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The Summer Solstice 2009

The Summer Solstice 2009

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The Summer Solstice 2009

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  1. The Summer Solstice 2009 Now on to Measuring the Properties of Stars

  2. The Family of Stars • Those tiny glints of light in the night sky are in reality huge, dazzling balls of gas, many of which are vastly larger and brighter than the Sun • They look dim because of their vast distances • Astronomers cannot probe stars directly, and consequently must devise indirect methods to ascertain their intrinsic properties • Measuring distances to stars and galaxies is not easy • Distance is very important for determining the intrinsic properties of astronomical objects

  3. Fundamental method for measuring distances to nearby stars is triangulation: Measure length of a triangle’s “baseline” and the angles from the ends of this baseline to a distant object Use trigonometry or a scaled drawing to determine distance to object Triangulation

  4. Trigonometric Parallax

  5. Calculating Distance Using Parallax • A method of triangulation used by astronomers is called parallax: • Baseline is the Earth’s orbit radius (1 AU) • Angles measured with respect to very distant stars

  6. The shift of nearby stars is small, so angles are measured in arc seconds The parallax angle, p, is half the angular shift of the nearby star, and its distance in parsecs is given by: dpc = 1/parc seconds A parsec is 3.26 light-years (3.09 × 1013 km) Useful only to distances of about 250 parsecs Calculating Distance Using Parallax

  7. Example: Distance to Sirius • Measured parallax angle for Sirius is 0.377 arc second • From the formula, dpc = 1/0.377 = 2.65 parsecs = 8.6 light-years

  8. The “Standard Candle” Method • If an object’s intrinsic brightness is known, its distance can be determined from its observedbrightness • Astronomers call this method of distance determination the method of standard candles • This method is the principle manner in which astronomers determine distances in the universe Intrinsic here refers to the properties of the star itself Definition inserted

  9. Light, the Astronomer’s Tool • Astronomers want to know the motions, sizes, colors, and structures of stars • This information helps to understand the nature of stars as well as their life cycle • The light from stars received at Earth is all that is available for this analysis

  10. Temperature • The color of a star indicates its relative temperature – blue stars are hotter than red stars • More precisely, a star’s surface temperature (in Kelvin) is given by the wavelength in nanometers (nm) at which the star radiates most strongly

  11. Luminosity • The amount of energy a star emits each second is its luminosity (usually abbreviated as L) • A typical unit of measurement for luminosity is the watt • Compare a 100-watt bulb to the Sun’s luminosity, 4 × 1026 watts

  12. Luminosity • Luminosity is a measure of a star’s energy production (or hydrogen fuel consumption) • Knowing a star’s luminosity will allow a determination of a star’s distance and radius

  13. The Inverse-Square Law • The inverse-square law relates an object’s luminosity to its distance and its apparent brightness (how bright it appears to us)

  14. The Inverse-Square Law • This law can be thought of as the result of a fixed number of photons, spreading out evenly in all directions as they leave the source • The photons have to cross larger and larger concentric spherical shells. • For a given shell, the number of photons crossing it decreases per unit area

  15. The Inverse-Square Law • The inverse-square law (IS) is: • B is the brightness at a distance d from a source of luminosity L • This relationship is called the inverse-square law because the distance appears in the denominator as a square

  16. The Inverse-Square Law • The inverse-square law is one of the most important mathematical tools available to astronomers: • Given d from parallax measurements, a star’s L can be found (A star’s B can easily be measured by an electronic device, called a photometer, connected to a telescope.) • Or if L is known in advance, a star’s distance can be found

  17. Radius • Common sense: Two objects of the same temperature but different sizes, the larger one radiates more energy than the smaller one • In stellar terms: a star of larger radius will have a higher luminosity than a smaller star at the same temperature

  18. Knowing L “In Advance” • We first need to know how much energy is emitted per unit area of a surface held at a certain temperature • The Stefan-Boltzmann (SB) Law gives this: • Here s is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant (5.67 × 10-8 watts m-2K-4)

  19. Tying It All Together • The Stefan-Boltzmann law only applies to stars, but not hot, low-density gases • We can combine SB and IS to get: • R is the radius of the star • Given L and T, we can then find a star’s radius!

