order of the spectral classes, try


this mnemonic: Oh, Be A Fine Girl (Guy), Kiss Me.

This star would be classified as spectral class G and its


spectrum would be expected to show prominent
absorption lines corresponding to ionized calcium Ca2+.
Spectral Lines of Star

Spectral Lines Give Chemical Composition

As well as helping to classify a star and give information


about its surface temperature, the absorption lines in a
spectrum can give information about the chemical
composition of the stars atmosphere. Since the
atmosphere is made of atoms boiled off from the surface,
this identifies the composition of the star itself.

Known Spectrum of
element A

As well as the very prominent lines (which help classify the


star as suggested in the table above) there are usually many
other, weaker absorption lines which can be matched up
with the lines known for each element. (Interestingly, the
element Helium was discovered by its previously unknown
spectral lines in the Suns spectrum. Helios = Sun)

element B
element C

In this simulation, comparison of the stars spectrum with


known elements shows that A & B are present, but not C.

Study the diagram at right to get the idea.


HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

very hot star


peak
wavelength
shorter

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Spectral Lines Indicate the Motion of a Star

Rotation Can be Detected Too

You are reminded of the Doppler Effect:


The waves emitted by a stationary object spread out evenly
in all directions, with the same wavelength.

If a star is rotating, with its axis of rotation more or less


upright as seen from Earth, then one edge of the star is
always approaching us and the other is always moving away.
axis of
rotation

Waves spreading out


evenly from a
stationary object

This edge is
receding

However, when the object is moving, the waves in front get


bunched up and their wavelength is shortened. The
waves behind get stretched and the wavelength is
lengthened.

This edge is
approaching

Light Waves Spreading Out From a Moving Star

The result is that light from the approaching edge is blueshifted, while light from the receding edge is red-shifted.
The light from each side (plus the un-shifted light from the
centre) cannot be resolved into separate lines, but instead
results in a blurred widening of each line.

In Front,
wavelength
shortened

Behind,
wavelength
lengthened

Light Bluer

Light redder

Normal Hydrogen
Spectral Lines

If a star is moving towards us or away from us its spectral


lines will be altered as suggested by the diagrams:
Approximate Wavelengths (m) and Colours

Violet
4x10-77

Blue

Green
5x10-77

Orange

Yellow

6x10-77

Smeared H Lines
from a rotating star

Red
7x10-77

High Density Smears the Lines Too

If a star is very dense and compact, its surface gravity is


high. This in turn pulls on the atmosphere which will also
be of higher density.

These 4 spectral lines are the signature of hydrogen


atoms and are present in the spectrum of every star. They
are the best known lines of all, and immediately
recognisable by any astronomer.

Since the atoms (and especially the charged particles) of the


atmosphere are packed more closely together, the way that
light is absorbed to produce the absorption lines is altered
in such a way to smear or widen each line.

If a star is moving towards the Earth these lines will be


shifted to slightly shorter wavelengths... towards the blue
end of the spectrum. This is called a Blue Shift.

The result is that the spectral lines show a blurred widening


for compact, dwarf stars. Large, Giant stars, although
having a large mass, have lower density and low surface
gravity. Their spectral lines are narrow and sharp.

Blue Shifted Lines

If a star is moving away from Earth the spectral lines are


shifted to longer (redder) wavelengths.

The smearing effect due to rotation can be differentiated


from the widening due to density. The difference is
technical and beyond the scope of this course.

Red Shifted Lines

But Wait, Theres More...

Parallax reveals distance and the spectrum tells us


temperature, composition, motion and even density. As you
will see, in some cases we can also calculate the stars mass
and even estimate its age...

You are reminded that the predominance of Red-Shifts in


the light from distant galaxies is one of the major pieces
of evidence telling us that the universe is expanding. It was
this important observation which needed explaining and
led to the development of the Big Bang Theory for the
origin of the universe.

Even at immense distances we can learn


many facts about a star!

Closer to home, stars within our galaxy can show either red
or blue shifts according to their motion relative to Earth.
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Worksheet 2

Fill in the blanks. Check your answers at the back.

An emission spectrum shows q)..................................


............................................., while an absorption spectrum
shows r)............................... on a bright rainbow background.

Parallax is the apparent a)....................................... of a star


against a more distant background, when viewed from a
b)...................................................... To measure the parallax
of a star its position must be measured twice, at times
c).............................. apart, so that the diameter of the
Earths orbit around the Sun provides the baseline.

Typically, a star shows an s)................................. spectrum, a


galaxy shows a t).......................................... spectrum, while
quasars and emission nebulae have u)...............................
spectra.
The spectrum of a star can give information about:
surface temperature, which scientists use to place each
star into one of seven main categories labelled v)........, ........,
......, .........., ........, ........ and ....... (letter labels in order). This
classification is based on both the peak
w)........................................... of the black body radiation,
and on the predominant x)........................................... lines,
which are characteristic of different temperatures.

Distance units commonly used in astronomy are:


light-year, defined as the distance d)......................................
....................................................
parsec, defined as the distance at which the parallax angle
equals e).................................... 1 parsec is approximately
f)................... light years.
The use of parallax to measure the distance to a star is
limited by our ability to measure the g)...................................
From ground-based observatories this limit is about
h).................... arcsec, which gives a distance of about 33
parsecs. From space, using satellites such as i)........................,
smaller parallax angles allow distances out to j)...................
parsecs are possible. The next generation of satellites will
allow our entire k)............................... to be accurately
mapped.

y)............................... composition, which is revealed by


matching absorption lines in the stellar spectrum against
the known lines due to each z)..................................................
translational velocity. Due to the aa)........................ Effect,
the spectral lines may be shifted towards the ab)..................
end of the spectrum if the star is moving towards us, and
ac).........................-Shifted if moving away.
ad)............................. In this case, the edges of the star
show both red and blue shifts, resulting in the spectral lines
being ae).......................................................................................

Spectroscopy is the study of the l)............................. of the


light from a star. The different wavelengths are
m)........................... by a prism or n).......................................
grating in a o)...................................................... (instrument).
Each chemical element absorbs or emits specific
p)......................................... of light as electrons jump from
one orbit to another.

density. High density dwarf stars also have spectral lines


which are af)..............................................................

Practice Questions 2
4. (6 marks)
Three different astronomical spectra are described as
follows:

1. (3 marks)
Complete the values of this table.
Star

Parallax Angle
(arcsec)

0.554

0.00475

Distance
(pc)

Spectrum A: Emission spectrum, lines highly red-shifted.


Spectrum B: Absorption spectrum, lines show slight blueshift.
Spectrum C: Essentially continuous spectrum with few
lines. Lines are red-shifted.

65.9

Identify the celestial object

2. (3 marks)
Compare and contrast the appearance of the emission
spectrum and the absorption spectrum for the same
chemical element.

yellow

red

each spectrum, explaining your answer in each case.

3. (3 marks)
Briefly explain how and why the spectrum associated with
a particular element contains discrete lines, either
absorption or emission lines.
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Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

blue

5. (6 marks)
H
Diagram H shows the
which most likely produced
absorption spectrum of
Star X
hydrogen, while X, Y
and Z are part of the
Star Y
absorption spectra from 3
different stars.
Star Z

State how each spectrum differs from H and what that


reveals about the motion of the stars X, Y and Z.
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3. PHOTOMETRIC METHODS
Example Calculation 1
Star A has magnitude of 4, star B has magnitude 12.
How much brighter is A compared to B?

