All About Astronomy

Posts Tagged ‘spectrum

I posted here some exercise problems that you can use to expand your knowledge in some chapter in basic astronomy :

1.)  The following statements are true or false:

  • (a) Of all the natural satellites in the Solar System only the Moon always turns the same face towards its primary.
  • (b) The mass of a planet in the Solar System can be determined only if it possesses one or more satellites.
  • (c) The planet with the largest apparent angular diameter when nearest the Earth is Venus.
  • (d) Pluto is the planet farthest from the Sun.
  • (e) A lunar eclipse may occur if the Moon is new.

2.) Calculate the mean density of Jupiter from the following data, assuming the orbits of Earth and Jupiter to be circular and coplanar:

  • Angular semi-diameter of Jupiter at opposition = 21”,8
  • Orbital radius of Jupiter = 5,2 A.U.
  • Mass of Jupiter/mass of Earth = 318
  • Mean density of Earth = 5,5 kg/m^-3
  • Sun’s horizontal parallax = 8”,8

3.) The two components of a binary star are approximately equal brightness. Their maximum separation is 1”,3 and the period is 50,2 years. The composite spectrum shows double lines with a maximum separation of 0,18 Angstrom at 5000 Angstrom. Assuming that the plane of the orbit contains the line of sight, calculate (i) the total mass of the system in the terms of the solar mass, (ii) the parallax of the system.

=================================================== (source : Astronomy, The Structure Of Universe).

Spectroscopy is a branch study in astronomy that focus on astronomical objects’ spectrum. From the spectrum, we can get informations, such as its temperatures, chemical compositions, movement speed, etc. That’s why spectroscopy can be considered as one of the fundamental field in astronomy. The spectrum of a star (or any other astronomical object) is acquired by using an instrument called spectrograph.

Fig 1. Spectrum

Fig 2. Spectrograph

One of the fundamental law in spectroscopy is Kirchoff Law (1859) which stated that:

  1. If a liquid or high pressure gas is ignited, they will emit energy in all wavelength which will produce a continuous spectrum.
  2. If a low temperature gas is ignited, it will only emit energy in certain range wavelength and produce spectrum which have a dark background and some bright lines. That kind of spectrum is called the emission spectrum. The wavelength of each bright lines are the precise indicator of what gas that produce them. So, the same gas will produce bright lines in certain exact wavelength.
  3. If a white light (which is a equal mixture of all colors) is passed through a cool low temperature gas, the gas will absorb energy at certain wavelength. The result spectrum will be continuous spectrum as the background with some dark lines in certain exact wavelength. The dark lines called absorption lines and that kind of spectrum is called the absorption spectrum. The wavelength of each dark lines are the precise indicator of what gas that produce them. So, the same gas will produce dark lines in certain exact wavelength.
Fig. 3 & 4. Continuous, emission and absorption spectrum (respectively)

Balmer Series
Switzerland scientist, Balmer, state a series equation to predict the wavelength of the absorption lines of hydrogen gas. The equation is widely known as Balmer series equation.

with : λ: the wavelength of the absorption lines [cm]
RH : Rydberg constant (= 109678 )

Fig. 5 : Emission spectrum of hydrogen that exhibit the first four emission lines in Balmer’s series

Planck’s Quantum Law

Planck postulates that light is radiated in the form of small discrete package called quantum. This theory is the foundation of the birth of a new field in physics called quantum physics.

Planck state that energy of each photon

Eo = h. f = hc//λ

h : Planck’s constant (h = 6,63 x 10^-34 J.s)
f : frequency of the photon [Hz]
c = speed of light (= 3.10^5 km/s)
λ = photon’s wavelength

Star’s spectrum
Star’s spectrum pattern is wide in variety. In 1863, an astronomer called Angelo Secchi classified star’s spectrum in 4 groups based on the similarities of its’ absorption lines.

Miss A. Maury from Harvard Observatory establish another way to classify star’s spectrum and it was revised by Miss Annie J. Cannon. Miss Cannon’s classification is the most widely adopted today.

