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Astronomy

Fourth Edition
by Christopher De Pree, Ph.D., and Alan Axelrod, Ph.D.
A member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Astronomy
Fourth Edition
Astronomy
Fourth Edition
by Christopher De Pree, Ph.D., and Alan Axelrod, Ph.D.
AmemberofPenguinGroup(USA)Inc.
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Contents at a Glance
Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light 1
1 NakedSky,NakedEye:FindingYourWay
intheDark 3
Findingyourwayaroundthenightskyrequiresnotele-
scope.
2 CollectingLight 13
Telescopes:whattheyseeandhowtheywork.
3 OvertheRainbow 29
Learnwhatelectromagneticradiationis,howittravels,
andwhatitdoes.
Part 2: Worlds Without End 43
4 SolarSystemFamilySnapshot 45
Takeatourthroughoursolarsystem.
5 Hard,RockyPlaces:TheInnerPlanets 57
GetthelowdownonMercury,Venus,Earth,andMars.
6 BloatedandGassy:TheOuterPlanets 71
FindoutallaboutUranus,Neptune,Jupiter,andSaturn.
7 TheMoon,Moons,andRings 85
DiscoverinformationabouttheEarthsmoonplusthe
moonsandringsofthejovianplanets,andthestoryof
Pluto.
8 ThisWorldandBeyond 105
Learnhowoursolarsystemwasbornanddeveloped
andgetaglimpseatplanetarysystemsbeyondourown.
Part 3: To the Stars 119
9 TheSun:OurStar 121
ExploretheSun.
10 Giants,Dwarfs,andtheStellarFamily 135
Observe,measure,andclassifythestars.
11 TheLifeandDeathofStars 153
Understandhowstarsevolveandhowtheyendtheir
lives.
12 BlackHoles:One-WayTicketstoNowhere 175
Explorestellarendgames:neutronstars,blackholes,and
thestrangeeffectstheyproduce.
Part 4: Way Out of This World 185
13 TheMilkyWay:OurVeryOwnGalaxy 187
TourourhomeGalaxy.
14 AGalaxyofGalaxies 201
Observe,measure,andclassifygalaxies.
Part 5: The Big Questions 217
15 StrangeGalaxies 219
Recognizeactiveversusnormalgalaxies:Seyfertandradio
galaxies,plusquasars.
16 CosmologyandCosmologies 229
Understandthescienceoftheuniverse:whatitis,howit
cametobe,andwhereitsgoingtogo.
17 TheBeginningandtheEndoftheUniverse 241
Istheuniverseinfiniteorfinite?Eternalormortal?Will
itendandifso,how?
18 WhereIsEverybody? 259
ConsidertheoddsonlifebeyondEarthandonothercivili-
zationsintheMilkyWay.
Appendixes
A StarWordsGlossary 279
B AstronomicalData 297
C SourcesforAstronomers 303
Index 309
Contents
Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light 1
1 Naked Sky, Naked Eye: Finding Your Way in the Dark 3
SunDays.........................................................................................4
FlatEarth,BigBowl......................................................................4
ManintheMoon.........................................................................5
LightsandWanderers...................................................................6
CelestialCoordinates.....................................................................6
MeasuringtheSky........................................................................8
DegreesofSeparation....................................................................9
CelestialPortraits.........................................................................10
2 Collecting Light 13
SlicesofLight...............................................................................14
MakingWaves..............................................................................15
AnatomyofaWave....................................................................15
NewWave..................................................................................16
BigNewsfromLittlePlaces........................................................16
BucketsofLight...........................................................................18
TheTelescopeIsBorn..................................................................19
Refraction.............................................................................20
orReflection?.........................................................................20
VariationsonanOpticalTheme..................................................22
SizeMatters..................................................................................23
ThePowertoGatherLight.........................................................24
ThePowertoResolveanImage...................................................24
Twinkle,Twinkle.........................................................................24
ComputerAssistance...................................................................25
FunHouseMirrors....................................................................25
AnObservatoryinSpace:TheHubbleSpaceTelescope.................26
ParticipatoryAstronomy..............................................................27
3 Over the Rainbow 29
FullSpectrum...............................................................................30
TheLongandtheShortofIt......................................................30
WhatMakesColor?....................................................................31

The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
HeavenlyScoop............................................................................32
AtmosphericCeilings.............................................................32
andSkylights.........................................................................33
DarkDoesntMeanYouCantSee..............................................33
AnatomyofaRadioTelescope......................................................33
BiggerIsBetter:TheGreenBankTelescope................................34
InterferenceCanBeaGoodThing..............................................35
WhatRadioAstronomersSee..................................................36
TheRestoftheSpectrum...........................................................36
NewInfraredandUltravioletObservations.................................36
ChandrasekharandtheX-RayRevolution...................................37
TheBlack-BodySpectrum...........................................................38
HomeontheRange....................................................................39
ReadAnyGoodSpectralLinesLately?........................................39
Part 2: Worlds Without End 43
4 Solar System Family Snapshot 45
NeighborhoodStroll ....................................................................46
SomePointsofInterest................................................................46
MoreorLessattheCenterofItAll.............................................47
PlanetaryReportCard................................................................47
TheInnerandOuterCircles.......................................................49
SnapshotoftheTerrestrialPlanets..............................................49
SnapshotoftheJovianPlanets....................................................49
ServingUptheLeftovers............................................................49
TheAsteroidBelt........................................................................50
LandingonErosTheLoveBoat...............................................50
RocksandHardPlaces................................................................51
Impact?TheEarth-CrossingAsteroids........................................51
AnatomyofaComet....................................................................52
ATaleofTwoTails.....................................................................53
Mommy,WhereDoCometsComeFrom?...............................53
CatchaFallingStar.....................................................................54
Meteors,Meteoroids,andMeteorites...........................................54
AprilShowers(ortheLyrids)......................................................55
Contents
i
5 Hard, Rocky Places: The Inner Planets 57
TheTerrestrialRoster.................................................................58
Mercury:TheMoonsTwin........................................................ 60
LashedtotheSun.......................................................................61
ICantBreathe!......................................................................61
ForecastforVenus:Hot,Overcast,andDense........................61
TheSunAlsoSets(intheEast)...................................................63
VenusianAtmosphere..................................................................63
TheEarth:JustRight..................................................................64
Mars:ThatLooksLikeNewMexico!.....................................64
MartianWeatherReport:ColdandThinSkies...........................65
TheMartianChronicles.............................................................65
WhyMarsIsRed.......................................................................66
Volcanoes,Craters,andaGrandCanyon.................................66
Water,WaterAnywhere?...............................................................67
AllBetsAreOff.........................................................................68
MartianMoons..........................................................................69
WheretoNext?............................................................................70
6 Bloated and Gassy: The Outer Planets 71
TheJovianLine-Up.....................................................................72
PlanetaryStats...........................................................................72
Latecomers:UranusandNeptune...............................................75
ViewsfromtheVoyagersandGalileo........................................78
TheViewfromCassini..............................................................79
Rotation:ANewTwist................................................................79
StormyWeather........................................................................... 80
TheGreatRedSpot....................................................................80
BandsofAtmosphere...................................................................81
LayersofGas..............................................................................81
SaturnineAtmosphere.................................................................82
TheAtmospheresofUranusandNeptune.................................82
InsidetheJovians.........................................................................83
TheJovianMagnetospheres........................................................83
ii
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
7 The Moon, Moons, and Rings 85
WhatIfWeHadNoMoon?.......................................................85
WhatGalileoSaw......................................................................86
WhatYouCanSee.....................................................................87
Cold,HardFactsAboutaCold,HardPlace................................88
ItsaMoon!................................................................................... 88
ADaughter?..............................................................................89
ASister?....................................................................................89
ACaptive?.................................................................................89
AFenderBender?.......................................................................90
GiveandTake............................................................................90
GreenCheese?..............................................................................91
ThisPlaceHasAbsolutelyNoAtmosphere...................................92
APockedFace.............................................................................92
AndWhatsInside?....................................................................93
LordoftheRings.........................................................................93
LookingfromEarth....................................................................94
UpCloseandPersonal:Voyager.....................................................95
MoreRingsontheFarPlanets....................................................95
OntheShouldersofGiants.........................................................96
FarawayMoons.............................................................................96
JupitersFourGalileanMoons....................................................97
Titan:SaturnsHighlyAtmosphericMoon..................................98
Triton,NeptunesLargeMoon..................................................100
ADozenMoreMoonsintheOuterSolarSystem......................100
PlutoFound................................................................................101
DwarfPlanet........................................................................102
ANewMoon........................................................................102
8 This World and Beyond 105
SolarSystemHistory.................................................................106
WhatDoWeReallyKnowAbouttheSolarSystem?.................106
FamiliarTerritory....................................................................106
FromContractiontoCondensation..........................................107
TheBirthofPlanets.................................................................107
AccretionandFragmentation....................................................108
Contents
iii
AnOldFamilyRecipe................................................................109
OutoftheFryingPan..............................................................109
IntotheFire.............................................................................110
AshestoAshes,DusttoDust....................................................111
OtherWorlds:TheNewsSoFar..............................................112
HowtoFindaPlanet...............................................................112
TakeaPicture..........................................................................112
WatchforWobbling..................................................................113
NotAstronomy,butAstrometry................................................113
DotheDopplerShift................................................................114
TakethePlanetaryTransit.......................................................114
OtherSolarSystems:TheNewsSoFar...................................114
DontBeSoSelf-Centered........................................................115
Puppis:AFamiliarSystem.......................................................115
WheretoNext?..........................................................................116
Part 3: To the Stars 119
9 The Sun: Our Star 121
TheSolarMystery.....................................................................122
ASpecialTheory......................................................................123
WhatsaStarMadeOf?..........................................................123
HowBigIsaStar?...................................................................124
FourTrillionTrillionLightBulbs.............................................124
TheAtmosphereIsLovely........................................................124
NotThatKindofChrome........................................................125
ALuminousCrown..................................................................125
SolarWind:HotandThin.......................................................126
IntotheSun................................................................................126
AGranulatedSurface...............................................................127
GalileoSeesSpots ....................................................................127
Sunspots:WhatAreThey?.......................................................127