  20. Tying It All Together

  21. Tying It All Together • The methods using the Stefan-Boltzmann law and interferometer observations show that stars differ enormously in radius • Some stars are hundreds of times larger than the Sun and are referred to as giants • Stars smaller than the giants are called dwarfs

  22. Example: Measuring the Radius of Sirius • Solving for a star’s radius can be simplified if we apply L = 4pR2sT4 to both the star and the Sun, divide the two equations, and solve for radius: • Where s refers to the star and ¤ refers to the Sun • Given for Sirius Ls = 25L¤, Ts = 10,000 K, and for the Sun T¤= 6000 K, one finds Rs = 1.8R¤

  23. The Magnitude Scale • About 150 B.C., the Greek astronomer Hipparchus measured apparent brightness of stars using units called magnitudes • Brightest stars had magnitude 1 and dimmest had magnitude 6 • The system is still used today and units of measurement are called apparent magnitudes to emphasize how bright a star looks to an observer • A star’s apparent magnitude depends on the star’s luminosity and distance – a star may appear dim because it is very far away or it does not emit much energy

  24. (2) Astronomy Magazine Sept. 2002 issue defines the faintest naked eye star at 6.5 apparent magnitude. “Apparent Magnitude”was defined by Hipparachus in 150 BC. He devised a magnitude scale based on: Magnitude Constellation Star 1 (Orion) Betelgeuse 2 Big Dipper various 6 stars just barely seen However, he underestimated the magnitudes. Therefore, many very bright stars today have negative magnitudes. Magnitude Difference is based on the idea that the difference between the magnitude of a first magnitude star to a 6th magnitude star is a factor of 100. Thus a 1st mag star is 100 times brighter than a 6th mag star. This represents a range of 5 so that 2.512 = the fifth root of 100. Thus the table hierarchy is the following. Absolute Magnitude is defined as how bright a star would appear if it were of certain apparent magnitude but only 10 parsecs distance. Magnitude Difference of 1 is 2.512:1, 2 is 2.5122:1 or 6.31:1, 3 is 2.5123 = 15.85:1 etc.

  25. The Magnitude Scale • The apparent magnitude can be confusing • Scale runs “backward”: high magnitude = low brightness • Modern calibrations of the scale create negative magnitudes • Magnitude differences equate to brightness ratios: • A difference of 5 magnitudes = a brightness ratio of 100 • 1 magnitude difference = brightness ratio of 1001/5=2.512

  26. Images courtesy of Nick Strobel's Astronomy Notes. Go to his site at for the updated and corrected version.

  27. The Magnitude Scale • Astronomers use absolute magnitude to measure a star’s luminosity • The absolute magnitude of a star is the apparent magnitude that same star would have at 10 parsecs • A comparison of absolute magnitudes is now a comparison of luminosities, no distance dependence • An absolute magnitude of 0 approximately equates to a luminosity of 100L¤

  28. The Spectra of Stars • A star’s spectrum typically depicts the energy it emits at each wavelength • A spectrum also can reveal a star’s composition, temperature, luminosity, velocity in space, rotation speed, and other properties • On certain occasions, it may reveal mass and radius

  29. Measuring a Star’s Composition • As light moves through the gas of a star’s surface layers, atoms absorb radiation at some wavelengths, creating dark absorption lines in the star’s spectrum • Every atom creates its own unique set of absorption lines • Determining a star’s surface composition is then a matter of matching a star’s absorption lines to those known for atoms

  30. Measuring a Star’s Composition • To find the quantity of a given atom in the star, we use the darkness of the absorption line • This technique of determining composition and abundance can be tricky!

  31. Measuring a Star’s Composition • Possible overlap of absorption lines from several varieties of atoms being present • Temperature can also affect how strong (dark) an absorption line is

  32. Temperature’s Effect on Spectra • A photon is absorbed when its energy matches the difference between two electron energy levels and an electron occupies the lower energy level • Higher temperatures, through collisions and energy exchange, will force electrons, on average, to occupy higher electron levels – lower temperatures, lower electron levels

  33. Temperature’s Effect on Spectra • Consequently, absorption lines will be present or absent depending on the presence or absence of an electron at the right energy level and this is very much dependent on temperature • Adjusting for temperature, a star’s composition can be found – interestingly, virtually all stars have compositions very similar to the Sun’s: 71% H, 27% He, and a 2% mix of the remaining elements

