Figuring for Yourself
In Appendix J, how much more luminous is the most luminous of the stars than the least luminous?
Verify that if two stars have a difference of five magnitudes, this corresponds to a factor of 100 in the ratio that 2.5 magnitudes corresponds to a factor of 10; and that 0.75 magnitudes corresponds to a factor of 2.
As seen from Earth, the Sun has an apparent magnitude of about −26.7. What is the apparent magnitude of the Sun as seen from Saturn, about 10 AU away? (Remember that one AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun and that the brightness decreases as the inverse square of the distance.) Would the Sun still be the brightest star in the sky?
An astronomer is investigating a faint star that has recently been discovered in very sensitive surveys of the sky. The star has a magnitude of 16. How much less bright is it than Antares, a star with magnitude roughly equal to 1?
The center of a faint but active galaxy has magnitude 26. How much less bright does it look than the very faintest star that our eyes can see, roughly magnitude 6?
You have enough information from this chapter to estimate the distance to Alpha Centauri, the second nearest star, which has an apparent magnitude of 0. Since it is a G2 star, like the Sun, assume it has the same luminosity as the Sun and the difference in magnitudes is a result only of the difference in distance. Estimate how far away Alpha Centauri is. Describe the necessary steps in words and then do the calculation. (As we will learn in the Celestial Distances chapter, this method—namely, assuming that stars with identical spectral types emit the same amount of energy—is actually used to estimate distances to stars.) If you assume the distance to the Sun is in AU, your answer will come out in AU.
Do the previous problem again, this time using the information that the Sun is 150,000,000 km away. You will get a very large number of km as your answer. To get a better feeling for how the distances compare, try calculating the time it takes light at a speed of 299,338 km/s to travel from the Sun to Earth and from Alpha Centauri to Earth. For Alpha Centauri, figure out how long the trip will take in years as well as in seconds.
Star A and Star B have different apparent brightnesses but identical luminosities. If Star A is 20 light-years away from Earth and Star B is 40 light-years away from Earth, which star appears brighter and by what factor?
Star A and Star B have different apparent brightnesses but identical luminosities. Star A is 10 light-years away from Earth and appears 36 times brighter than Star B. How far away is Star B?
The star Sirius A has an apparent magnitude of −1.5. Sirius A has a dim companion, Sirius B, which is 10,000 times less bright than Sirius A. What is the apparent magnitude of Sirius B? Can Sirius B be seen with the naked eye?
Our Sun, a type G star, has a surface temperature of 5800 K. We know, therefore, that it is cooler than a type O star and hotter than a type M star. Given what you learned about the temperature ranges of these types of stars, how many times hotter than our Sun is the hottest type O star? How many times cooler than our Sun is the coolest type M star?