Photometry
is the measurement of the brightness
of light or other radiation

Solution: IA/IB = 100


If spectrometry is one of the most important and useful
techniques in astronomy, then its partner is photometry...
the measurement of the amount of light (i.e brightness)
received from a star, or other celestial object.

= 100(12 - 4)/5
= 1008/5 = 1001.6
IA/IB = 1.6x103
Star A is 1.6x103 (1600) times brighter than star B

This section will deal with how brightness of light from


stars is measured and used by astronomers, but be aware
that the same principles apply for other wavebands of
EMR, such as radio frequencies received by a radio
telescope.

Example Calculation 2
The star Sirius has visual magnitude = -2.1, while the star
Algol has magnitude of +2.1. What is the ratio of their
intensities?

Brightness (Intensity) and Magnitudes

m )/5
(m -m

Solution: IA/IB = 100 B A


(Sirius is brighter so let it be star A)
= 100(2.1 -(-2.1))/5
= 1004.2/5 = 1000.84
IA/IB = 48
Sirius is 48 times brighter than Algol.

Over 2,000 years ago the Greek philosopher Hipparchus


observed and mapped the star-field of the night sky. As
part of his study, he invented a scale of brightness to
classify each star he mapped.
His scale was:
Brightest star visible

Dullest star visible

= magnitude 1
2
3
4
5
= magnitude 6

Magnitudes and Distance

The magnitudes dealt with so far are the apparent


magnitudes of a star as seen from Earth. This value
depends on how luminous the star really is and how far
away it is.

Note that this is a reverse scale... brighter stars have smaller


number values.

You are reminded of the Inverse Square Law for how the
brightness (intensity) of light energy drops off with the
square of the distance.

For historical reasons, we still use this scale of magnitudes,


but it is now mathematically defined and extended beyond
the original 6 values. Telescopes have revealed faint stars
not visible to the eye, so magnitudes 7,8,9,10... etc are
included, and some stars are brighter than magnitude 1,
so values of 0, -1, -2, etc are included.

x
dista

nce

luminous
star

Square with
sides twice as
long.

Square
Area x

2x

Area = 4x2
Same amount
of light falls
on 4 times
the area

This means, for example, that if 2 stars have the same


luminosity (i.e. both emit the same amount of light energy),
but one is twice as far away, it will appear only 1/4 as bright.
If it was 3 times as far away it would be only 1/9 as bright,
and so on.

(mB-m
mA)/5

IA/IB= brightness (intensity) ratio of star A


compared to star B.

So, when we see a bright star (e.g. magnitude 1) in the sky


it could be a small, low-luminosity star which is relatively
close to Earth, or it could be a huge, highly luminous star
which is much further away.

mA = magnitude of star A
mB = magnitude of star B

To deal with this, astronomers have invented the concept of


Absolute Magnitude. Read on...

These values have no units of measurement.


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Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

d
e 2

anc

dist

The magnitude scale is not linear. By modern definition;


magnitude 1 is 100x brighter than magnitude 5, so
each magnitude is different by 5 100 = 2.512 times.
This leads to the following relationship between brightness
(intensity) and the magnitude scale:

IA = 100
IB

(mB-m
mA)/5

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How to Find Absolute Magnitude

Absolute Magnitude

This all very nice, but how can the absolute magnitude of a
star be measured? Its not possible to just jump into a
passing spaceship and travel to a point 10 parsecs from a
star and measure the intensity of the light to get its absolute
magnitude.

is the magnitude a star would have


if viewed from a standard distance of 10 parsecs
Since the standard distance chosen for measuring absolute
magnitude is 10 parsecs, it follows that:

Time to revise the H-R diagram...


Hertzsprung-R
Russell Diagram

a star that is closer to Earth than 10 parsecs (there arent


very many) will be seen as brighter than it would at 10
parsecs. This means that its apparent magnitude is greater
(therefore a smaller value) than its absolute magnitude.

Note that the vertical scale


shows absolute magnitudes

-10

he
n
X

(Absolute Magnitudes)
+10
+5
0

M = m - 5log( d )
10

Spectral
Class
Colours

m - M = 5log(d/10)

Example star X
X

The relationship is:

Temp.

,m
ost
sta
rs
Ma
lie
in S
in
eq
t
ue
nc
e
our Sun

t he

s
hi

If a stars absolute magnitude can be determined, and if we


measure its apparent magnitude as seen from Earth, then
the Inverse Square Law allows the distance to be calculated.

gr
ap
hed

O
Blue
30,000+

A
White
10,000

ne
zo

Luminosity increasing

-5

a star that is further away than 10 parsecs (most stars) will


look fainter from Earth (i.e. larger apparent magnitude
value) than it would at the standard distance of 10pc.

or,

+15

keep it simple science

Yellow

Red

5,000

2,500

M = the absolute magnitude of a star


m = the apparent magnitude of the star
d = the distance to the star in parsecs
log means the logarithm to base 10.

The H-R diagram shows that there is a relationship


between the spectral class of a star (which can be
determined by studying its spectrum) and its absolute
magnitude.

The term (m - M) is known as the distance modulus,


and the equation is called the distance modulus formula

So, for stars too distant to measure any parallax angle:


Measure the amount of light received to determine the
apparent magnitude, (m).
Analyse the spectrum to determine spectral class, colour
and temperature.
Use the H-R diagram to determine the (approximate)
absolute magnitude (M) of the star.
Use the distance modulus formula to calculate distance.

So, determining the absolute magnitude of a star gives


astronomers another way to determine the distance to a
star.
Example Calculation
A star has an apparent magnitude of 1.25 and an
absolute magnitude of -3.72.
a) How far is it from Earth?
b) What parallax angle would it show?

Example Calculation
A faint main-sequence star X has an apparent
magnitude of 8.2.
Its spectrum reveals it is spectral class B.
How far is it from Earth?

Solution
a)
m - M = 5log(d/10)
1.25 - (-3.72) = 5 x log(d/10)
log(d/10) = (1.25 + 3.72)/5 = 0.994
0.994
d/10 = 10
= 9.86
d = 98.6 pc
The star is 98.6 parsecs from Earth.
b)

Solution
On the H-R diagram above, its spectral class shows it
should have an absolute magnitude of (approx) -6.0
m - M = 5log(d/10)
8.2 - (-6.0) = 5 x log(d/10)
log(d/10) = (8.2 + 6.0)/5 = 2.84
d/10 = 102.84 = 692
d 6,900 pc
The star is approx 6,900 parsecs from Earth.
This method is called Spectroscopic Parallax, even
though actual parallax measurements are not involved.

d = 1/p,

so p = 1/d = 1/98.6
p = 0.0101 arcsec
The star will show a parallax angle of 0.0101.
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Colour Index

More on Spectroscopic Parallax

Determining the colour index of a star is a relatively easy,


simple way of determining the spectral class and
temperature of a star without the need to use a
spectroscope to obtain the full, detailed spectrum.

The method described on the previous page for finding the


distance to a star can only give an approximate value. This
is because on the H-R diagram the Main Sequence band
has considerable thickness. Even if a stars position along
the horizontal axis can be determined quite precisely, its
absolute magnitude could have a range of values,
depending on how wide the main sequence band is at that
point.