SunspotCycles...........................................................................129
CoronalEruptions....................................................................129
TheCoreoftheSun..................................................................130
FissionHole..............................................................................130
ChainReactions........................................................................131
iv
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
YourStandardSolarModel......................................................131
TheSolarNeutrino:ProblemSolved.........................................132
10 Giants, Dwarfs, and the Stellar Family 135
SizingThemUp.........................................................................136
Radius,Luminosity,Temperature:AKeyRelationship..............137
TheParallaxPrinciple...............................................................137
HowFarAretheStars?............................................................139
NearestandFarthest................................................................140
StarsinMotion...........................................................................141
HowBrightIsBright?................................................................143
AbsolutelyandApparently.........................................................144
CreatingaScaleofMagnitude..................................................144
HowHotIsHot?.......................................................................145
StellarSorting............................................................................146
FromGiantstoDwarfs:SortingtheStarsbySize...................147
MakingtheMainSequence.......................................................147
OfftheBeatenTrack................................................................149
StellarMass.............................................................................149
TotheMax...............................................................................149
TheLifeExpectancyofaStar...................................................150
11 The Life and Death of Stars 153
AStarIsBorn.............................................................................154
OntheInterstellarMedian........................................................154
BlockingLight..........................................................................155
DustyIngredients.....................................................................157
FlippingOut.............................................................................157
StarLight,StarBright...............................................................158
BlockingLight..........................................................................159
AMatterofPerspective............................................................159
TheInterstellarMedium:OneBigFuelTank.........................161
TrippingtheSwitch..................................................................161
LettingItAllOut.....................................................................161
NotQuiteaStar......................................................................162
ACollapsedSouffl...................................................................163
Contents
v
IntheDeliveryRoom................................................................163
SeeYouontheMainSequence..................................................164
RunningonEmpty...................................................................164
TheMoreThingsChange ...................................................164
AGiantIsBorn.......................................................................165
AFlashinthePan....................................................................165
RedGiantDj-Vu..................................................................166
WereLosingIt.........................................................................166
WePrefertoBeCalledLittleStars........................................167
WhatsNova?...........................................................................168
TheLifeandDeathofaHigh-MassStar.................................168
FusionBeyondCarbon..............................................................168
LastStop:Iron.........................................................................169
OvertheEdge..........................................................................169
Supernova:SoLong,andThanksforAlltheFusion...............170
YouKnowtheType...................................................................170
SupernovaeasEnginesofCreation............................................170
Leftovers.....................................................................................171
AndYouThoughtYourRoommateWasDense..........................172
AretheStarsSpinning?............................................................172
AStellarLighthouse.................................................................173
MorbidObesity..........................................................................173
12 Black Holes: One-Way Tickets to Nowhere 175
UnderPressure...........................................................................176
TheLivinEnd.........................................................................176
NoEscape.................................................................................177
WhatsThatontheHorizon?...................................................178
Relativity.....................................................................................179
CurvedSpaceAhead.................................................................180
AlbertsDimple........................................................................180
IntheNeighborhood..................................................................180
HeresaThought(Experiment).................................................181
PostcardsfromtheEdge............................................................181
IntotheAbyss...........................................................................182
vi
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
TheLatestEvidence..................................................................182
WouldntX-RaysKillaSwan?.................................................182
BlackHolesinOurOwnBackyard...........................................182
NowThatsaBlackHole.........................................................183
Part 4: Way Out of This World 185
13 The Milky Way: Our Very Own Galay 187
WhereIstheCenterandWhereAreWe?...............................188
HomeSweetGalaxy...................................................................188
AThumbnailSketch.................................................................189
CompareandContrast..............................................................191
LetsTakeaPicture..................................................................191
MeasuringtheMilkyWay.........................................................191
MilkyWayPortrait....................................................................195
TheBirthoftheMilkyWay.....................................................195
DarkMatters..............................................................................196
IntheArmsoftheGalaxy.........................................................197
IsThereaMonsterintheCloset?............................................198
14 A Galay of Galaies 201
SortingOuttheGalaxies...........................................................202
Spirals:CatchaDensityWave..................................................203
Ellipticals:StellarFootballs.......................................................204
AreTheseonSale?TheyreMarkedIrregular.......................205
GalacticEmbrace.......................................................................206
HowtoWeighaGalaxy.........................................................207
ABigJob.................................................................................207
ItsDarkOutHere...............................................................208
MoreEvidence,Please...............................................................208
LetsGetOrganized...................................................................209
MeasuringVeryGreatDistances..............................................209
GammaRayBurstsasCandles.................................................210
TheLocalGroupandOtherGalaxyClusters............................210
Superclusters.............................................................................211
Contents
vii
WhereDoesItAllGo?.............................................................212
HubblesLawandHubblesConstant........................................212
EinsteinsBlunder.....................................................................213
TheBigPicture........................................................................214
Part 5: The Big Questions 217
15 Strange Galaies 219
ALongTimeAgoinaGalaxyFar,FarAway ....................220
Quasars:LooksCanBeDeceiving............................................220
QuasarsasGalacticBabies........................................................223
APieceoftheAction.................................................................223
TheViolentGalaxiesofSeyfert.................................................224
Cores,Jets,andLobes:ARadioGalaxyAnatomyLesson...........225
WhereItAllStarts....................................................................226
16 Cosmology and Cosmologies 229
TheWorkoftheCosmologist...................................................230
TwoNewClues..........................................................................231
RedshiftingAway......................................................................231
PigeonDroppingsandtheBigBang..........................................231
SameOldSameOld...................................................................233
BigBanginaNutshell...............................................................234
BigBangChronology................................................................235
ALongWayfromNowhere......................................................236
HowWastheUniverseMade?..................................................237
Mommy,WhereDoAtomsComeFrom?..................................237
StretchingtheWaves................................................................238
17 The Beginning and the End of the Universe 241
WhatRedshiftMeans................................................................242
HereAreYourChoices..............................................................242
AMatterofDensity.................................................................243
StalkingtheWilyNeutrino......................................................243
RunAway!RunAway!.............................................................244
viii
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
WhatDoesItAllMean?...........................................................244
TheUniverse:Closed,Open,orFlat?........................................245
SaddleUptheHorses:IntotheWide-OpenUniverse.................246
WeHaveSomeProblems..........................................................246
DowntoEarth.........................................................................247
BlowItUp...............................................................................247
LooksFlattoMe.......................................................................248
IThoughtWeWereDone........................................................249
TheUniverse:SmoothorCrunchy?.........................................249
SmallFluctuations...................................................................249
ZoomingIn..............................................................................250
TimeforSomeGeometry..........................................................251
FastenYourSeatbelts,WereAccelerating................................252
WhatTypeofSupernovaeWouldYouLike?..............................253
ThisCantBeRight..................................................................254
BlunderorBrilliance?...............................................................254
WhySoCritical?......................................................................255
ThisJustIn:TheWholeSky....................................................255
TheFuturesaSNAP............................................................256
PuttingItAllTogether..............................................................256
18 Where Is Everybody?
WhatDoYouMeanbyAlone?..............................................260
IfYouCallThisLiving........................................................260
DoYouLikeYourEarthServedRare?......................................261
TheChemistryofLife...............................................................262
LifeonMars...............................................................................264
Hello!IsAnybodyOutThere?...................................................266
AnEquationYoullLike............................................................266
ACarefulLookattheEquation................................................267
GalaxyProductivity.................................................................268
DoTheyAllHavePlanets?.......................................................268
WelcometotheHabitableZone.................................................268
PrimordialSoupduJour..........................................................269
YouSaidIntelligentLife?Where?.............................................269
TurnontheRadio....................................................................270
TheEndoftheWorldAsWeKnowIt.......................................270
259
Contents
i
WhatWeLookFor....................................................................272
EarlieronSurvivor..........................................................272
TheSETISearch......................................................................273
DownattheOldWaterHole....................................................273
DoWeReallyWanttoDoThis?...............................................274
ComingFullCircle....................................................................276
Appendies
A Star Words Glossary 279
B Astronomical Data 297
C Sources for Astronomers 303
Inde 309
Foreword
IwasgoingtobeamarinebiologistuntilmyparentsboughtmeatelescopewhenI
wasintheseventhgrade.Itookitoutsideandsetitupinmybackyardinsuburban
FortWorth,Texas.Theskywasclear,andthestarswereout.Onebrightstarcaught
myattention.Ipointedthesmalltelescopeatittofigureoutwhyitwassobrilliant.
Pointingthatlittletelescopetookabitofwork,butIfinallycenteredthebrightdot
inthefinderscopeandcarefullylookedthroughthemaineyepiece.WhatIsaw
changedmylifeforever.
Insteadofjustabrightspeckmadebrighterbythelight-gatheringpowerofthetele-
scope,whatappearedwasasmall,bright,crescent-shapedobject.Iwasfloored.Ihad
noideawhatIwaslookingat.ItlookedkindoflikethecrescentMoon,butwasmuch
smallerandhadnosurfacefeatures.Iraninsidetogettheguidebookthatcamewith
thetelescopeandwithinafewminuteshadfiguredoutthatIwaslookingatthe
planetVenus.Iraninsideagain,gotmyparentsandbrotherandsistertocomeout-
side,andshowedthemwhatIhaddiscovered.Iamnotsuretheywereasimpressed
asIwas.Atleastnoneofthembecameastronomers.Maybeyouhavetomakethe
personalefforttolearnabouttheskytotrulygetexcitedaboutastronomy.
