Compare the following stages in the lives of a human being and a star: prenatal, birth, adolescence/adulthood, middle age, old age, and death. What does a star with the mass of our Sun do in each of these stages?
What is the first event that happens to a star with roughly the mass of our Sun that exhausts the hydrogen in its core and stops the generation of energy by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen to helium? Describe the sequence of events that the star undergoes.
Astronomers find that 90% of the stars observed in the sky are on the main sequence of an H–R diagram; why does this make sense? Why are there far fewer stars in the giant and supergiant region?
Describe the evolution of a star with a mass similar to that of the Sun, from the protostar stage to the time it first becomes a red giant. Give the description in words and then sketch the evolution on an H–R diagram.
Describe the evolution of a star with a mass similar to that of the Sun, from just after it first becomes a red giant to the time it exhausts the last type of fuel its core is capable of fusing.
A star is often described as “moving” on an H–R diagram; why is this description used and what is actually happening with the star?
On which edge of the main sequence band on an H–R diagram would the zero-age main sequence be?
How do stars typically “move” through the main sequence band on an H–R diagram? Why?
Certain stars, like Betelgeuse, have a lower surface temperature than the Sun and yet are more luminous. How do these stars produce so much more energy than the Sun?
Gravity always tries to collapse the mass of a star toward its center. What mechanism can oppose this gravitational collapse for a star? During what stages of a star’s life would there be a “balance” between them?
Why are star clusters so useful for astronomers who want to study the evolution of stars?
Would the Sun more likely have been a member of a globular cluster or open cluster in the past?
Suppose you were handed two H–R diagrams for two different clusters: diagram A has a majority of its stars plotted on the upper left part of the main sequence with the rest of the stars off the main sequence; and diagram B has a majority of its stars plotted on the lower right part of the main sequence with the rest of the stars off the main sequence. Which diagram would be for the older cluster? Why?
Referring to the H–R diagrams in Exercise 22.13, which diagram would more likely be the H–R diagram for an association?
The nuclear process for fusing helium into carbon is often called the “triple-alpha process.” Why is it called as such, and why must it occur at a much higher temperature than the nuclear process for fusing hydrogen into helium?
Pictures of various planetary nebulae show a variety of shapes, but astronomers believe a majority of planetary nebulae have the same basic shape. How can this paradox be explained?
Describe the two “recycling” mechanisms that are associated with stars (one during each star’s life and the other connecting generations of stars).
In which of these star groups would you mostly likely find the least heavy-element abundance for the stars within them: open clusters, globular clusters, or associations?
Explain how an H–R diagram of the stars in a cluster can be used to determine the age of the cluster.
Where did the carbon atoms in the trunk of a tree on your college campus come from originally? Where did the neon in the fabled “neon lights of Broadway” come from originally?
What is a planetary nebula? Will we have one around the Sun?