Thursday 5 May 2011

Physics: Stars and universe I

Stars and universe
Parallax determining the stellar distance

Taking photos towards a distant star in the time difference of 6 months (then the Earth is in the opposite side on the orbit) would make a observable parallax. Assuming the more distant stars as "fixed", and the stellar distance is d.
By trigonometry we get (1AU)/(tan p) = d.
The angle p is extremely small (less than 1'' = 1º/3600), tan p is approximately equals to p in radian.
One parsec (pc) is defined as the distance between Sun and the star whose parallax is 1 pc.
1pc = 1AU/1'' ≈ 2*105AU or 3.26 ly.
Now we can simplify the equation into d = 1/p, where d is measured by pc, p is measured by arcsecond (1'').
Note that the closest star from sun is more than 1pc from sun, so the parallax is usually smaller than 1''.
The stellar size D = dθ where D is the stellar diameter and θ is the angular diameter.
Stellar Magnitude
Each magnitude represents a difference of 1001/5 times in brightness, the lower the magnitude the brighter the star. For example, a star of magnitude 1 is 10 times brighter than a star of magnitude 6.
Apparent magnitude is the brightness of celestial body as observed from Earth. (In this case, Sun is the brightest with apparent magnitude -26.7)
Absolute magnitude is the brightness of celestial body if they are 10pc from Earth. Then this magnitude is independent of its distance, only depending on its brightness. (For example, the apparent magnitude of Sun is smaller than Sirius because Sun is much closer to Earth, but Sirius has a lower absolute magnitude than Sun.)
The brightness of a planet varies due of the position for reflection. The period of variation can be a hint of orbital motion of the planet.
Stellar Spectrum

Assuming stellar body as ideal black body, they emit EM waves as T > 0K.
1)       They emit EM waves with all range of frequency, but there's a peak for a specified frequency.
2)       The higher of its surface temperature, the higher peak frequency, while the magnitude of peak is higher too.
Stellar body has surface temperature around 2000~60000K, which corresponding to peak frequency of red and blue light, so we say hotter star is bluer while colder star is redder.
According to Harvard spectral classification the stars are classified as:
1)       O (blue): 30000 – 60000 K
2)       B (blue white): 10000 – 30000 K
3)       A (white): 7500 – 10000K
4)       F (yellowish white): 6000 – 7500 K
5)       G (yellow): 5000 – 6000 K
6)       K (orange): 3500 – 5000 K
7)       M (red): 2000 – 3500 K ("Oh! Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me" gives the order of OBAFGKM.)
Each class is divided from 0 to 9, e.g. B0 (hotter) to B9 (colder).
By observing the spectrum of star, dark lines may be found in the continuous spectrum. They are called the absorption spectrum, they represents the elements exists in the star.
The radiant power of a star J (it's Wm-2) is given by the Stefan's law J = σT4, where σ is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant 5.67*10-8 Wm-2K-4.
The equation works for black body which is ideal, but its approximation is also good for stars.
The luminosity of star L is given by J(surface area) = 4πR2J = 4πR2σT4 which has unit W.
For example, the luminosity of Sun = 4π(6.69*108)2(5.67*10-8)(5780)4 = 3.85 * 1026 W.
While comparing the luminosity with Sun, we can simplify the equation to the following form:

The Hertzsprung - Russell diagram shows the spectral classes, luminosity and surface temperature of the stars. Note that the left side of the diagram shows the higher surface temperature.

1)       Main sequence: They are the initial stage of a star, releasing heat through fission and fusion.
2)       Red giants and supergiants: When a star (with mass quite bigger than Sun) used up its fuels for nuclear reaction, it expands as a giants with larger size, higher luminosity but lower surface temperature. They are usually located at the right-top corner in the diagram.
3)       White dwarfs are the final fate of a smaller star. They are hot but dark and small.
Considering the life of a star: when its mass is smaller than the Sun, it becomes white dwarfs directly.
For bigger star they many change into red giants or supergiants, then becomes a neutron star or supernova. For stars with 3.2 times of mass of Sun, they finally become black holes. They are called black holes because their gravitational field produced is sufficiently high that even light (matter of highest speed) can't escape from it.
Consider the escape velocity c < (2GM/r)0.5, we know that the Schwarzschild radius (which the light can't escape beyond this radius) is equal to 2GM/c2. For a planet of mass equals to that of Earth, its Schwarzschild radius is only 9 mm.

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