Ifyouarereadingthisbook,thenyouareabouttomakethatpersonalstep.Inside
thepagesofTheCompleteIdiotsGuidetoAstronomy,FourthEdition,isalltheinforma-
tionyouneedtoslakeyourthirstforastronomicalknowledge.Fromthesolarsystem
tothemostdistantreachesofouruniverse,wediscusseverykindofobject,including
whatweknowaboutitandhowweknowwhatweknow,aswellastheimplications
ofthisknowledge.Wepresentcurrentresultsineasilyunderstoodwayswithspecial
additionalinformationsetofffromtherestofthematerial.Strikingimagesand
picturesfromtelescopesinspaceandonthegroundincludingawealthofcolor
imagesonCDforthefirsttimeinthiseditionshowyouwhatyoucannotseewith
youreye,thedetailedbeautyoftheheavens.
IfabooklikeTheCompleteIdiotsGuidetoAstronomy,FourthEdition,hadbeenaround
whenIfirstbegantostudyastronomy,Iprobablywouldhavedonebetterinmycol-
legeclasses.Thisisnojoke!Muchoftheinformationinthisbookiscutting-edge
stuff;evensomeresearchersmightnotknowsomeoftheinformationinthesepages.
Impressyourastronomerfriendsoryourregularfriendsprofessionalastronomers
areprettyrareatparties,or,ifyouareayoungerreader,yourscienceteacher,by
recitingsomeofthenewresultsyoufindinthisbook.Includingnewandcutting-
edgeresultsinabookfornoviceastronomersisagreatthingandauniquevaluein
thisvolume.
I work in Washington, D.C., advocating for increased spending for basic research,
especially in astronomy. I am an astronomical lobbyist. Scientific and technical issues
often intimidate members of Congress. Get me an expert, they often say, I wasnt
trained as a scientist. But they are quite happy to speak at length on social issues,
taxation, the economy, international relations, and so on, even if they werent trained
in those fields (most of them are lawyers).
This is a common feeling in our country. Science is somehow thought to be espe-
cially difficult or only understood through considerable effort by very smart people.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Nonscientists can easily understand
cutting-edge results, and everyone should know the basics. This book makes the
hard stuff easy to understand and the easy stuff easier to understand. Youll see.
Ive known one of the authors, Chris De Pree, since he was wearing professional
diapers. We shared an office while working on our doctorate degrees and made
home-brewed beer on the weekends (most of the time it tasted good). Aside from his
somewhat messy habits, poor taste in music, ability to whistle perfectly out of tune,
and small grunting noises he makes when concentrating, he was a good office mate.
He is a phenomenal author, and I have to say that being able to write this foreword
has been a great honor. Plus, I got a pre-publication copy of the book for free! Chriss
editors and co-author have made sure none of his messy habits remain in this volume
and that all his creativity and expertise are front-and-center. I am sure you will enjoy
reading its pages as much as I have.
Kevin B. Marvel, Ph.D.
Executive officer, American Astronomical Society
Introduction
Youarenotalone.
Relax.Thatstatementhasnothingtodowiththeexistenceofextraterrestriallife
thoughwedogetaroundtothat,too.Forthepresent,itappliesonlytoourmutual
interestinastronomy.Forwe(theauthors)andyou(thereader)havecometogether
becausewearethekindofpeoplewhooftenlookupattheskyandhaveallkindsof
questionsaboutit.Butthishabithardlybrandsusasunique.Astronomy,thescien-
tificstudyofmatterintheuniverse,isamongthemostancientofhumanstudies.
TheveryearliestscientificrecordswehavefromBabylon,fromEgypt,from
Chinaallconcernastronomy.
Recordedhistoryspansabout5,500years,andtherecordedhistoryofastronomy
startsatthebeginningofthatperiod.Humanshavebeenskywatchersforavery,
verylongtime.
Andyetastronomyisalsoamongthemostmodernofsciences.Althoughwepos-
sessthecollectedcelestialobservationsofsome50centuries,almostallthatweknow
abouttheuniversewelearnedinthetwentiethcentury,andwehavegatheredan
enormousamountofessentialknowledgesincethedevelopmentofradioastronomy
inthe1950s.Infact,thelifetimeofanyreaderofthisbook,nomatterhowyoung,is
filledwithastronomicaldiscoveriesthatmeritbeingcalledmilestones.Indeed,inthe
threeyearsthatseparatethisfourtheditionfromthethird,astronomershavecome
tobreathtakingnewconclusionsaboutthenatureandfateoftheuniverse.(Ifyou
justcantwait,jumptoChapter17.)Wedcallthesenewresultsearthshakingbut,
becauseitstheuniverseweretalkingabout,thatwouldbeaseriousunderstatement.
Astronomyisanancientscienceonthecuttingedge.Greatdiscoveriesweremade
centuriesago;greatdiscoveriesarebeingmadetoday.Andgreatleapsforwardin
astronomicalknowledgehaveoftenfollowedleapsforwardintechnology:theinven-
tionofthetelescope,theinventionofthecomputer,andthedevelopmentoffast,
cheapcomputers.Somuchisbeinglearnedeverydaythatwevebeenaskedtobring
outarevisededitionofthisbook,thefourthineightyears.Andevenmorerecent
discoverieswillbeonthetablebythetimeyoureadthislatestedition.
Yetyoudonthavetobeagovernmentoruniversityscientistwithyoureagerfingers
onmillionsofdollarsworthofequipmenttomakethosediscoveries.Forifastron-
omyisbothancientandadvanced,itisalsouniversallyaccessible:upforgrabs.
Theskybelongstoanyonewitheyes,amind,imagination,asparkofcuriosity,and
thecapacityforwonder.Ifyoualsohaveafewdollarstospend,agoodpairofbin-
ocularsoratelescopemakesmoreoftheskyavailabletoyou.(Evenifyoudontwant
iv
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
tospendthemoney,chancesareyourlocalastronomyclubwillletyouusemembers
equipmentifyoucomeandjointhemforacoldnightunderthestars.)Andifyou
haveacomputer,wehaveaCD.Oneofthemostexcitingfeaturesofthefourth
editionofTheCompleteIdiotsGuidetoAstronomyisacollectionof200ofthemost
spectacularastronomicalimagesevermade.IfasitshouldtheCDjustwhets
yourappetiteformore,withanInternetconnectionyouyes,youhaveaccessto
muchoftheinformationthatthegovernmentsinvestmentinpeopleandequipment
produces:theverylatestimagesfromtheworldsgreattelescopesandfromawealth
ofsatelliteprobes,includingtheHubbleSpaceTelescopeandtheMarsGlobal
Surveyor.Thisinformationisallfreeforthedownloading.(SeeAppendixCfor
somestartingpointsinyouronlinesearches.)
Wearenotalone.Noscienceismoreinclusivethanastronomy.
Norisastronomystrictlyaspectatorsport.Youdonthavetopeekthroughaholein
thefenceandwatchthegame.Yourewelcometosteprightuptotheplate.Manynew
cometsarediscoveredbyastronomybuffsandbackyardskywatchersaswellasPh.D.
scientistsindomedobservatories.Mostmeteorobservationsaretheworkofamateurs.
Youcanevengetinonsuchseeminglyesotericfieldsasradioastronomyandthe
searchforextraterrestrialintelligence.
Wedenjoynothingmorethantohelpyougetstartedonyourjourneyintoastronomy.
Heresamap.
How This Book Is Organized
Part1,Eyes,Telescopes,andLight,orientsyouintheeveningsky,andintro-
ducesyoutothebasicingredientsofastronomicalobservation,telescopes,andthe
photonsoflightthattheycatch.
Part2,WorldsWithoutEnd,beginswithavisittoournearestneighbor,the
Moon,andthenventuresoutintotherestofthesolarsystemforacloselookatthe
planetsandtheirmoons,aswellasasteroidsandcomets.
Part3,TotheStars,beginswithourownSun,takingitapartandshowinghow
itworks.FromourSun,weventurebeyondthesolarsystemtotheotherstarsand
learnhowtheyaremeaningfullyobserved.Intheend,weexploretheverystrange
realmofneutronstarsandblackholes.
Part4,WayOutofThisWorld,pullsbackfromindividualstarstotakeinentire
galaxies,beginningwithourownMilkyWay.Welearnhowastronomersobserve,
measure,classify,andstudygalaxiesandhowthosegalaxiesareallrushingaway
Introduction
v
fromusatincrediblespeed.Thesectionendswiththeso-calledactivegalaxies,
whichemitunimaginablyhugequantitiesofenergyandcantellusmuchaboutthe
originandfateoftheuniverse.
Part5,TheBigQuestions,askshowtheuniversewasborn(andoffersthe
BigBangtheorybywayofananswer),andthenif(andhow)theuniversewillend.
Finally,weexplorethepossibilitiesofextraterrestriallifeandevenextraterrestrial
civilizations.
Atthebackofthebook,youllfindthreeappendixesthatdefinekeyterms,list
upcomingeclipses,providestarcharts,andsuggestsourcesofadditionalinformation,
includinggreatastronomywebsites.
Etras
Inadditiontothemaintext,illustrations,andtheCDinthisTheCompleteIdiots
GuidetoAstronomy,FourthEdition,youllalsofindothertypesofusefulinformation,
includingdefinitionsofkeyterms,importantstatisticsandscientificprinciples,amaz-
ingfacts,andspecialsubjectsofinteresttoskywatchers.Lookforthesefeatures:
AstronomersNotebook
Thisfeaturehighlightsimportant
statistics,scientificlawsand
principles,measurements,and
mathematicalformulas.