The technique involves measuring the light intensity of a


star after the light has passed through special filters which
only allow a narrow range of wavelengths through.
For example, if a blue filter (designated B) is used:

Furthermore, you are reminded that not all stars are main
sequence. The H-R diagram below shows some of the
other types.

Blue filter

Showing the main star types

M
a in

(Absolute Magnitudes)
+10
+5
0

Luminosity increasing

-5

-10

Supergiant Stars

Temp.

Red Giants

Seq

uen
c

sta
rs

O
Blue
30,000+

A
White
10,000

Yellow

Red

5,000

2,500

As an example, imagine that a stars spectrum identifies it


as belonging to spectral class A. The diagram above shows
that even if it is main sequence, its absolute magnitude
could be any value from 0 to about -4. However, if it is a
White Dwarf star its absolute magnitude is about +12,
while if it happens to be a Supergiant the magnitude is
about -10.

Hot blue stars


appear bright
(lower value) while
red stars appear
duller (higher
value)

Only green-yellow colours pass

From this, a
V magnitude
V
value is measured.

Mixed
wavelengths
of light
from a star
V magnitude and
B magnitude are
different depending
on the spectral
class of the star

This is where more spectral analysis can help. For example,


if the spectral lines show the smeared appearance due to
high density, the star can be identified as a White Dwarf
and the H-R diagram used appropriately.

The difference between B-magnitude and Vmagnitude gives the colour index.
Colour Index, C.I. = B -V

Different Detectors = Different Magnitudes

Blue stars (spectral classes O, B) score C.I. values which are


negative, while yellow to red stars (spectral classes G, K, M)
have C.I. values which are positive. The point is that the C.I.
value of a star correlates very well with its position along
the horizontal axis of the H-R diagram, so absolute
magnitude (and distance) can be approximated rapidly.

Originally, apparent magnitude values were assigned by


naked eye comparison with well-known reference stars.
Over 100 years ago, astronomers began taking photographs
by telescope and measuring magnitudes by the degree of
exposure on the film. More recently, electronic detectors
have been used to measure the intensity of light.

Since C.I. readings can be collected quickly by automatic


equipment (e.g. aboard a satellite) and the data processed by
a computer, this technique is ideal for automatic star
surveys of thousands or millions of stars.

Each method gives a different magnitude value because;


the human eye is most sensitive to the yellow-green
portion of the spectrum, while;
photo film is commonly more sensitive to blue-violet, and
electronic detectors respond equally to all wavelengths.
This difference can be put to good use...
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

From this, a
B magnitude
B
value is measured.

Then the filter is switched to one which allows mainly


yellow-green light through, so it mimics the sensitivity of
human vision. This is designated as a V filter, where V =
visual.
V filter

Wh
ite
Dw
arfs

+15

Spectral
Class
Colours

Mixed
wavelengths
of light
from a star

Film, or electronic detector

Only shorter waves pass

Hertzsprung-R
Russell Diagram

For greater precision, modern systems use up to a dozen


different filters, not just B and V, and can include data
in the UV and infra-red wavebands.
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Film, or electronic detector

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Impact of Improved
Measurement Technologies on
our Understanding of Celestial Objects

Prac Work:
Photometry with Filters
You may have carried out experiments to mimic the
collection of colour index data using equipment similar to
that shown.
Light meter
coloured
filter

Light from
Ray Box kit

Until relatively recently in human history there was no way


to tell how far away any star is, nor how big it is, nor its
composition, motion, etc.

or
datalogger
light-iintensity probe

Our modern understanding of virtually all celestial objects


is entirely due to advances in the technology of detecting
and measuring light and other wavebands. Advances in
rocketry and computers and development of new materials
have obviously been important too, but basically our
modern understanding of celestial objects is all due to
detecting and measuring of radiation.

Fixed distance

A simple procedure would be to measure the light intensity


through a blue filter (B), then through a yellow filter
(V). Using the light meter data, assign brightness
magnitudes to each reading.

Photoelectric CCDs detailed at left, allow collection of


data on a massive scale and at a rate never before possible,
so that we are gaining a much greater understanding of our
galaxy from a more complete picture of the positions and
types of its billions of stars.

A colour index can be calculated by C.I. = B - V


Your C.I. need not bear any resemblance to astronomical
values.
Then, repeat the exercise at various voltage settings for the
ray-box lamp.

Radio Telescopes were developed in the 1950s after the


accidental discovery that the cosmos is awash with radio
and microwave energy. This technology led to the
discovery of celestial objects such as pulsars and quasars.

At low voltage the light insensities (brightness) will be low,


and at higher voltages the intensities will be much higher,
but this is not the point.

VLA, New Mexico


Photo by Tijmen van Doddenburgh

You may find that your colour index value changes with
voltage as the light bulb not only gets brighter, but also
changes in its distribution of wavelengths and colours.
These in turn, are filtered differently by B and V.

Advantages of Photoelectric Technologies


over Photography

Originally, all astronomy was done by eye, with or without


a telescope.
Over 100 years ago, the use of photography revolutionized
astronomy, because photographs allowed accurate
measurement of apparent magnitudes, detection and
measurement of parallax angles and (combined with a
spectroscope) the analysis of spectral classes, star motions,
chemical composition, and so on.
By making more and more measurements astronomers
have gained an understanding of pulsars which has
contributed to our understanding of how stars evolve and
die.

For the last 40 years, and especially within the past 20 years,
another technology revolution has occurred with the
introduction of electronic devices for measuring the light
received from a star.
These photoelectric technologies include Charged
Couple Devices (CCDs) and offer many advantages over
photographic film.

The Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite


measured the microwave background radiation which
contributed valuable evidence to the Big Bang theory by
which we try to understand the universe and its origin.

CCDs are much more sensitive to faint light sources.


CCDs are sensitive to a wider range of wavelengths,
including UV and infra-red wavebands.
CCDs respond equally to light of every wavelength,
whereas film tends to be unevenly sensitive.
electronic devices can collect data remotely and
automatically (e.g. on a satellite)
electronic signals can be fed directly to a computer for
rapid analysis of huge volumes of data.

Earlier in the topic the technologies of Interferometry,


Active Optics and Adaptive Optics were mentioned as
ways to improve the resolution of telecopes. These
technologies improve the quality of measurements so that
we gain a better understanding of stars, nebulae, galaxies,
quasars and black holes.

HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics


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Worksheet 3

The m).......................... Index of a star is obtained by


measuring
its
magnitude
through
different
n).......................... which only allow certain wavelengths to
pass through. The o)...................................... between the 2
values gives the index, which is correlates well with the
different p)............................................................. of stars.
This allows a quick and simple way to find a stars position
on the H-R diagram, then its q).................................... and
from that its r)....................................... from Earth.

Fill in the blanks. Check your answers at the back.


Photometry is the measurement of a).....................................
.................................... Originally this was done by eye, by
comparing a stars brightness to reference stars, and
allocating each star a value called its b)...................................
This is a reverse scale, so that magnitude 1 is c).....................
(brighter/fainter) than magnitude 2.

Modern s).............................................. technologies offer


many advantages over the older t)...................................
methods of photometry. These advantages include:
CCDs are much more u).............................................. to
faint light sources.
can detect a wider range of v)........................................, and
respond w).......................................... across the spectrum.
can collect data x)............................. and ...............................,
for example, on board a y).....................................................

