Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

Figuring for Yourself

AstronomyFiguring for Yourself

Figuring for Yourself


If two stars are in a binary system with a combined mass of 5.5 solar masses and an orbital period of 12 years, what is the average distance between the two stars?


It is possible that stars as much as 200 times the Sun’s mass or more exist. What is the luminosity of such a star based upon the mass-luminosity relation?


The lowest mass for a true star is 1/12 the mass of the Sun. What is the luminosity of such a star based upon the mass-luminosity relationship?


Spectral types are an indicator of temperature. For the first 10 stars in Appendix J, the list of the brightest stars in our skies, estimate their temperatures from their spectral types. Use information in the figures and/or tables in this chapter and describe how you made the estimates.


We can estimate the masses of most of the stars in Appendix J from the mass-luminosity relationship in Figure 18.9. However, remember this relationship works only for main sequence stars. Determine which of the first 10 stars in Appendix J are main sequence stars. Use one of the figures in this chapter. Make a table of stars’ masses.


In Diameters of Stars, the relative diameters of the two stars in the Sirius system were determined. Let’s use this value to explore other aspects of this system. This will be done through several steps, each in its own exercise. Assume the temperature of the Sun is 5800 K, and the temperature of Sirius A, the larger star of the binary, is
10,000 K. The luminosity of Sirius A can be found in Appendix J, and is given as about 23 times that of the Sun. Using the values provided, calculate the radius of Sirius A relative to that of the Sun.


Now calculate the radius of Sirius’ white dwarf companion, Sirius B, to the Sun.


How does this radius of Sirius B compare with that of Earth?


From the previous calculations and the results from Diameters of Stars, it is possible to calculate the density of Sirius B relative to the Sun. It is worth noting that the radius of the companion is very similar to that of Earth, whereas the mass is very similar to the Sun’s. How does the companion’s density compare to that of the Sun? Recall that density = mass/volume, and the volume of a sphere = (4/3)πR3. How does this density compare with that of water and other materials discussed in this text? Can you see why astronomers were so surprised and puzzled when they first determined the orbit of the companion to Sirius?


How much would you weigh if you were suddenly transported to the white dwarf Sirius B? You may use your own weight (or if don’t want to own up to what it is, assume you weigh 70 kg or 150 lb). In this case, assume that the companion to Sirius has a mass equal to that of the Sun and a radius equal to that of Earth. Remember Newton’s law of gravity:
and that your weight is proportional to the force that you feel. What kind of star should you travel to if you want to lose weight (and not gain it)?


The star Betelgeuse has a temperature of 3400 K and a luminosity of 13,200 LSun. Calculate the radius of Betelgeuse relative to the Sun.


Using the information provided in Table 18.1, what is the average stellar density in our part of the Galaxy? Use only the true stars (types O–M) and assume a spherical distribution with radius of 26 light-years.


Confirm that the angular diameter of the Sun of 1/2° corresponds to a linear diameter of 1.39 million km. Use the average distance of the Sun and Earth to derive the answer. (Hint: This can be solved using a trigonometric function.)


An eclipsing binary star system is observed with the following contact times for the main eclipse:

Table C
Contact Time Date
First contact 12:00 p.m. March 12
Second contact 4:00 p.m. March 13
Third contact 9:00 a.m. March 18
Fourth contact 1:00 p.m. March 19

The orbital velocity of the smaller star relative to the larger is 62,000 km/h. Determine the diameters for each star in the system.


If a 100 solar mass star were to have a luminosity of 107 times the Sun’s luminosity, how would such a star’s density compare when it is on the main sequence as an O-type star, and when it is a cool supergiant (M-type)? Use values of temperature from Figure 18.14 or Figure 18.15 and the relationship between luminosity, radius, and temperature as given in Exercise 18.47.


If Betelgeuse had a mass that was 25 times that of the Sun, how would its average density compare to that of the Sun? Use the definition of density=massvolumedensity=massvolume, where the volume is that of a sphere.

Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Jan 28, 2022 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.