AstroByte
Hereyoullfindstartlingastro-
nomicalfactsandamazing
trivia.Strangebuttrue!
CloseEncounter
Intheseboxes,youllfind
Theseboxesdefinesomekey
discussionselaboratingon
termsusedinastronomy.
importantevents,projects,issues,
orpersonsinastronomy.
Acknowledgments
Iwouldliketoacknowledgeafewpeoplewhohavemadebecomingandbeingan
astronomermuchmorefun.Dr.JonKolenataughtmeasanundergraduatephysics
majoratDukeUniversitywhenIwasasenior.Ihadneverconsideredacareerin
astronomybeforetakinghischallenging,engagingclass.Dr.WayneChristiansenis
aprofessorofastronomyattheUniversityofNorthCarolinaatChapelHill.Hesent
vi
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
measagreenfirst-yeargraduatestudenttoasummerinstituteattheNationalRadio
AstronomyObservatory(NRAO)inSocorro,NewMexico,in1991,andIthank
himforthat.AndmyofficemateasagraduatestudentinSocorrowasmyfriendand
colleagueKevinMarvel,nowwiththeAmericanAstronomicalSociety.Hishumor,
enthusiasm,friendship,andintelligencehavebeenaninspiration.
IalsowouldliketoacknowledgetheemployeesoftheNationalRadioAstronomy
Observatory.FrommydaysinSocorroasagraduatestudenttomyreturntripsasa
professortoSocorro,NewMexico;GreenBank,WestVirginia;andCharlottesville,
Virginia;thisdedicatedgroupofastronomers,engineers,staff,andsupportpersonnel
havebeenlikeanextendedfamily.
Finally,thankstoAlanformakingadreamofmine,writingscienceforapopular
audience,cometrue.
ChrisDePree
MythankstoChris,agreatteacher,brilliantastronomer,andwonderfulco-author,
andtomyfamily,AnitaandIan,forhurtlingthroughspacewithme.
AlanAxelrod
Trademarks
Alltermsmentionedinthisbookthatareknowntobeoraresuspectedofbeing
trademarksorservicemarkshavebeenappropriatelycapitalized.AlphaBooksand
PenguinGroup(USA)Inc.cannotattesttotheaccuracyofthisinformation.Useof
aterminthisbookshouldnotberegardedasaffectingthevalidityofanytrademark
orservicemark.
1
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Part
Eyes, Te escopes,
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Yousure yhave ookedupattheskybefore.Humansa wayshave.Maybe
youcanf ndtheB gD pperandevenOr onorat easth sBe tbut,
forthemostpart,a thestars ookprettymuchthesametoyou,andyou
cantte astarfromap anet.
Thef rstchapterofth sparttakesa ookattheconste at ons thesecond
ntroducesthete escopeandsomebas deasabout ghtasawave and
theth rdmovesthroughthee ectromagnet cspectrumandbeyondv
ght.
1
:
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Chapter
Naked Sky, Naked Eye
nd ng Your Way n the Dark
n Th s Chapter
Observat onsw ththenakedeye
Thece est sphere
Or ent ngyourse famongthestars
Ce est coord natesanda taz muthcoord nates
Ident fy ngconste at ons
Fromthet meourear estancestorsf rst ookedup ntotheheavensand
tr edtof gureoutwhat ta meant,then ghtskyhasa waysbeenour
compan on.Inourwor dtoday,thestarsweoftenstudyarethehuman
var ety,aswewonderhowmuchtheymade nthe astmov eandwho
sst thwhom.But ongago,humans ookedtotheheavensforthe
stor es.They ookedforpatternsthat ustratedmythsand egends,andas
they ooked,theyseemedtoseethepatternstheysought.
Th schapterte syoua theysaw.
4 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
Sun Days
Wevebecomejadedandabitspoiledbytheincreasinglyelaborateandcostly
specialeffectsproducersincorporateintotodayssci-fiflicks,butnoneofusthese
daysisnearlyasspoiledastheskymostofuslookat.
Imagineyourselfasoneofyourancestors,living10,000yearsago.Yourrealitycon-
sistsofafewtools,somehouseholdutensils,perhapsbuildings(thecity-stateswere
beginningtoappearalongtheTigrisRiver),and,ofcourse,allthatnaturehasto
offer:trees,hills,plants,rivers,streamsandthesky.
Theskyisthebiggest,greatest,mostspectacularobjectyouknow.Duringtheday,
abrightlyglowingdiskfromwhichalllightandwarmthemanatecrossesthesky.
Announcedinthepredawnhoursbyapinkglowontheeasternhorizon,thegreat
diskrises,thenarcsacrossthesky,deepeningtowardtwilightintoaruddyhuebefore
slippingbelowthehorizontothewest.Lackingelectricpower,yourworkinghours
arelargelydictatedbythepresenceoftheSunslight.
Flat Earth, Big Bowl
AstheSunsglowfadesandyoureyesbecomeaccustomedtothenight,thesky
graduallyfillswithstars.Thousandsofthemshimmerblue,silverywhite,somegold,
somereddish,seeminglysetintoagreatdarkbowl,thecelestialsphere,overarching
theflatEarthonwhichyoustand.
Butwait.Didwesaytherewerethousandsofstarsinthenightsky?
Maybethatnumberhasbroughtyoubackthroughastarlit10,000yearsandintothe
incandescentlamplightofyourlivingroomorwhereveryouarereadingthisasyou
think:ButIveneverseenthousandsofstars!
Aswesaidearlier,frommanylocations,ourskyisspoiled.Thesadfactisthat,nowa-
days,fewerandfewerofuscanseeanythinglikethe6,000orsostarsthatshouldbe
visibletothenakedeyeonaclearevening.Tenthousandyearsago,thenightsky
wasntlitupwiththelightpollutionofsomanysourcesofartificialilluminationthat
wehavetoday.Unlessyoutravelfarfromcitylights,inourmodernworld,youmight
gothroughyourentirelifewithoutreallyseeingthenightsky.
5 Chapter 1: Naked Sky, Naked Eye: Finding Your Way in theDark
Man in the Moon
Eveninoursmog-andlight-pollutedskies,however,theMoonshinesbrightand
clear.UnliketheSun,whichappearsuniform,thesurfaceoftheMoonhasdetailswe
cansee,evenwithoutatelescope.Evennow,almostfourdecadesafterhumanbeings
walked,skipped,drove,andevenhitagolfballacrossthelunarsurface,theMoon
holdswonder.Bathedinitssilverglow,wemightfeelaconnectionwithourancestors
of10millenniaago.Likethem,weseeinthelunarblotchesthefaceoftheManin
theMoon.
IfthefaceoftheMoonpresentedapuzzletoourancestors,thewaytheMoonappar-
entlychangedshapesurelyalsofascinatedthem.Onenight,theMoonmightbe
invisible(anewmoon);then,nightbynight,itwouldappeartogrow(wax),becom-
ingacrescent;andoneweeklater,itwouldbeafirstquartermoon(whichisahalf
mooninshape).
Throughthefollowingweek,theMoonwouldcontinuetowax,enteringitsgibbous
phase,inwhichmorethanhalfofthelunard
afterthenewmoon,allofthelunardisk
wouldbevisibleasthefullmoonwouldrise
majesticallyatsunset.Then,throughthe
nexttwoweeks,theMoonwouldappearto
shrink(wane)nightafternight,passingback
throughthewaninggibbous,thirdquarter,
andwaningcrescentphases,untilitbecame
againtheall-but-invisiblenewmoon.
iskwasseen.Finally,abouttwoweeks
Gibbous isawordfromMiddle
Englishthatmeansbulgingan
aptdescriptionoftheMoons
shapebetweenitsquarterphase
andfullphase.
Thecycletakesalittlemorethan29daysamonth,giveortakeadayandit
shouldbenosurprisethatthewordmonthisderivedfromthewordmoon.In
fact,justasourancestorslearnedtotellthetimeofdayfromthepositionoftheSun,
sotheymeasuredwhatwecallweeksandmonthsbythelunarphases.Thelunar
calendarisofparticularimportanceinmanyworldreligions,includingJudaismand
Islam.Forthosewhocamebeforeus,theskywasmorethansomethingtomarvel
at.Theancientsbecameremarkablyadeptatusingtheheavensasagreatclockand
calendar.Naturewasnotkind,though,ingivingusunitsoftime.Theday,month,
andyeararenotevenlydivisibleintooneanother,andthereare365.25days(setby
theEarthsrotation)inayear(setbytheEarthsorbitaroundtheSun),afactthathas
causedmuchconsternationtocalendarmakersoverthecenturies.
6 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
il is
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Al i join
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Ne Armstrongtookth
ctureoffe owastronaut
Buzz dr n,aboutto
monthesurfaceofthe
Moon,Ju y20,1969.
Imagefromarttoday.com
Lights and Wanderers
Earlyculturesnoticedthatthebowlabovethemrotatedfromeasttowest.They
concludedthatwhattheysawrotatingwasthecelestialspherewhichcontained
thestarsandnottheindividualstars.Allthestars,theynoticed,movedtogether;
theirpositionsrelativetooneanotherremainedunchanged.(Thatthestarsmove
becauseofEarthsrotationwasanideathatwouldbethousandsofyearsinthe
making.)
Thecoordinatedmovementofthestarswasindramaticcontrasttosomethingelse
theancientskywatchersnoticed.Althoughthevastmajorityofstarswereclearly
fixedintherotatingcelestialsphere,afewtheancientscountedfiveseemedto
meanderindependently,yetregularly,acrossthecelestialsphere.TheGreekscalled
thesefiveobjectsplanetes,wanderers,and,likenonconformistsinanotherwise
orderlysociety,thewandererswouldeventuallycausetrouble.