The d).............................. magnitude is what we observe


from Earth. This depends on the e).............................. of the
star, and on how f)........................................... it is.
The g).................................. magnitude is the stars brightness
if viewed from a standard distance of h).............. parsecs. If
you know both i).............................. and ................................
magnitude, the j)................................... to the star can be
calculated. Absolute magnitude can be estimated from the
H-R diagram if the stars k)............................................. is
known. This process of getting an approximate distance to
a star is called l).........................................................................

COMPLETED WORKSHEETS
BECOME SECTION SUMMARIES

Practice Questions 3

These are not intended to be "HSC style" questions, but to challenge your basic knowledge and
understanding of the topic, and remind you of what you NEED to know at the K.I.S.S. principle level.
4. (4 marks)
The following photometry data have been determined for a
certain star.
Apparent magnitude = + 3.5
Absolute magnitude = + 4.8
B filter magnitude = +3.2
V filter magnitude = +3.7
Without doing any calculations, interpret this data to state
a) the stars (approx) distance from Earth
b) roughly the stars spectral class/colour
explaining your reasoning in each case.

1. (6 marks)
For each of the following pairs of stars, calculate the ratio
of their brightness, given the apparent magnitude of each.
For each pair, state which star is the brighter.
a) Canopus (m = -0.62) and Mira (m = 6.5)
b) Barnards Star (m = 9.5) and Algol (m = 2.1)
c) Rigel (m = 0.18) and Achenar (m = 0.45)
2. (2 marks)
Define the term absolute magnitude and outline how it
may be estimated from knowledge of a stars spectral class.

5. (3 marks)
The bright star Canopus shows a parallax angle of 0.0104
arcsec, and has an apparent magnitude of -0.620

3. (6 marks)
The bright star Rigel has an apparent magnitude of 0.981
and an absolute magnitude (determined from its spectral
class) of -3.55.

Calculate its absolute magnitude.


6. (6 marks)
The absolute magnitudes of 2 stars have been determined:
Star A, M = +4.33
Star B, M = + 9.57
Both stars are known (from parallax calculations) to be
located 3.58 parsecs from Earth.

a) Use this data to calculate its distance from Earth.


b) Rigels parallax has been measured to be 0.0112 arcsec.
Calculate its distance from Earth based on parallax.
c) Account for any discrepancy between your answers to
parts (a) and (b) and discuss briefly any reasons to accept
one answer as more accurate than the other.

HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics


Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

Calculate each stars apparent magnitude and hence find the


brightness ratio of star A to star B.
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4. BINARY SYSTEMS & VARIABLE STARS


Visual Binaries

The Importance of Binary Stars

If a double-star system is close enough, a telescope may be


able to resolve the image well enough to see the individual
stars, and see their positions change with time.
This is called a visual binary.

A binary star system is when 2 stars are in orbit around


each other. This situation is much more common than you
might guess... it is estimated that more than half of all main
sequence stars belong to multiple star systems of 2 or more
stars in orbit around each other.

Later...

Despite all the data that can be extracted from


measurements by parallax, spectrometry and photometry,
there is one vital piece of information that cannot be
measured about a single star... its mass.
Since mass is one of the most fundamental measurements
of physics, naturally astronomers want to learn the mass of
a star. Binary stars are the key, because the details of their
orbit around each other allows the masses to be calculated.

Later still...

Fixed background stars

Discovering the masses of stars by studying binary systems


has been critical in understanding the processes occurring
within a star, and how each star changes during its life-time.

The system must be observed over a period of time


(possibly years) to be certain the stars are orbiting each
other, rather than just being stars that appear close together
by being in the same line of sight, as in the photo at left.
Eventually, the period of their orbit can be measured.

Categories of Binary Stars

Eclipsing Binaries

Some binary systems cannot be visually resolved, but reveal


themselves because, when carefully measured, the light
intensity is found to fluctuate in a regular way.

When you look at some stars in the sky there are many stars
that are close together.

This occurs because the plane in which they orbit each


other is more-or-less edge-on to us, so each star regularly
eclipses the other and blocks some of the light reaching us.
The graph shows how the light intensity varies for a binary
pair in which one star is much larger than the other.
Light received fully
from both stars

Smaller star in front... blocks


some of the light of larger star
(s
secondary eclipse))

Relative Brightness of Light

Photo by Alberto Camin

Are these 2 stars a


binary pair?
Are they orbiting
around each other,
or are they
nowhere near each
other, and simply
happen to be in
the same line of
sight from Earth?

If these are a binary pair they are in orbit around the


common centre of mass of the system...
Centre of Mass
of entire system

Larger star totally


eclipses smaller star
(p
primary eclipse))

Period of orbit

Time

The period of the orbit is the time from one primary


eclipse to the next, or from secondary eclipse to the next.
Typically, the period of a binary orbit like this is between a
few days, up to a few months.

...but how can you recognise them?


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Spectroscopic Binaries

Determining Mass

A binary system can also be detected by Doppler Shifts


in the spectra of the stars as each member of the pair
alternates between approaching us (blue shift) and receding
from us (red shift). For this to occur the plane of the orbit
must be more-or-less edge-on to the Earth.

Regardless of how the binary system is detected, the


important outcome of studying the system is the
detemination of the period of the orbit, and the average
distance between the partner stars (i.e. the orbital radius).

Both stars moving


across our line of sight

m1 + m2 = 4 2 r3
GT2

Shows Normal
Hydrogen Spectrum

m1 and m2 = masses of stars 1 & 2 in the binary pair.


(in kg)
r = radius of orbit (average distance between
the stars) in metres.
G = Universal Gravitational Constant = 6.67x10-11
T = Period of orbit, in seconds

Later, Star A receding, Star B approaching


A

B
Hydrogen Spectrum
shows double lines,
One line is red-shifted, the other blue-shifted

Later, both stars


moving across our line
of sight again

Example Problem
A binary star system has been identified in which the 2
stars are estimated to be 7.80x109 metres apart, and the
period of the orbit is 4.86 days.
a) Find the combined mass of the stars.
b) It is known that one of the stars is 3 times heavier
than the other. Find the masses of the individual stars.

Later, Star B receding, Star A approaching


B

This formula is derived from Newtons Law of


Universal Gravitation, and also contains Keplers
3rd Law (that r3/T2 = constant)

S.I. units must be used

Shows Normal
Hydrogen Spectrum

Once these are known, masses can be calculated:

A
Hydrogen Spectrum
shows double lines,
One line is red-shifted, the other blue-shifted,
but in the opposite way to the previous doubling.

The period of the orbit is determined by the time between


the repeated changes to the spectral lines.

Solution
First, ensure all data are in S.I. units:
T = 4.86 days = 4.86 x 24 x 60 x 60 = 4.20x105s.
2r3 / GT2
a) m1 + m2 = 4
= 42x(7.80x109)3/6.67x10-11x(4.20x105)2
= 5.07x1029kg

Astrometric Binaries

In some binary systems, one of the stars is so faint


compared to its partner that it cannot be resolved visually,
nor detected photometrically or spectrometrically.
However, its presence may be inferred by the wobble it
causes to the bigger star.

b) Since one star is 3 times heavier than the other:


m1 + (3xm1) = 5.07x1029
4m1 = 5.07x1029
m1 = 1.27x1029 kg
m2 = 3.80x1029 kg

A smaller satellite star does not just orbit around the


larger. Instead, both orbit around a point which is the
common centre of gravity of the total system. For a
large-star/small-star system this common centre is very
close to the larger star, but it still appears to wobble as it
orbits this point.

