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Thought Questions

AstronomyThought Questions

Thought Questions


Is the Sun an average star? Why or why not?


Suppose you want to determine the average educational level of people throughout the nation. Since it would be a great deal of work to survey every citizen, you decide to make your task easier by asking only the people on your campus. Will you get an accurate answer? Will your survey be distorted by a selection effect? Explain.


Why do most known visual binaries have relatively long periods and most spectroscopic binaries have relatively short periods?


Figure 18.11 shows the light curve of a hypothetical eclipsing binary star in which the light of one star is completely blocked by another. What would the light curve look like for a system in which the light of the smaller star is only partially blocked by the larger one? Assume the smaller star is the hotter one. Sketch the relative positions of the two stars that correspond to various portions of the light curve.


There are fewer eclipsing binaries than spectroscopic binaries. Explain why.


Within 50 light-years of the Sun, visual binaries outnumber eclipsing binaries. Why?


Which is easier to observe at large distances—a spectroscopic binary or a visual binary?


The eclipsing binary Algol drops from maximum to minimum brightness in about 4 hours, remains at minimum brightness for 20 minutes, and then takes another 4 hours to return to maximum brightness. Assume that we view this system exactly edge-on, so that one star crosses directly in front of the other. Is one star much larger than the other, or are they fairly similar in size? (Hint: Refer to the diagrams of eclipsing binary light curves.)


Review this spectral data for five stars.

Table A
Star Spectrum
1 G, main sequence
2 K, giant
3 K, main sequence
4 O, main sequence
5 M, main sequence

Which is the hottest? Coolest? Most luminous? Least luminous? In each case, give your reasoning.


Which changes by the largest factor along the main sequence from spectral types O to M—mass or luminosity?


Suppose you want to search for brown dwarfs using a space telescope. Will you design your telescope to detect light in the ultraviolet or the infrared part of the spectrum? Why?


An astronomer discovers a type-M star with a large luminosity. How is this possible? What kind of star is it?


Approximately 9000 stars are bright enough to be seen without a telescope. Are any of these white dwarfs? Use the information given in this chapter to explain your reasoning.


Use the data in Appendix J to plot an H–R diagram for the brightest stars. Use the data from Table 18.3 to show where the main sequence lies. Do 90% of the brightest stars lie on or near the main sequence? Explain why or why not.


Use the diagram you have drawn for Exercise 18.25 to answer the following questions: Which star is more massive—Sirius or Alpha Centauri? Rigel and Regulus have nearly the same spectral type. Which is larger? Rigel and Betelgeuse have nearly the same luminosity. Which is larger? Which is redder?


Use the data in Appendix I to plot an H–R diagram for this sample of nearby stars. How does this plot differ from the one for the brightest stars in Exercise 18.25? Why?


If a visual binary system were to have two equal-mass stars, how would they be located relative to the center of the mass of the system? What would you observe as you watched these stars as they orbited the center of mass, assuming very circular orbits, and assuming the orbit was face on to your view?


Two stars are in a visual binary star system that we see face on. One star is very massive whereas the other is much less massive. Assuming circular orbits, describe their relative orbits in terms of orbit size, period, and orbital velocity.


Describe the spectra for a spectroscopic binary for a system comprised of an F-type and L-type star. Assume that the system is too far away to be able to easily observe the L-type star.


Figure 18.7 shows the velocity of two stars in a spectroscopic binary system. Which star is the most massive? Explain your reasoning.


You go out stargazing one night, and someone asks you how far away the brightest stars we see in the sky without a telescope are. What would be a good, general response? (Use Appendix J for more information.)


If you were to compare three stars with the same surface temperature, with one star being a giant, another a supergiant, and the third a main-sequence star, how would their radii compare to one another?


Are supergiant stars also extremely massive? Explain the reasoning behind your answer.


Consider the following data on four stars:

Table B
Star Luminosity (in LSun) Type
1 100 B, main sequence
2 1/100 B, white dwarf
3 1/100 M, main sequence
4 100 M, giant

Which star would have the largest radius? Which star would have the smallest radius? Which star is the most common in our area of the Galaxy? Which star is the least common?

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