Celestial Coordinates
Later,youllfindoutwhywenolongerbelievethatthecelestialsphererepresents
reality;however,thenotionofsuchafixedstructureholdingthestarsisstillauseful
modelformodernastronomers.Ithelpsuscommunicatewithothersabouttheposi-
tionsoftheobjectsinthesky.Wecanorientourgazeintotheheavensbythinking
7 Chapter 1: Naked Sky, Naked Eye: Finding Your Way in theDark
ofthepointofskydirectlyaboveEarthsNorthPoleasthenorthcelestialpoleand
thepointbelowtheSouthPoleasthesouthcelestialpole.JustasEarthsequatorlies
midwaybetweentheNorthandSouthPoles,sothecelestialequatorliesequidistant
betweenthenorthandsouthcelestialpoles.Thinkofitthisway:ifyouwerestand-
ingattheNorthPole,thenthenorthcelestialpolewouldbedirectlyoverhead.Ifyou
werestandingattheequator,thenorthandsouthcelestialpoleswouldbeonopposite
horizons.AndifyouwerestandingattheSouthPole,thesouthcelestialpolewould
bedirectlyoverhead.
Astronomershaveextendedtothecelestialspherethesamesystemoflatitudeand
longitudethatdescribesearthlycoordinates.Thelinesoflatitude,asyoumightrecall
fromgeography,runparallelwiththeequatorandmeasureangulardistancenorthor
southoftheequator.Onthecelestialsphere,declinationcorrespondstolatitudeand
measurestheangulardistanceaboveorbelowthecelestialequator.Celestialdecli-
nationisexpressedindegrees+(above)or(below)thecelestialequator.Thestar
namedBetelgeuse,forexample,isatadeclinationof+7degrees,24minutes
(1minute=
1
60 degree).
InthelatitudesoftheUnitedStates,starsdirectlyoverheadhavedeclinationsin
the+30to+40degreerange.Onaglobe,thelinesoflongituderunverticallyfrom
poletopole.Theymarkangulardistancemeasuredeastandwestoftheso-called
primemeridian(thatis,0degrees),whichbyconventionandhistoryhasbeenfixedat
GreenwichObservatoryinGreenwich,England.Onthecelestialsphere,rightascen-
sion(R.A.)correspondstolongitude.Althoughdeclinationismeasuredasanangle
(degrees,minutes,andseconds),rightascensionismeasuredinhours,minutes,and
seconds,increasingfromwesttoeast,startingat0.Thiszeropointistakentobethe
positionoftheSunintheskyonthefirstdayofspring(thevernalequinox).Because
Earthrotatesonceapproximatelyevery24hours,thesameobjectswillreturntotheir
positionsintheskyapproximately24hourslater.After24hours,Earthhasrotated
through360degrees,sothateachhourofR.A.correspondsto15degreesonthesky.
Ifthecelestialpolesandthecelestialequatorareprojectionsofearthlycoordinates
(thepolesandtheequator),whynotsimplyimaginerightascensionasprojectionsof
linesoflongitude?
Thereisagoodreasonwhywedont.Thinkofitthisway:thestarsintheskyabove
yourheadinwinteraredifferentfromthoseinsummer.Forexample,inthewinter
weseetheconstellationOrion,butinthesummer,Orionisgone,hiddenintheglare
ofamuchcloserstar,theSun.Now,althoughthestarsaboveyouarechangingdaily,
yourlongitude(inChicago,forexample)isnotchanging.Sothecoordinatesofthe
8 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
starscannotbefixedtothecoordinatesonthesurfaceofEarth.Aswellseelater,
thisdifferencecomesfromthefactthatinadditiontospinningonitsaxis,Earthis
alsoorbitingtheSun.
Measuring the Sky
Thetruevalueofthecelestialcoordinatesystemisthatitgivestheabsolutecoordi-
natesofanobjectsothattwoobserversanywhereonEarthcandirecttheirgazeto
theexactsamestar.Whenyouwanttomeetafriendinthebigcity,youdonttellher
thatyoullgettogethersomewheredowntown.Yougiveprecisecoordinates:Lets
meetatthecornerofStateStreetandMadisonStreet.Similarly,therightascension
anddeclinationshowspreciselywhereintheskytolook.
Thecelestialcoordinatesystemcanbeconfusingforthebeginningskywatcher.
However,anunderstandingofthissystemofcoordinatescanhelpthenoviceobserver
locatetheNorthStarandknowapproximatelywheretolookforplanets.
Asimplerwaytomeasurethelocationofanobjectintheskyasobservedfromyour
locationataparticulartimeinvolvestwoangles,azimuthandaltitude.Youcanuse
anglestodivideupthehorizonbythinkingofyourselfasstandingatthecenterofa
circlethatsflatonthegroundaroundyou.Acirclecanbedividedinto360degrees
(andadegreecanbesubdividedinto60minutes,andaminuteslicedinto60seconds).
Whenyoudecidewhichdirectionis0degrees
(theconventionisduenorth),youcanmeasure,in
degrees,preciselyhowfaranobjectisfromthat
Altitude (angulardistance
point.Nowafteryouhavetakencareofyourhori-
abovethehorizon)andazimuth
(compassdirectionexpressed
zontaldirection,youcanfixyourverticalpointof
inangularmeasureeastofdue
viewbyimagininganuprighthalfcircleextending
north)arealtazimuth coordinates.
fromhorizontohorizon.Dividethiscircleinto180
degrees,withthe90-degreepointdirectlyoverhead.
Astronomerscallthisoverheadpointthezenith.
Altitudeandazimutharethecoordinatesthat,together,makeupthealtazimuth
coordinatesystem,and,formostpeople,theyarequiteabiteasiertousethancelestial
coordinatesofdeclinationandrightascension.Anobjectsaltitudeisitsangulardis-
tanceabovethehorizon,anditscompassdirection,calledazimuth,ismeasuredin
degreesincreasingclockwisefromduenorth.Thuseastisat90degrees,southat
180degrees,andwestat270degrees.
9 Chapter 1: Naked Sky, Naked Eye: Finding Your Way in theDark
Altazimuthcoordinates,whileperhapsmoreintuitivethanthecelestialcoordinate
system,dohaveaseriousshortcoming.Theyarevalidonlyforyourlocationon
Earthataparticulartimeofdayornight.Incontrast,thecelestialcoordinatesystem
isuniversalbecauseitmoveswiththestarsinthesky.Forthisreason,starcatalogs
listtherightascensionanddeclinationofobjects,nottheiraltitudeandazimuth
coordinates,whicharealwayschanging!
Degrees of Separation
InTheKidsintheHall,onecharacterwouldlookatpeoplefarawaythroughone
eyeandpretendtocrushtheirheadsbetweenhisthumbandforefinger.Ifyoutry
thistrickyourself,youllnoticethatpeoplehavetobeatleastfiveorsofeetaway
fromyoufortheirheadstobesmallenoughtocrush.Thoseheadsdontactuallyget
smaller,ofcourse,justtheangularsizeoftheheadsdoes.Asthingsgetmoredistant,
theyappearsmallerthatis,theirangularsizeisreduced.
Thecelestialsphereisanimaginaryconstruct,andweoftendontknowtheexactdis-
tancesbetweenusandtheobjectswesee.Fortunately,tolocateobjectsinthesky,we
dontneedtoknowtheirdistancesfromus.Wegetthatinformationinotherways,
whichwewilldiscusslater.Now,fromourperspectiveonEarth,twostarsmight
appeartobeseparatedbythewidthofafingerheldatarmslengthwhentheyare
actuallymanytrillionsofmilesdistantfromeachother.Youcouldtrytofixthemea-
surementbetweentwostarswitharuler,butwherewouldyouholdthemeasuring
stick?Astronomersuseconceptscalledangularsizeandangularseparationtodiscuss
theapparentsizeintheskyorapparentdistancebetweentwoobjectsinthesky.For
example,iftwoobjectswereonoppositehorizons,theywouldbe180degreesapart.
Ifonewereonthehorizonandtheotherdirectlyoverhead,theywouldbe90degrees
apart.Yougetthepicture.Also,adegreeismadeupofevensmallerincrements.One
degreeismadeupof60minutes(orarcminutes),andaminuteisdividedinto60sec-
onds(arcseconds).
Letsestablishaquickanddirtyscale.Thefullmoonhasanangularsizeofabout
halfadegreeor30arcminutesor1,800arcseconds(whichareallequivalent).Now
thatyouknowthefullmoonisabouthalfadegreeacross,youcanuseitsdiameterto
gaugeotherangularsizes.
Youcanuseyourhandtoestimateanglesgreaterthanahalf-degree.Lookatthesky.
Nowextendyourarminfrontofyouwithyourwristbentsothatthebackofyour
handisfacingyou.Spreadyourthumb,indexfinger,andpinkyfully,andfold
10 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
yourmiddlefingerandringfingerdownsoyoucantseethem.Voilyouhavea
handymeasuringdevice!Thedistancefromthetipofyourthumbtothetipofyour
indexfingerisabout20degrees(dependingonthelengthofyourfingers!).Fromthe
tipofyourindexfingertothetipofyourpinkyis15degrees;andthegapbetween
thebaseofyourindexfingerandthebaseofyourpinkyisabout10degrees.
Celestial Portraits
Younowhavesomeroughtoolsformeasuringseparationsandsizesinthesky,but
youstillneedawaytoanchoryourmeasurements,which,remember,arerelative
towhereyouhappentobestandingonEarth.Weneedthecelestialequivalentof
landmarks.