PRACTICE PROBLEMS at the end of section

The unseen partners to a wobbling star have been found to


range from planets (this is not a binary system, but a solar
system of sun and planet(s)) to massive neutron stars or
even black holes.

Computer Simulation of Eclipsing Binaries

The period of the orbit can be determined by careful study


to find repetition of the wobble of the visible partner.

Try this website


http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/astro101/java/eclipse/
eclipse.htm

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The syllabus requires that you model the


light curves of eclipsing binaries.

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The Importance of Knowing the Mass

Variable Stars

When a binary star system is studied to find the mass, it is


usually possible to also measure the luminosity of the star
(e.g. absolute magnitude) and its spectral type as well.

Many stars vary in brightness over time. These variable


stars can be of many different types, and the variations in
their brightness can have many causes. The first step to
understanding them is to classify them into types.

When the known masses are graphed against luminosity, a


clear relationship is found:

Variable stars can be Periodic or Non-Periodic,

our Sun

Time
0.1

1
Mass (relative to Sun=1)

This means that the mass of any star on the main


sequence section of the H-R diagram is known, at least
approximately.

-10
-5
(Absolute Magnitudes)
+10
+5
0

Luminosity increasing

our Sun

ue
nc
e

Intrinsic = inside

Extrinsic = external

A Supernova is a huge, one-off star explosion which will


be studied in the next section. The explosion occurs
because of events occurring inside the star.
A flare star is a star which suffers irregular, explosive
outbursts due to events occurring within its outer layers.

+15

Temp.

The cause of the


brightness variations
is a process
outside the star.

Intrinsic, Non-Periodic Variable Stars include


supernovae, flare stars, and other weirdos of the
cosmos.

Inc
rea
sin
gm
as
Ma
s
in

Seq

The cause of the


brightness variations
is a process
inside the star itself.

Extrinsic, Periodic Variable Stars include eclipsing


binaries. The variations have a very regular period and are
caused by the eclipsing of/by a partner star. This is an
extrinsic process because it is external to to the star itself.

Hertzsprung-R
Russell Diagram

t he

...and...

they can be either Intrinsic or Extrinsic variables:

10

It is thought that this relationship holds for all main


sequence stars, so it follows that once the luminosity is
measured, the mass of any star can be read from the graph.

Spectral
Class
Colours

The brightness varies in


an unpredictable way,
possibly a
one-off event.

Brightness

Luminosity
(Absolute Magnitude)

Brightness (apparent magnitude)


varies in a regular, periodic way.

Blue
30,000+

A
White
10,000

Intrinsic, Periodic Variable Stars include the


Cepheids. This type of star undergoes changes in
brightness of about 1 magnitude, with an extremely regular
period, and have a brightness graph with a characteristic
shape. The changes in brightness are due to cycles of
changes occurring within the star, resulting in a regular
pulsation of the star.

Yellow

Red

5,000

2,500

A knowledge of the masses of stars in different parts of


the H-R diagram has been important in reaching an
understanding of the the processes that occur within a star.
This in turn has led to the development of theories about
how stars form, evolve and die.

Cepheids are considered in more detail (next page)


because they have become another vital tool
to help astronomers measure
the size and structure of the universe,
and unravel its history, and probable future...

These ideas are explored


in the next section.
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Cepheid Variables

Using Cepheids to Measure Distances

Cepheids are named after a star called -Cephei


discovered and named in the 18th century. Later it was
discovered that the brightness varied in a very regular way.
As more stars of its type were discovered, they became
known as the Cepheids.

Since the period of brightness variation of a Cepheid is


directly related to its luminosity, if the periodic variation is
measured, then the absolute magnitude can be determined.
Then, if the average apparent magnitude is measured, the
distance to the star can be calculated using the distance
modulus formula,
m - M = 5 log(d/10)

Typical Light Curve of a Cepheid

gr

Rise

re
Mo
all

Brightness

lf

Steep

ua

ad

Since Cepheids can be detected in other galaxies, this


technique offers a method of measuring distances that are
way beyond the limits of parallax measurements.

Period from 1 to 100 days


Time

Example Problem
A star identified as a Type I Cepheid has been observed
in another galaxy. Its average apparent magnitude is +21,
with its brightness varying in a regular cycle of 4.5 days.
How far away is it from Earth?

Almost 100 years ago, an important relationship was


discovered. An astronomer studied a number of Cepheid
variables all located in the same star cluster, at the same
distance from Earth, and noticed that the brighter the star
the longer the period of the oscillation of brightness.

Solution
The Luminosity-Period Graph (left) shows that with a
period of 4.5 days, the stars absolute magnitude should
be about -2.7.

Later, it was discovered that there are actually 2 different


populations of Cepheids, called simply Type I Cepheids
and Type II Cepheids, which both showed this
relationship between luminosity and period of brightness
variation:

Using

m - M = 5 log(d/10)
+21 -(-2.7) = 5 log(d/10)
log(d/10) = (21+ 2.7)/5 = 4.74
4.74
d/10 = 10 = 55,000
d = 550,000 pc
The star (and the galaxy its in) is 5.50x105 parsecs away.
This is about 1.8 million light years.

Example Star

pe
Ty

s
id
he
p
Ce

ids
he
ep
C
II
pe
Ty

+2 +1

-1
1

-2
2 -3
3 -4
4 -5
5 -6
6

Average Absolute Magnitude

Luminosity-P
Period Relationship of Cepheids

RR-L
Lyrae stars
0.1

Period (days)

10

50

100

logarithmic scale

RR-Lyrae Variables
The following information is NOT specified by the syllabus, and is
presented for interest only.
Another group of variable stars that have become very useful are known as
RR-Lyrae Variables. These are more common than the Cepheids.
Their value lies in the fact that they all have approximately the same period
of light variation of about 12 hours (this makes them easily identified) and
all have the same absolute magnitude of approximately +0.6.
Like Cepheids, once spotted, and apparent magnitude measured, their
distance can be calculated by applying the distance modulus formula.

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Worksheet 4
Fill in the blanks. Check your answers at the back.
Variable stars vary in m).................................. over
time. This can be a n).........................................
regular cycle of changes, or a one-off event or
irregular, o)................ - .................................
variations. The causes of the variations can be
caused by events occurring within the star
(p)..........................................) or can be caused
by external events (q).......................................).

The study of Binary Stars can reveal the


a)......................... of the stars. When a pair of stars
can be b).................................. by a telescope and
observed, over time, to be c)....................
..................... each other, they are called
d)................................. binaries.
e).................................. Binaries cannot be
resolved, but have a distinctive light curve
graph with regular dips as each star
f)................................ the other.

An example of an extrinsic, periodic variable


would be an r)............................. binary system. A
supernova
is
an
example
of
an
s)................................., ........................................
variable. A good example of an intrinsic, periodic
variable star is the type known as
t).................................... variables. These have
become
useful
for
calculating
u)..................................... because it was discovered
that their luminosity is directly related to the
v)...................................... of their brightness
variations.

g)................................
Binaries
show
h)........................... shifts in their spectral lines, and
a doubling of the lines, as one star approaches us
and the other recedes.
i).................................. Binaries are detected by the
wobble caused to a star by its unseen partner.
Once the orbital period is known, and
j)............................ of orbit measured or estimated,
the total mass of the pair can be calculated. It has
been found that there is a link between mass of a
star and its k)....................................... and position
on the l).......................... Diagram.

