Stars: They’re Out of This World!

Today’s lesson allowed us to explore stars! We learned about the classification of stars by their color (which corresponds to their temperature) and brightness. The classes range from huge, hot, blue O-class stars at one end to tiny, cool, red M-class stars at the other (the classes are ordered like this: O B A F G K M). We discussed why the properties, like brightness and color and size, of a star, and the fate of a star (becoming a red giant, white dwarf, supernova, neutron star or black hole) depend on its mass alone. Gravity pulls all the atoms in toward the core, while nuclear fusion reactions provide energy output as light and heat. The larger the star, the faster it burns. Stellar evolution describes the changes in size, temperature and color that each star undergoes.

Putting all this information together, we used the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram to examine the Jewel Box Cluster, which can be found near the Southern Cross constellation. The diagram shows the relationship between luminosity (brightness) and temperature class (color) of stars. We matched the Jewel Box Cluster stars in a picture to the colors and sizes on a star gauge. We recorded the data as a scatterplot in a Battleship-type grid, making our own Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams. We collected as many data points as time allowed – there are a lot of stars, even in one small cluster! Comparing our data to reference Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams, we were able to estimate the age of the Jewel Box Cluster. Astronomy takes patience and a keen eye!

¡Las Estrellas están “fuera de este Mundo”!

¡La lección del día de hoy nos permitió viajar por la estrellas! Aprendimos a clasificar las estrellas según su color (que corresponde a su temperatura) y brillo. Existen distintas clases de estrellas, que van desde la “clase O”, las cuales tienen la característica de ser enormes, calientes y azules; hasta las de “clase M”, las cuales son pequeñas, frías y rojas. Los tipos de estrellas se clasifican en el siguiente orden: O B A F G K M. También discutimos por qué el brillo, color, tamaño y el destino de una estrella dependen solamente de su masa. Las estrellas pueden convertirse en una gigante roja, una enana blanca, en una súper nova, en una estrella de neutrones o en un agujero negro.

Con toda esta información, utilizamos el diagrama de Hertzsprung-Russell para examinar el cúmulo estelar llamado “El Joyero” (Jewel Box Cluster en inglés o también conocido como Kappa Crucis), el cual se encuentra en la constelación de la Cruz del Sur. El diagrama de Hertzsprung-Russell muestra la relación entre la luminosidad (brillo) y la clase de temperatura (color) de las estrellas. Así, usando una foto de “El joyero” clasificamos las estrellas de este cúmulo, según su tamaño y color. Registramos la mayor cantidad de datos que pudimos; incluso en un grupo pequeño de estrellas como el que analizamos,¡ existen muchísimas estrellas! Luego comparamos nuestros datos con los representados en el diagrama de Hertzsprung-Russell y logramos estimar la edad de “El Joyero”. La Astronomía requiere tener mucha paciencia y muy buen ojo.

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Lauren Koppel

Lauren earned a Bachelor’s degree with a double major of Biology and Psychology from Clark University, and a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During her undergraduate years, she worked in a evolutionary neurobiology lab that studied the neural development of annelids (marine worms), with a focus on the sox family of genes. Lauren loves learning about how the world works (including everything from biology to chemistry to engineering), and is passionate about sharing that knowledge and enthusiasm with others. In the past, she has interned at the Museum of Science, where she educated learners of all ages through hands-on activities, games, and experiments. Other science education organizations with which Lauren has worked include The People’s Science, EurekaFest, and Eureka! of Girls Inc. of Worcester. Currently she lives in Boston, where devotes her free time to playing Quidditch, reading sci-fi novels, playing her ukulele, and enjoying all the culinary delights the city has to offer.

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