Table 1 : Resume of the classification of star’s spectrum (to remember it use the donkey bridge : Oh Be A Fine Girl (or Guy), Kiss Me). (you can click the figure to get bigger and clearer version of the table above; .

Sub-classification of star’s spectrum
Star’s spectrum classification O, B, A, F, G, K, M is divided again to several sub-classes :
B0, B1, B2, B3, . . . . . . . . ., B9
A0, A1, A2, A3, . . . . . . . . ., A9
F0, F1, F2, F3, . . . . . . . . . ., F9

Bigger number represent lower temperature! The use of this sub-class is to narrow the specification’s range and become more precise.
(for further information, check this site.)

Fig 6. Star’s spectrum from different classes

M-K Classification (Star’s Luminosity Class)

Stars with same certain spectrum’s class is found to have different luminosities. In 1913, Adam dan Kohlscutter from Mount Wilson Observatory showed that the width of spectrum’s lines can be used to estimate star’s luminosity.
Based on these facts. in 1943 Morgan and Keenan from Yerkes Observatory divided stars to several luminosity class as shown in the table below.


Very bright super giant star

Class 1b

Less bright super giant star

Class II

Bright giant star

Class III

Giant star

Class IV

Sub-giant star

Class V

Main sequence star

Table 2. Morgan Keenan’s Luminosity Class

Morgan Keenan’s Luminosity Class (M-K class) is sketched in a Hertzprung-Russell diagram (H-R diagram) below.

Fig 7. Star with different luminosity class in a H-R diagram

Now, star’s classifications use the combination of spectrum class and luminosity class. For example : A G2 V star is a main sequence star that belongs to spectrum class G2

Star’s motion
Contrary to widely beliefs that star isn’t moving in space, star DO move in space. However, the movement of stars is hard to track. Beause of its immense distance, the movement of star only produce extremely small apparent movement in sky. We have to wait several years (or decades!) to track star’s movement in sky. Warning : the star’s movement that is discussed above is not the apparent daily motion of the star !

The star’s angular motion of a star is called proper motion (μ). Proper motion is usually measured in arc-second per year. Star with biggest proper motion is Barnard Star with μ = 10”,25 per year (In 180 years, this star will (only) move in extent as full Moon’s disk).

Fig 8. Star’s motion

Relationship between tangential velocity (Vt) and the proper motion (μ):

Vt = 4,74 μ d

with :

Vt = tangential speed of the star [km/s]

μ = proper motion of the star [“/ year]

d = star’s distance [parsec]

the above equation also can be stated as :

Vt = 4,74 μ/p

with p is the parallax of the star (in arc second).

The proper motion is measured by two quantities: the position angle and the proper motion itself. The first quantity indicates the direction of the proper motion on the celestial sphere (with 0 degrees meaning the motion due north, 90 degrees due east, and so on), and the second quantity gives the motion’s magnitude, in seconds of arc per year.

Fig 9. Star’s proper motion

The equations used to find the quantity of star’s proper motion are :

μα cos δ = μ sin θ
μδ = μ cos θ

with :
μα = proper motion in right ascension
μδ = proper motion in declination
μα and μδ is measurable –> μ and θ can be determined.

Beside proper motion, information about star’s motion can be obtained from its radial motion, which is the component of star’s motion that lies parallel to our line of sight.
Radial velocity (Vr) can be measured by its spectrum lines that shift (Doppler shift). For star which radial velocity (Vr) is significant compared to the speed of light:

For Vr being much smaller compared to the speed of light (c), the equation can be simplified to:

Δλ/λo = Vr/c

with :
Δλ = the difference between static wavelength (λo) and observed wavelength (λ). [Å or nm]
λo = static wavelength. [Å or nm]
Vr = radial velocity [km/s]
c = speed of light (300.000 km/s )

Fig 10. Red shift and blue shift

Now, we are able to calculate Vt and Vr as discussed above and we will be able to calculate star’s true motion (linear motion):

V2 = (Vt)2 + (Vr)2


  1. “Astrofisika I” lecture notes, by Dr. Djoni N. Dawanas
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Google images

For other pages that discuss this material, you are advised to visit these sites:
1. Spectroscopy

June 2017
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