COMPLETED WORKSHEETS
BECOME SECTION SUMMARIES

Practice Questions 4

These are not intended to be "HSC style" questions, but to challenge your basic knowledge and
understanding of the topic, and remind you of what you NEED to know at the K.I.S.S. principle level.
Mark values shown are suggestions only, and indicate the depth of answer required.
4. (6 marks)
The graph shows the
light curve from a
binary system in
which one star is
known to have 100x
the mass of the other.
The stars are known to
be 3.50x1011m apart.

Light Intensity

1. (6 marks)
a) What important piece of information about a star can be
determined from the study of binary star systems?
b) List 4 categories of binary systems, and outline how they
are recognised.
c) What 2 measurements of a binary system need to be
made before the calculation named in (a) can be done?
2. (6 marks)
For each set of data calculate the total mass of the binary
system.
(hint: check for S.I. units in each case)
a) r = 8.75x109m, T = 1.80x105s.
b) T= 26,500 hours, r = 3.85x108km.
c) r = 5.20x106km, T = 1.55days.

X
Z

10
15
Time (days)

20

a) Explain the features of the graph labelled X, Y and Z.


b) Calculate the mass of each star in the system.
5. (5 marks)
a) Sketch the light curve for a typical Cepheid variable. No
values are required.
b) Explain how, if the values of the graph are known, the
distance to the star can be determined.

3. (4 marks)
The light from a group of stars is found to vary in
brightness in an irregular and unpredictable way. Further
study shows that the cause is a shifting dust cloud between
the stars and Earth, which is blocking some of the light.
How should these stars be classified as variables? Explain
your answer.
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5. LIFE & DEATH OF STARS


Stages in the Life of a Star

Birth of a Star

Every star begins its life on the main sequence. If you


plot its spectral class (or temperature) against luminosity, it
lies very close to the lower border of the main sequence
band on a H-R diagram. Because all new stars plot along
this curve it is called the Zero Age Main Sequence
(ZAMS) curve.

Slight irregularities in parts of the cloud may begin to


contract by gravitational attraction. As a zone of
contraction becomes denser, its gravitational field becomes
more intense, causing further, faster collapse. As it
collapses, the temperature rises and the mass begins to
spin.

Exactly where each new star joins the ZAMS curve


depends entirely on its mass.

Mass = 10xMs

ZA
M

(Relative to the Sun.


10-2 10-1 1
10

Luminosity

Sun =1)
102
103

104

Although outer space is often described as being a


vacuum, this is not quite true. Each cubic metre of
empty space may contain thousands or millions of atoms
and molecules, mainly hydrogen. Some regions are denser
than others, and in some places there may be huge clouds
of gas measuring 50 light years across, or more.

Interstellar
Gas Cloud

Sun

Mass = Ms
Mass
= 0.1xMs

10

-3

Gravitational collapse forms a


hotter, denser, P
Protostar

SC
urv

Spectral O
Class
Temp. 30,000+

10,000

5,000

M
2,500

Small stars burn their fuel slowly and will stay on the
main sequence for billions of years. A star the size of the
Sun, for example, can be expected to remain on the main
sequence for about 10 billion years, which the Sun is
currently about half-way through.

Eventually, after perhaps several million years, the core of


the protostar becomes dense and hot enough for nuclear
fusion to begin, and the mass of collapsed gas begins its life
as a star.

The larger the star, the faster it burns its fuel and the
shorter its life-time on the main sequence.

Typically, from dozens up to thousands of stars may all


form at about the same time from one huge gas cloud. The
first act of the new star cluster is to blow away the
surrounding remnant gas cloud with the solar wind.

Eventually, every star reaches a stage when it leaves the


main sequence, first expanding into a giant, then beginning
the process of star death as dwarfs. The generalized
pathways of a stars life are shown below.

Photographic negative of an
o
open star cluster.. The
brighter stars are newly formed
from a gas cloud.

Supergiant Stars

Photo negatives are often used


in astronomy in preference to
normal prints.

Red Giants

Luminosity

Some stars appear s


smeared
due to the rotation of the Earth
during the long camera
exposure time.

M
a in

Seq

uen
c

Wh
ite
Dw
arfs

Photo by Jason Aaberg

HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics


Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

All new stars join


the main sequence
at a point along
the ZAMS curve,
according to their
mass

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Nuclear Reactions in Stars

The Carbon Cycle Reaction

The size of any star is the balance between 2 opposing


forces:
Gravity, which attempts to collapse and compress the star
inwards, and
Heat and Radiation Pressure, which would cause the star
to explode outwards if not for gravity.

This reaction occurs in medium to large main sequence


stars, and predominates in the larger ones. In a star the size
of our Sun, both Proton-Proton and Carbon Cycle
reactions occur, although the P-P reaction dominates.
A cycle of reactions occurs as follows:

The heat and radiation within a star is produced by nuclear


fusion reactions occurring in the stars core. There are
several different reactions you need to know about.

12
6

The Proton-Proton Reaction

13
6
14
7

This is the classic fusion of hydrogen into helium and is


particularly important in small to medium sized main
sequence stars.
START WITH
4 Hydrogen nuclei (protons)

Emission of
particles & energy

Emission of
particles & energy

Reaction 1

+n
heavy hydrogen
(deuterium) nuclei

+n

2 more protons

Energy

Reaction 2

+ +

+ n

+
+

1
1

2
2

2
1

He

0
+1

1
+
1

3
2

He

e+ +

He

+ 3
2

Overall:

4
2

He

Hydrogen

1
1

He

1
1

Luminosity

1
1

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He

0
+1

15
7

4
2

0
+1

He

e+

e+

1
1

4
2

He

+ energy

Bo
t
to h re
va act
ryi ion
ng
s
de occ
gr ur
ee
s

Carbon
Cycle
Reaction
Predominates

our Sun

So, all main sequence stars turn hydrogen into helium via
one or both of the fusion reactions.

Eventually, the core of the star becomes depleted in


hydrogen and rich in helium. When a critical level is
reached, the star enters a new phase of its life...

Helium + energy
4
2

Proton-P
Proton
reaction
predominates

Reaction 3:
Two helium-3 nuclei fuse to form helium-4 and release 2
protons, which can re-cycle back to reaction 1.
3
2

Main Sequence Stars Fuse


Hydrogen into Helium

positron
neutrino
The positron (positive electron) will eventually meet an
ordinary electron. They will then annihilate each other in a
burst of gamma radiation.
Reaction 2:
The hydrogen-2 fuses with another proton forming
helium-3, and gamma radiation.
2
1

12
6

13
6

Both these main-sequence reactions involve fusion which


(overall) converts hydrogen to helium. In each reaction a
small amount of mass disappears and is converted to
2
energy according to Einsteins E = mc equation.

Energy

Reaction 1:
Two hydrogen nuclei (protons) fuse to form Helium-2,
which immediately undergoes radioactive decay to
deuterium (heavy hydrogen or hydrogen-2).

1
H
1
15
O +
8
1
+ H
1

As before, any positrons formed will eventually meet an


electron and be annihilated in a burst of gamma rays.