Weknowhumanbrainsarenaturalpatternmakersaswehaveallseenelephants
andlionsmasqueradingascloudsinthesky.Presentthemindwiththespectacle
ofthousandsofrandomlyplacedpointsoflightagainstasablesky,andsoonitwill
startseeingsomeprettyincrediblepictures.Fortunatelyforus,ourancestorshad
vividimaginations,andsotheconstellationsarbitraryformationsofstarsthatare
perceivedasfiguresordesignsbecamesuchpictures,manyofthemnamedafter
mythologicalheroes,whoseimages(inthewesternworld)theGreekscreatedbycon-
nectingthedots.
AstronomersNotebook
Ofthe88constellations,28areinthenorthernskyand48areinthesouthernsky.The
remainingdozenliealongtheeclipticthecirclethatdescribesthepaththattheSun
takesinthecourseofayearagainstthebackgroundstars.Thisapparentmotionisactu-
allyduetoEarthmovingaroundtheSun.These12constellationsarethezodiac,familiar
tomanyasthebasisofthetraditionofastrology.Allbutthesouthernmost 18ofthe88
constellationsareatleastsometimesvisiblefrompartoftheUnitedStates.
BythesecondcenturyC.E., Ptolemylisted48constellationsinhisAlmagest,acom-
pendiumofastronomicalknowledge.Centurieslater,duringthelateRenaissance,
moreconstellationswereadded,andatotalof88areinternationallyrecognized
today.Wereallycannotsaytheconstellationswerediscovered,becausetheydont
existexceptinthemindsofthosewhoseethem.Groupingstarsintoconstellationsis
anarbitraryactoftheimaginationandtopresent-dayastronomersismerelyacon-
venience.Inmuchthesamewaythatstatesaredividedintocounties,thenightskyis
Chapter 1: Naked Sky, Naked Eye: Finding Your Way in theDark 11
dividedintoconstellations.Thestarsthusgroupedgenerallyhavenophysicalrela-
tionshiptooneanother.Nordotheynecessarilyevenlieatthesamedistancefrom
Earth;somearemuchfartherfromusthanothers.So,remember,wesimplyimagine,
forthesakeofconvenience,thattheyareembeddedinthecelestialsphere.
Iftheconstellationsareoutmodedfigmentsoftheimagination,whybotherwiththem?
Theansweristhattheyareconvenient(nottomentionpoetic)celestiallandmarks.
TakearightatHanksgasstation,youmighttellafriend.Whatssospecialabout
thatparticulargasstation?Nothing
untilyouendowitwithsignificanceasa
AstroByte
landmark.Norwasthereanythingspecial
aboutagroupofphysicallyunrelated
Anabundanceofstarsretain
starsuntilsomeoneendowedthemwith
theirArabicnames,atestament
significance.Nowtheseconstellationscan
tothemanycontributionsof
Arabianastronomers:Aldebaran,
helpusfindourwayinthesky,andtothe
casualnightobserver,theycanbemore
Mizar,Alcor,andBetelgeuseare
afewofthesestars.
usefulthaneitherthecelestialoraltazi-
muthcoordinatesystem.
Enjoytheconstellations.Thepleasuresofgettingtoknowthemcanoccupyalife-
time,andpointingthemouttoyourfriendsandfamilycanbefun.Nevertheless,
recognizingthemastheproductsofhumanfantasyandnotthedesignoftheuni-
verse,modernastronomyhasonlylimiteduseforthem.Butstillweheartheechoes
ofmythologyinmoderndiscoveries.
The Least You Need to Know
u Fortheancients,evenwithouttelescopes,thenightskywasasourceofgreat
fascination,whichwecanshare.
u Toviewtheskymeaningfully,youneedasystemfororientingyourselfand
identifyingcertainkeyfeatures.Celestialcoordinatesandaltazimuthcoordi-
natesaretwosuchsystems.
u Astronomersuseangularsizeandangulardistancetodescribetheapparent
sizesandseparationsofobjectsinthesky.
u Constellationsareimaginativegroupingsofstarsperceivedasimages,many
influencedbyGreekmythology;however,thesegroupingsarearbitrary,reflect-
inghumanimaginationratherthananyactualrelationshipsbetweenthosestars.
u Constellationsareusefulascelestiallandmarkstohelporientyourobservations.
2
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Chapter
Co ect ng L ght
n Th s Chapter
ghtasenergythatconveys nformat on
ookatthespectrumandwaves
An ntroduct ontothete escope
TheHubb eSpaceTe escopeandothercutt ng-edgepro ects
Astronomy:gett ng nontheact on
Youhaveeveryreasonandr ghttocons derthen ghtskythegreatestfree
show ntheun verse.Thegreatbeautyoftheskystrong yattractsmost
amateurstargazers,and nfact,mostprofess ona astronomers.Butthesky
smorethanbeaut fu .Ce est ob ectsarefu of nformat on ustwa ng
tobe nterpreted nformat on kehowd stantthestarsandga ax esare,
how argetheyare,andwhethertheyaremov ngtowardorawayfromus.
Howdoesthe nformat onreachus?Ittrave stous ntheformofe ec-
tromagnet crad at on,asma fract onofwh ch sv ght.Inth
chapter,webeg nbydef ng ghtandthenexp nhowwecanmost
effect ve yco ect ttoseemoreoftheso arsystemandtheun verse.
14 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
Slices of Light
Theuniverseisruledbythetyrannyofdistance.Thatis,theuniverseissovastthat
weareabletoseemanythingswewillneverbeabletovisit.Lighttravelsatextraor-
dinaryspeeds(about984,000,000feet300,000,000meterseverysecond),butthe
lightthatwenowseefrommanyobjectsintheskyleftthosesourcesthousands,mil-
lions,orevenbillionsofyearsago.Itispossible,forexample,toseetheAndromeda
galaxy(over2millionlight-yearsaway),evenwiththenakedeye,butitshighly
unlikelyhumanswillevertravelthere.
Wecanttravelatanywherenearthespeedof
light.Rightnow,thefastestrocketsarecapableof
Alight-year isthedistance
achieving30,000milesperhour(48,000km/h),
lighttravelsinoneyear or262,980,000milesperyear(423,134,820km/y).
about6trillionmiles
Maybesomedaytechnologywillenableusatleast
(9,461,000,000,000,000
toapproachthespeedoflight,butthatstillmeansa
meters).Inthevastnessofspace
tripof2millionyearsupand2millionback.
beyondthesolarsystem,astrono-
mersusethelight-yearasabasic Whynotgofasterthanthespeedoflight?According
unitofdistance.
toourunderstandingofspaceandtime,thespeed
oflightisanabsolutespeedlimitthatcannotbe
exceeded.
Sorevelinthefactthat,onanordinarynight,youareabletogazeattheAndromeda
galaxy,anobjectsodistantthatnohumanbeingwillevervisitit.
Spaceshipsmightbeseverelylimitedastohowfasttheycantravel,buttheinforma-
tionconveyedbyelectromagneticradiationcantravelatthespeedoflight.Infact,
thephotonswereceivefromAndromedaleftthatgalaxylongbeforeHomosapiens
walkedtheEarth.ButeverythingweknowaboutAndromedaandalmostallother
celestialbodies,weknowbyanalyzingtheirelectromagneticradiation.
Electromagneticradiationtransfersenergyandinformationfromoneplaceto
another,eveninthevacuumofspace.Theenergyiscarriedintheformofrapidly
fluctuatingelectricandmagneticfieldsandincludesvisiblelightinadditiontoradio,
infrared,ultraviolet,x-ray,andgamma-rayradiation.
Thetypeofenergyandinformationcreatedandconveyedbyelectromagneticradia-
tionismorecomplexthanthatcreatedandconveyedbythewavesgeneratedbya
splashinthewater.
Chapter 2: Collecting Light 15
Making Waves
Electromagneticradiationsoundslikedangerousstuffand,infact,someofitis.
Butthewordradiationneednotsetoffairraidsirensinyourhead.Itjustdescribes
thewayenergyistransmittedfromoneplacetoanotherwithouttheneedfora
directphysicalconnectionbetweenthem.Inthisbook,weuseitasageneraltermto
describeanyformoflight.Itisimportantthatradiationcantravelwithoutanyphysi-
calconnection,becausespaceisessentiallyavacuum;thatis,muchofitisempty(at
leastasfarasanyscalemeaningfultohumanbeingsgoes).Ifyouwentonaspace
walkclickingapairofcastanets,noonewouldhearyourlittleconcert.Soundis
transmittedinwaves,butnotasradiation.Unlikeelectromagneticradiation,sound
wavesrequiresomemedium(suchasair)totravelin.
Theelectromagneticpartofthephrasedenotesthefactthattheenergyiscon-
veyedintheformoffluctuatingelectricandmagneticfields.Thesefieldsrequireno
mediumtosupportorsustainthem.
Anatomy of a Wave
Wecanunderstandhowelectromagneticradiationistransmittedthroughspaceifwe
appreciatethatitinvolveswaves.Whatisawave?Thefirstimagethatprobablyjumps
tomindisthatofoceanwaves.Andoceanwavesdohavesomeaspectsincommon
withthekindofwavesthatweusetodescribeelectromagneticradiation.Oneway
tothinkofawaveisthatitisameansbywhichenergyistransmittedfromoneplace
toanotherwithoutphysicalmatterbeingmovedfromplacetoplace.Oryoumight
thinkofawaveasadisturbancethatcarriesenergyandthatoccursinadistinctive
andrepeatingpattern.Arowboatoutintheoceanwillmoveupanddowninaregu-
larwayaswavespassit.Thewavesdotransmitenergytotheshore(thinkofbeach
erosion),buttherowboatwillstayput.
AstronomersNotebook
Wavefrequencyisexpressedinaunitofwavecyclespersecond,calledhertz,abbre-
viatedHz.Wavelengthandfrequencyareinverselyrelated;thatis,ifyoudoublethe
wavelength,youautomaticallyhalvethefrequency,andifyoudoublethefrequency,
youautomaticallyhalvethewavelength.Multiplywavelengthbyfrequency,andyouget
thewavesvelocity.Forelectromagneticradiation,wavelengthmultipliedbyfrequencyis
alwaysc, thespeedoflight.