  34. Early Classification of Stars • Historically, stars were first classified into four groups according to their color (white, yellow, red, and deep red), which were subsequently subdivided into classes using the letters A through N

  35. Modern Classification of Stars • Annie Jump Cannon discovered the classes were more orderly in appearance if rearranged by temperature – Her reordered sequence became O, B, A, F, G, K, M (O being the hottest and M the coolest) and are today known as spectral classes

  36. Modern Classification of Stars • Cecilia Payne then demonstrated the physical connection between temperature and the resulting absorption lines

  37. Modern Classification of Stars

  38. Spectral Classification • O stars are very hot and the weak hydrogen absorption lines indicate that hydrogen is in a highly ionized state • A stars have just the right temperature to put electrons into hydrogen’s 2nd energy level, which results in strong absorption lines in the visible • F, G, and K stars are of a low enough temperature to show absorption lines of metals such as calcium and iron, elements that are typically ionized in hotter stars • K and M stars are cool enough to form molecules and their absorption “bands” become evident

  39. Spectral Classification • Temperature range: more than 25,000 K for O (blue) stars and less than 3500 K for M (red) stars • Spectral classes subdivided with numbers - the Sun is G2

  40. Measuring a Star’s Motion • A star’s motion is determined from the Doppler shift of its spectral lines • The amount of shift depends on the star’s radial velocity, which is the star’s speed along the line of sight • Given that we measure Dl, the shift in wavelength of an absorption line of wavelength l, the radial speed v is given by: • c is the speed of light

  41. Measuring a Star’s Motion • Note that l is the wavelength of the absorption line for an object at rest and its value is determined from laboratory measurements on nonmoving sources • An increase in wavelength means the star is moving away, a decrease means it is approaching – speed across the line on site cannot be determined from Doppler shifts

  42. Measuring a Star’s Motion • Doppler measurements and related analysis show: • All stars are moving and that those near the Sun share approximately the same direction and speed of revolution (about 200 km/sec) around the center of our galaxy • Superimposed on this orbital motion are small random motions of about 20 km/sec • In addition to their motion through space, stars spin on their axes and this spin can be measured using the Doppler shift technique – young stars are found to rotate faster than old stars

  43. Binary Stars • Two stars that revolve around each other as a result of their mutual gravitational attraction are called binary stars • Binary star systems offer one of the few ways to measure stellar masses – and stellar mass plays the leading role in a star’s evolution • At least 40% of all stars known have orbiting companions (some more than one) • Most binary stars are only a few AU apart – a few are even close enough to touch

  44. Visual Binary Stars • Visual binaries are binary systems where we can directly see the orbital motion of the stars about each other by comparing images made several years apart

  45. Spectroscopic binaries are systems that are inferred to be binary by a comparison of the system’s spectra over time Doppler analysis of the spectra can give a star’s speed and by observing a full cycle of the motion the orbital period and distance can be determined Spectroscopic Binaries

  46. Stellar Masses • Kepler’s third law as modified by Newton is • m and M are the binary star masses (in solar masses), P is their period of revolution (in years), and a is the semimajor axis of one star’s orbit about the other (in AU)

  47. Stellar Masses • P and a are determined from observations (may take a few years) and the above equation gives the combined mass (m + M) • Further observations of the stars’ orbit will allow the determination of each star’s individual mass • Most stars have masses that fall in the narrow range 0.1 to 30 M¤

  48. Eclipsing Binaries • A binary star system in which one star can eclipse the other star is called an eclipsing binary • Watching such a system over time will reveal a combined light output that will periodically dim

  49. Eclipsing Binaries • The duration and manner in which the combined light curve changes together with the stars’ orbital speed allows astronomers to determine the radii of the two eclipsing stars

  50. Summary of Stellar Properties • Distance • Parallax (triangulation) for nearby stars (distances less than 250 pc) • Standard-candle method for more distant stars • Temperature • Wien’s law (color-temperature relation) • Spectral class (O hot; M cool) • Luminosity • Measure star’s apparent brightness and distance and then calculate with inverse square law • Luminosity class of spectrum (to be discussed) • Composition • Spectral lines observed in a star