Helium-3 nuclei

FINAL PRODUCT = Helium-4


4 nucleus

1
1

14
7
15
8

Notice that carbon is involved in the first step, and is regenerated by the last step. It could be said that carbon acts
as a catalyst.

+
n

Energy

n
+ +

13
N +
7
1
+ H
1

13
7

Overall, the result is the same;

+ n

Reaction 3
2 protons
re-released

15
7

1
1

energy

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Synthesis of the Elements

After the Main Sequence Phase

Large mass stars burn fast and hot; smaller stars burn
slower and cooler, but eventually they all end up with a core
depleted in hydrogen and rich in helium.

Fusion in a giant star doesnt stop at carbon. Depending on


the size and core temperature of the giant, a variety of
fusions can occur, gradually producing nearly all the
elements of the Periodic Table. For example:

Non-rreacted hydrogen

carbon + helium
oxygen + helium
oxygen + carbon
neon + helium
magnesium + silicon

Non-rreacting
helium core,
depleted of
hydrogen

oxygen
neon
silicon
magnesium
iron
...and many more.

Up until now, the core


of the star has not been
hot enough for any other
fusion reactions beyond the
hydrogen to helium reactions.

As far as iron, the fusion reactions release energy. Beyond


iron the reactions tend to absorb energy, but atoms as large
as lead can be formed.

Now, as it runs out of hydrogen, the core ceases producing


energy and gravity causes it to collapse inwards. Were
talking zillions of tonnes of collapsing matter which
rapidly converts gravitational potential energy into heat.

The universe began as entirely hydrogen and helium (ratio


about 3:1) and is still predominantly made of just these two.
In some places such as the Earth, however, there are many
heavier elements. We believe that these have all been made
by fusion in giant stars.

The core temperature skyrockets and at a certain point a


new fusion reaction begins... the core starts fusing helium.

4
2

carbon
nucleus

fusion

3 helium nuclei

Eventually, the energy-producing fusions begin to run out


of fuel. Remember that fusion to anything larger than iron
absorbs energy rather than releasing it. As iron accumulates
in the core, the stars ability to release energy reaches
another critical stage...

... the star


is about
to die!

energy release

He

12
6

energy

Meanwhile, the extra heat generated in the core has


affected the layers (mainly unreacted hydrogen)
surrounding the core. Depending on the size and density of
the star, a shell of hydrogen may begin fusing around the
outside of the core, adding even more heat, and possibly
causing eruptions which may blow away outer layers
of the star.
The main effect, however, is that the outer
mantle of the star swells enormously with the
extra heat coming from within. The star swells
hugely to become a giant star.
Being so much bigger, it becomes much
more luminous (moves upwards on the
H-R diagram). At the same time, the
outer surface actually becomes cooler,
and its colour redder...

it has become a Red Giant


or Supergiant star.

Shell Burning
layer of
hydrogen fusion

Grossly swollen
outer envelope
of a Red Giant

Gradually, an o
onion-s
skin structure may
develop around the core, with different layers
undergoing a variety of other fusion reactions.

Helium
burning
core

This is where all the larger atoms originated.

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Star Death

Exactly what happens at the end of a stars life depends very much on the mass of the star.

Big Stars Go Out With a Bang

Small Stars Die With a Whimper

If the stars original mass is greater than about 5 times the


mass of our Sun, its death is quite spectacular.

If the original mass of the star is less than about 5 times the
mass of the Sun, the star goes through its Red Giant
phase (previous page) starting by burning helium to carbon,
and possibly developing an onion-skin structure of
different fusion reactions in successive shells.

A star this large will certainly have developed an onionskin layer structure with some heavy elements in the core.
When this runs out of fusion fuel, the core suddenly
collapses under gravity and rapidly implodes upon itself.

In a dying red giant there are sudden outbursts or flashes


of energy as a shell runs out of fuel, collapses inwards and
then rebounds.

The outer layers suddenly have nothing holding them out


there, so they fall inwards at an enormous speed. These
outer layers still contain fusionable fuel which now
ignites in a cataclysmic detonation which explodes
outwards... a Supernova explosion.

These outbursts have the effect of blowing away an outer


layer as a hollow sphere of gas and dust called a planetary
nebula.

Three significant things result immediately:


large amounts of heavy elements (up to and beyond
uranium) are formed in a rapid burst of fusion events.
the force of the explosion in a shell around the core,
further accelerates the core implosion.
the outer layers of the star are blown outwards in a fireball
that briefly outshines a million stars, and continues
expanding outwards as a cloud of debris for thousands of
years.

After several such events there may be little left of the star
except its iron-rich core. Without any remaining fuel for
fusion reactions, this core collapses under gravity to form a
dense lump of dengenerate matter.
Planetary Nebula: a hollow sphere of gas and dust
blown outwards from the dying star.

What becomes of the imploding core depends on its mass:

Photo Laurence Diver


laurence.diver@gmail.com

Original star surface

collapsed core

If the core is more than 1.4, but


less than 3 solar masses, it forms a
neutron star. The atoms are
crushed together so that electrons
are forced into the nucleus of
atoms forming a solid ball of
neutrons about 20 km across with a
density millions of tonnes per cm3.

Degenerate matter is where the atoms themselves are


compressed into a smaller volume by squashing the
electron orbits closer to the atomic nuclei. A mass the size
of the Sun can end up compressed down to the size of the
Earth, and have a density of 1 tonne per cm3.
Fusion has ceased, but this star remnant has a lot of
residual heat, so its surface temperature may be around
10,000oK. Being very small, the total luminosity is quite
low.

The neutron star spins rapidly and


gives out beams of high frequency
EMR, such as X-rays. If the beam
sweeps past the Earth we detect
pulses of radiation. When first
discovered, these were called
pulsars.

On the H-R diagram, it plots at a point low down, but well


left of the main sequence. This is a White Dwarf star.

If the core is bigger


than about 3 solar
masses, nothing can
stop the implosion.
The matter is
crushed into a
singularity with an
intense gravitational
field which not even
light can escape
from. Hence it is
called a black hole.

Inside the black hole


we think that time
stops and all the normal laws of physics
no longer apply.

Over millions of years it radiates its residual heat, gradually


cooling and disappearing from our view.

In effect, the matter has left our universe.


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Plotting and Analysing H-R Diagrams

You may have been given data about a variety of stars and tried plotting it graphically to form H-R diagrams.
Your analysis of the resulting diagrams is an important test of your understanding.

H-R Plot of Nearby or Brightest Stars

H-R Plot of an Open Cluster

A common exercise is to start with data for 20 or more near


and/or bright stars visible from Earth.
Data used is often;
surface temperature, and
luminosity compared to that of the Sun.

So-called open clusters give a result as shown, quite


different to our local neighbourhood.

102

103

Notice that there are


no red giants nor white
dwarfs.
The full range of main
sequence stars are
present, and their
positioning is tightly
along the same curve.

1
10-1

An
Open Cluster
gives a
H-R
R diagram
which is
essentially a
ZAMS plot

10

-4

Interpretation:
This is a
very young
group of stars.
They havent had
time for any to
leave the main
sequence.

10

-5

10
1

20

10-1

Stars visible from


Earth seem to be
a mixed population
of stars

15

10

Surface Temperature x103

H-R Plot of a Globular Cluster

10

-2

Luminosity (Sun = 1)

102

10

-3

103

104

A typical result is as follows. Each dot represents one local


and/or bright star.