16 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
Thatregularup-and-downmotionthattherowboatexperiencesiscalledsimplehar-
monicmotion.
Wavescomeinvariousshapes,buttheyallhaveacommonanatomy.Theyhavecrests
andtroughs,whichare,respectively,thehighpointsaboveandthelowpointsbelow
thelevelofanundisturbedstate(forexample,calmwater).Thedistancefromcrest
tocrest(ortroughtotrough)iscalledthewavelengthofthewave.Theheightofthe
wavethatis,thedistancefromtheleveloftheundisturbedstatetothecrestof
thewaveisitsamplitude.Theamountoftimeittakesforawavetorepeatitself
atanypointinspaceisitsperiod.Onapond,theperiodisthetimebetweenthe
passageofwavecrestsasseenbyanobserverinthebobbingrowboat.Thenumber
ofwavecreststhatpassagivenpointduringagivenunitoftimeiscalledthe
frequencyofthewave.Ifmanycrestspassapointinashortperiodoftime,we
haveahigh-frequencywave.Iffewpassthatpointinthesameamountoftime,
wehavealow-frequencywave.Thefrequencyandwavelengthofawaveareinversely
proportionaltooneanother,meaningthatasonegetsbigger,theothergetssmaller.
High-frequencyradiationhasshortwavelengths.
Crest
Amplitude
Undisturbed state
Thepartsofawave.
Wavelength
Trough
New Wave
Ifspace,aswehavesaid,isverynearlyavacuum,howdowavesmovethroughit?
Thisisaquestionthatvexedphysicistsforcenturies,andatfirst,mostscientists
refusedtobelievethatspacecouldbeempty.Theyknewitdidnthaveair,ason
Earth,buttheysuggesteditwasfilledwithanothersubstance,whichtheycalledthe
ether.Butaseriesofexperimentsinthelatenineteenthcenturymadeitclearthat
etherdidntexistandthatalthoughlightcouldbestudiedasawave,itwasaverydif-
ferentkindofwavethan,say,sound.
Big News from Little Places
WhentheGreekphilosopherDemocritus(ca.460370B.C.E.) theorizedthatmatter
consistsoftinyparticleshecalledatoms,hewaspartiallyright.Butthestory
doesntendthere.Atomscanbefurtherbrokendownintoelectrons,protons,and
Chapter 2: Collecting Light 17
neutrons,andthelattertwoaremadeofevensmallerthingscalledquarks.Electrons
carryanegativeelectriccharge,andprotonscarryapositivecharge.Neutronshave
amassalmostequaltoaproton,butastheirnameimplies,neutronsareneutral,with
nopositiveornegativecharge.Allchargedparticles(likeprotonsandelectrons)are
surroundedbywhatwecallanelectricfield;thoseinmotionproduceelectromagnetic
radiation.
TheBritishphysicistJamesClerkMaxwell(18311879)firstexploredwhatwould
happenifsuchachargedparticleweretooscillate,ormovequicklybackandforth.It
createdadisturbancethattraveledthroughspacewithouttheneedforanymedium!
Particlesinspacearegettingbangedaroundallthetime.Atomscollide;electronsare
acceleratedbymagneticfields;andeachtimetheymove,theypulltheirfieldsalong
withthem,sendingelectromagneticripplesoutintospace.
Inshort,thischangingelectricandmagneticfieldtransmitsinformationaboutthe
particlesmotionthroughspace.Afieldisnotasubstance,butawayinwhichforces
canbetransmittedovergreatdistanceswithoutanyphysicalconnectionbetweenthe
places.
Letsturntoaspecificexample:astarismadeupofinnumerableatoms,mostof
whicharebrokenintoinnumerablechargedparticlesduetounimaginablyhotstellar
temperatures.Astarproducesagreatdealofenergy,whichcausesparticlestobe
inconstantmotion.Inmotion,thechargedparticlesarethecenterpointsofelec-
tromagneticwaves(disturbancesintheelectromagneticfield)thatmoveoffinall
directions.AsmallfractionofthesewavesreachesthesurfaceofEarth,wherethey
encounterotherchargedparticles.Protonsandelectronsinyoureyes,forinstance,
oscillateinresponsetothefluctuationsintheelectricfield.Asaresult,youperceive
light:animageofthestar.
AstronomersNotebook
Allelectromagneticwaveswhethervisiblelight,invisibleradiowaves,x-rays,orgamma
radiationmove(inavacuum)atthespeedoflight,approximately186,000milesper
second(299,274km/s).Thatsfast,butitshardlyaninfinite,unlimitedspeed.Remember
theAndromedagalaxy?Wecanseeit,butthephotonsoflightwejustreceivedfrom
thegalaxyare2millionyearsold.Nowthats alongcommute!
Ifyouhappenedtohave,say,therightkindofinfrared-detectingequipmentwith
you,electronsinthatequipmentwouldrespondtoadifferentwavelengthofvibra-
tionsoriginatingfromthesamestar.Similarly,ifyouwereequippedwithsufficiently
18 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
sensitiveradioequipment,youmightpickuparesponsetoyetanothersetofproton
andelectronvibrations.
Remember,itisnotthatthestarselectronsandprotonshavetraveledtoEarth,but
thatthewavestheygeneratedsofarawayhaveexcitedotherelectronsandprotons
here.
Youmightthinkofthelightfromyourreadinglampasbeingverydifferentfromthe
x-raysyourdentistusestodiagnoseanailingtooth,butbotharetypesofelectromag-
neticwaves,andtheonlydifferencebetweenthemistheirwavelengths.Frequency
andwavelengthofawaveareinverselyproportionaltooneanother,meaningthatif
oneofthemgetsbigger,theotheronemustgetsmaller.Theparticularwavelength
producedbyagivenenergysource(astarsphotosphereitsvisibleouterlayeror
aplanetaryatmosphere)determineswhethertheelectromagneticradiationproduced
bythatsourceisdetectedatradio,infrared,visible,ultraviolet,x-ray,orgamma-ray
wavelengths.
Thewavesthatproducewhatweperceiveasvisiblelighthavewavelengthsofbetween
400and700nanometers(ananometeris0.000000001meter)andfrequenciesof
somewhatlessthan1015Hz.Lightwaves,liketheotherformsofelectromagnetic
radiation,areproducedbythechangeintheenergystateofanatomormolecule.
Thesewaves,inturn,transmitenergyfromoneplaceintheuniversetoanother.
Thespecialnervesintheretinasofoureyes,theemulsiononphotographicfilm,and
thepixelsofaCCD(ChargeCoupledDevice)electronicdetectorareallstimulated
(energized)bytheenergytransmittedbywavesofwhatwecallvisiblelight.Thatis
whyweandtheseotherdevicessee.
Theouterlayersofastar,itsphotosphere,consist
ofextremelyhotgasradiatingsomefractionofthe
Theelectromagnetic spectrum
hugeamountsofenergythatastargeneratesinits
isthecompleterangeofelectro-
corethroughnuclearfusion.Thatenergyisemit-
magneticradiation,fromradio tedatsomelevelinallportionsoftheelectromagnetic
wavestogammawavesand
spectrum,sothatwhenyoulookatadistantornearby
everythinginbetween,including
star(theSun)withyoureyes,youarereceivinga
visiblelight.
smallportionofthatenergy.
Buckets of Light
Ofcourse,thefractionoftheemittedenergyyoureceivefromaverydistantstaror
evenawholegalaxy,likefar-offAndromedaisverysmall,diminishedbythesquare
Chapter 2: Collecting Light 19
ofthedistance(butneverreachingzero).Imagineaspheresurroundingadistantstar.
Asthespherebecomeslargerandlarger(thatis,asyougetfartherandfartherfrom
thestar),thesameamountofenergypassesthrougheverlargerspheres.Youreye
(oryourtelescope)canbethoughtofasaverytinyfractionofthespherecentered
onthatdistantstar.Youarecollectingonlyasmuchlightfromthedistantsourceas
fallsintoyourlightbucket.Ifyoureyeisatinybucket,thena4-inchamateur
telescopeisaslightlylargerone,andtheHubbleSpaceTelescopeisevenlarger.The
largerthebucket,themorelightyoucancollect.Andifyoucollectmorelightin
yourbucket,yougetmoreinformation.
Oneearlyquestionamongastronomers(andothers)was,Howcanwebuildabetter
bucketthanthetwolittleoneswehaveinourhead?Theanswercameintheearly
seventeenthcentury.
The Telescope Is Born
In1608,Dutchlensmakersdiscoveredthatiftheymountedonelensateitherendof
atubeandadjustedthedistancebetweenthelenses,thelensatoneendwouldmag-
nifyanimagefocusedbythelensattheotherendofthetube.Ineffect,thelensat
thefarendofthetubegatheredandconcentrated(focused)morelightenergythan
theeyecouldfocusonitsown.Thelensneartheeyeenlargedthatconcentrated
imagetovariousdegrees.Thisworld-changinginventionwasdubbedatelescope,a
wordfromGreekrootsmeaningfar-seeing.
CloseEncounter
Usingbinocularsoratelescope,youmightbeabletoseeVenusinitsphases,
fromthincrescenttofull.Duringmuchoftheyear,theplanetisbrightenoughtosee
evenindaylight.VenusisclosertotheSunthanweare,andthatfactkeepsitclose
totheSuninthesky(nevermorethan47degrees,oraboutaquarteroftheskyfrom
horizontohorizon).ThebesttimestoobserveVenusareattwilight,justbeforethesky
becomesdark,orjustbeforedawn.Theplanetwillbefullwhenitisonthefarsideof
theSunfromusandcrescentwhenitisonthesamesideoftheSunasweare.Witha
telescopeonadarknightyoumightbeabletoobservetheashenlightphenomenon:
whentheplanetisatquarterphaseorless,afaintglowmakestheunilluminatedfaceof
Venusvisible.