10-2

Luminosity (Sun = 1)

10

When graphing these it is essential that the luminosity scale


be logarithmic or exponential and that the temperature
scale increases to the left, to correspond to a H-R diagram.

10

-4

10

10

-3

So-called globular clusters give a different result again.

10

-5

10

The top end of the


main sequence seems
to be missing, and
there are quite a few
red giant stars.

10

10

Luminosity (Sun = 1)

Surface Temperature ( K x10 )

Analysis & Interpretation

10

-3

Most stars lie very close to a single curving line.


(Dotted curve) The Sun is shown shaded grey.
Interpretation: These are Main Sequence stars, and
demonstrate the relationship between luminosity and
surface temperature. There are fewer of them at top left
because large stars have short lives.

10

15

10

20

-1

25

-2

30

-5

10

-4

A smaller group of stars are located at top right. Their


position shows they are very luminous but relatively cool.
Interpretation: These are Red Giants. There are fewer of
them because the life span as a giant star is generally short.

10

One star (arrowed) has low luminosity and medium-hot


temperature.
Interpretation: This a White Dwarf ... a dying star.
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

Interpretation
This cluster is
much older,
and the larger,
shorter-lived stars
have left the
main sequence

A Star Cluster
is thought to be
a group of stars
that all condensed
from the same
gas cloud,
and are all about
the same age.

20

15

10

Surface Temperature x103

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Estimating the Age of a Star Cluster

H-R Pathways of a Stars Life

The differences between the graphs of star clusters


(previous page) offers a way to estimate the age of different
clusters and galaxies.

The diagram below shows the approximate life-pathways


for a Sun-sized star, and a star about 5 times more massive,
and one 10 times more massive.

Of particular interest is the turn-off point where the


graphical plot of the stars in a cluster leaves the main
sequence and turn upwards to the right. The lower this
turn-off is, the older the cluster or galaxy.

In cases where the pathway goes off the H-R diagram, the
pathway and its final position is not to scale, and may be
fanciful.

The following graph shows star plots for several


hypothetical star clusters to give you the idea.

Supernova.
Briefly very
luminous &
hot

Very young
cluster

A
10,000

Supergiant Stars

-10

ur

G
5,000

10M

Red Giants

2,500

Ma

Spectral O
Class
Temp. 30,000+

ZA
M
SC

-5

10

-3

The oldest clusters have


off points
lower turn-o
and contain
dying
white dwarfs

5M star leaves a
core about 2M

(Relative to the Sun.


10-2 10-1 1
10

Luminosity

Sun =1)
102
103

104

Older clusters.
Upper main sequence
stars have evolved
into giants

+10

+5

Luminosity

The very young cluster with a star plot as shown would be


only 100 million years old, or less. If any Spectral Class
O stars are present it must be only about 10 million years
old, since these have extremely short lives.

+15

The oldest cluster, with its turn-off point near the Sunsize stars is at least 10 billion years old, and probably
formed very early in the history of the universe, soon after
the Big Bang settled down and began producing galaxies.

Neutron Star
&
Pulsar.

in S
eq u
enc
e

1M

Wh
ite
Dw
arfs

Spectral O
Class
Temp. 30,000+

The 2 in-between clusters shown could be estimated as


being about 2 billion, and 5 billion years old.

5M

A
10,000

G
5,000

M
2,500

fad
es
aw
ay

10M star leaves a core about


5M, which will collapse to
form a BLACK HOLE.

Hot, but very


low luminosity

Zero Luminosity!
HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics
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26

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Worksheet 5

This heats the core enough for fusion of p)...........................


into ..................................... to begin. The outer layers of the
star expand outwards so the star becomes q).........................
luminous, but its surface temperture r)...................................
It is now a s).............................................. star. In and around
the core many other fusion reactions occur which produce
many other t).....................................

Fill in the blanks. Check your answers at the back.


Stars are created in huge interstellar a)......................................
which collapse due to b)............................... As they do so,
the density and temperature c)..........................., until atoms
are forced together and begin d)......................................... in
the core of the new star.

Eventually, the star runs out of fuel and begins to die. If it


is small, there may be minor flashes of energy which
blow away the outer layers as a u)..........................................
................................... Meanwhile the core collapses to form
v)....................................... matter, radiating residual heat
with w)........................... luminosity, but x)..............................
temperature. This remnant is known as a y)...........................
................................ star.

All new stars plot onto a H-R diagram on a line along the
bottom of the e)..................................................... known as
the f)....................... curve. Generally, the more massive
the star is, the higher is its g)............................................ and
....................................... The more massive a star, the faster it
burns its fuel and the h)................................... its life-span.
In smaller main sequence stars the main fusion reaction is
the i).......................................................... reaction. This fuses
j)...................................... to k)................................... In larger
stars the same overall result is achieved via a more complex
pathway involving l)......................, ............................
and.......................... nuclei. This is called the m).....................
............................. reaction. Eventually, the core of the star
becomes depleted in n).............................., fusion slows and
the core o)..................................... under gravity.

If the star is larger than about 5 times z).................................,


when the fuel runs out the core collapses very suddenly.
The
infalling
outer
layers
explode
as
a
aa).............................................., which briefly shines as bright
as a million suns. This blows away all the outer layers, and
compresses the collapsing core even further. Depending on
the size of the core, it may collapse to form either a
ab).......................................... or a ...............................................

Practice Questions 5

These are not intended to be "HSC style" questions, but to challenge your basic knowledge and
understanding of the topic, and remind you of what you NEED to know at the K.I.S.S. principle level.
5. (12 marks)
Explain each of the following terms, and for each discuss
briefly how it forms.
a) planetary nebula
b) degenerate matter
c) supernova
d) neutron star
e) pulsar
f) black hole

1. (6 marks)
a) Sketch a H-R diagram (label axes, but no values required)
and show the positions of:
i) the ZAMS curve
ii) main sequence
iii) red giants
iv) white dwarfs
b) On your diagram, add an X to mark the approx
position of the Sun, and show with a dotted line its future
expected evolution.

6. (4 marks)
The following diagram shows a generalized H-R star plot
for the members of 2 star clusters.

2. (4 marks)
Outline the process of star formation, with reference to the
effect of star mass on a stars joining position on the
ZAMS curve.

Star Clusters

3. (4 marks)
Compare and contrast the proton-proton reaction with the
carbon cycle fusion reaction. Specific nuclear equations are
not required, but more general word equations are.
4. (4 marks)
a) Write a nuclear equation to describe the helium
burning fusion reaction.
b) Discuss the role of giant stars in altering the chemical
composition of the universe.

HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics


Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

ZAMS

a) Discuss any differences in the categories of stars likely to


be present in each cluster.
b) State any other difference between clusters J & K
suggested by the star plot. Explain your answer.
27

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CONCEPT DIAGRAM (Mind Map) OF TOPIC


In all the Core Topics you were given examples of a Mind Map
as a way to summarize the content of the topic.
If you have found this a useful way to summarize and learn, then you may want to do it again.
By now you should have developed the skills to do it yourself...

Observing
the Universe
from Earth

Parallax
&
Spectroscopy

Photometric
Methods

ASTROPHYSICS

Life & Death


of
Stars
Binary Systems
&
Variable Stars

HSC Physics Option Topic Astrophysics


Copyright 2006-7 keep it simple science

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