Many,perhapsmost,inventionstaketimetogainacceptance.Typically,thereisa
lapseofmorethanafewyearsbetweentheinventionanditspracticalapplication.
20 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
Butthiswasnotsowiththetelescope.By1609,withinayearafterthefirsttelescopes
appeared,theItalianastronomerGalileoGalilei(15641642)demonstratedtheir
navalutilityandwassoonusingthemtoexploretheheavensaswell.Thelargestof
hisinstrumentswasquitesmall,withonlymodestmagnifyingpower,butGalileowas
abletousethistooltodescribethevalleysandmountainsontheMoon,toobserve
thephasesofVenus,andtoidentifythefourlargestmoonsofJupiter.
Refraction
Galileosinstrument,likealloftheearliesttelescopes,wasarefractingtelescope,
whichusesaglasslenstofocustheincominglight.Forallpracticalpurposes,astro-
nomicalobjectsaresofarawayfromusthatwecanconsiderthatlightrayscome
tousparalleltooneanotherthatis,unfocused.Refractionisthebendingofthese
parallelrays.Theconvex(bowedoutward)pieceofglasswecallalensbendsthe
incomingrayssothattheyallconvergeatapointcalledthefocus,whichisbehindthe
lensdirectlyalongitsaxis.Thedistancefromthecross-sectionalcenterofthelensto
thefocusiscalledthefocallengthofthelens.Positionedbehindthefocusistheeye-
piecelens,whichmagnifiesthefocusedimagefortheviewerseye.
Modernrefractingtelescopesconsistofmorethantwosimplelenses.Atbothendsof
thetelescopetube,compound(multiple)lensesareused,consistingofassembliesof
individuallenses(calledelements)designedtocorrectforvariousdistortionssimple
lensesproduce.
Di i
l
j i l
i is
i ifi
agramofarefract ng
te escope.CFrepresentsthe
ob ect ve ensandLLthe
eyep ece.Theobserverseye
dent edbyE.
(Imagefromarttoday.com)
or Reflection?
Therefractingtelescopewasoneofhumankindsgreatinventions,renderedeven
greaterbythepresenceofageniuslikeGalileotouseit.However,thelimitationsof
therefractingtelescopesoonbecameapparent:
Chapter 2: Collecting Light 21
u Eventhemostexquisitelycraftedlensproducesdistortion.
u Excellentlensesareexpensivetoproducebecausebothsidesofalensmustbe
precisioncraftedandpolished.
u Generally,thelargerthelens,thegreaterthemagnificationandthebrighterthe
image;however,largelensesgetheavyfast.Lenseshavevolume,andthepoten-
tialforimperfections(suchasbubblesintheglass)ishigherinalargelens.All
ofthismeansthatlargelensesaremuchmoredifficultandexpensivetoproduce
thansmallones.
Recognizingthedeficienciesoftherefractingtelescope,IsaacNewtondevelopeda
newdesign,thereflectingtelescope,in1668.
Di i
l i
l i i-
i (M)
l
i i
mi (G)
agramofaNewton an
ref ector.L ghtentersatthe
eftand sfocusedbythepr
marym rror attheback
ofthete escope.Thefocused
mage ssentbyasecondary
rror throughtheeye-
piece(LL).Theobserverseye
islabeledE.
(Imagefromarttoday.com)
AstroByte
Newtonusuallygetssolecreditforinventingthereflectingtelescope,butanother
Englishman,JohnGregory,actuallybeathimtoit,withadesigncreatedin1663.
Itwas,however,theNewtonianreflectorthatcaughton.TheFrenchlensmaker
GuillaumeCassegrainintroducedanothervariationonthereflectordesignin1672.In
hisdesign,thereisaprimaryandasecondarymirror,andthefocalpointoftheprimary
mirrorislocatedbehindtheprimarymirrorsurface,requiringaholeinthecenterofthe
primarymirror.
Insteadoftheconvexlensofarefractor,thereflectorusesaconcavemirror(shaped
likeashallowbowl)togather,reflect,andfocusincominglight.Thehollowside
ofyourbreakfastspoonisessentiallyaconcavemirror(theothersideisaconvex
one).Thiscurvaturemeansthatthefocalpointisinfrontofthemirrorbetween
22 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
themirrorandtheobjectbeingviewed.Newtonrecognizedthatthiswasatbest
inconvenientyourownheadcouldblockwhatyouarelookingatsoheintroduced
asecondarymirrortodeflectthelightpathata90-degreeangletoaneyepiece
mountedonthesideofthetelescope.
Refractingtelescopedesigncontinuedtodevelop,culminatinginthe40-inch(thats
thediameteroftheprincipallens)instrumentatYerkesObservatoryinWilliams
Bay,Wisconsin,installedin1897.Butduetothelimitationsjustmentioned,thebig-
gest,mostpowerfultelescopeshaveallbeenreflectors,suchasthe100-inchreflector
installedattheMountWilsonObservatory(nearPasadena,California)earlyinthe
twentiethcentury.
Variations on an Optical Theme
Althoughtherefractorandthereflectorarethetwomajortypesofopticaltelescopes,
therearemanyvariationsinreflectordesign.Somelargerreflectingtelescopes
employaCassegrainfocus,inwhichtheimagefromtheprimarymirrorisreflected
toasecondarymirror,whichagainreflectsthelightraysdownthroughanaperture
(hole)intheprimarymirrortoaneyepieceatthebackofthetelescopeinsteadofat
thesideofthetelescope.
Acoud-focus(coudisFrenchforbent)reflectorsendslightraysfromtheprimary
mirrortoasecondarymirror,muchlikeaCassegrain.However,insteadoffocus-
ingthelightbehindtheprimarymirror,anothermirrorisemployedtodirectthe
lightawayfromthetelescope,throughanaperture,andintoaseparateroom,called
thecoud-focusroom.Hereastronomerscanhousespecialimagingequipmentthat
mightbetooheavyorcumbersometoactuallymounttothebarrelofthetelescope.
Reflectingtelescopeshavetheirproblemsaswell.Thepresenceofasecondarymirror
(oradetector,inthecaseofaprime-focusreflector)meansthatsomefractionofthe
incominglightisnecessarilyblocked.Also,thesphericalshapeofthereflectorintro-
ducessphericalaberration,lightbeingfocusedatdifferentdistanceswhenreflecting
fromasphericalmirror.Ifnotcorrected,thisaberrationproducesblurredimages.
Onecommonsolutiontosphericalaberrationistouseaverythincorrectinglensat
thetopofthetelescope.ThistypeoftelescopeiscalledaSchmidt-Cassegrainandis
apopulardesignforsomehigh-endamateurtelescopes.
23 Chapter 2: Collecting Light
AstronomersNotebook
Astronomersspeakoftheangularresolutionofatelescope,whichisameasurementof
thesmallestangleseparatingtwoobjectsthatareresolvableastwoobjects.Generally,
Earthsmajoropticalandinfraredtelescopes,locatedatthebestsites,canresolveobjects
separatedbyaslittleas1"(thatis,1arcsecond,whichis
1
60 of1arcminute,which,in
turn,is
1
60 of1degree).Thetheoreticalresolutionofthesetelescopesismuchhigherthan
thisvalue,butturbulenceinEarthsatmospheremeansthat,exceptforexceptionalnights,
thisisthebestthatanEarth-basedopticaltelescopecando.Nomatterhowbigthe
telescope,conventionaltelescopescannothaveresolutionshigherthanthisvalueunless
theyemployadaptiveoptics.Inrecentyears,theuseofadaptiveoptics,whichuses
computertechnologytomakereal-timeadjustmentsintelescopeopticstocompensatefor
atmosphericturbulence,hasimprovedtheresolutiontothesubarcsecondlevel.
Size Matters
In1948,theHaletelescopeatMountPalomar,California,wasdedicated.Its200-inch
(5-meter)mirrorwasthelargestintheworlduntil1974,whentheSovietscompleted
a74-ton,236-inch(6-meter)mirror,which
theyinstalledattheSpecialAstrophysical
AstroByte
ObservatoryinZelenchukskayainthe
CaucasusMountains.
Intheory,the6-meterreflecting
telescopeinRussiasCaucasus
In1992,thefirstoftwoKecktelescopes,
candetectthelightfroma
operatedjointlybytheCaliforniaInstitute
singlecandleatadistance
ofTechnologyandtheUniversityof
of 14,400miles.However,the
California,becameoperationalatMauna
presenceofEarthsatmosphere
Kea,Hawaii.ThesecondKecktelescope
andotherreal-worldfactorsdont
wascompletedin1996.Eachofthese
permitthepracticalachievement
ofthistheoreticalpotential.
instrumentscombines3671-inch(1.8-
meter)mirrorsintotheequivalentofa
393-inch(10-meter)reflector.Notonlydothesetelescopesnowhavethedistinction
ofbeingthelargesttelescopesonEarth,buttheyarealsoamongthehighest(ofthose
basedonEarth),nestledonanextinctvolcano2.4milesabovesealevel.
24 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
The Power to Gather Light
Whydowehavethispassionforsize?
Aswementionedbefore,thebiggerthebucket,themorelightyoucancollect,sothe
moreinformationyoucangather.Theobservedbrightnessofanobjectisdirectly
proportionaltothearea(yes,area;notdiameter)oftheprimarymirror.Thus,amir-
rorof78-inch(2-meter)diameteryieldsanimage4timesbrighterthana39-inch
(1-meter)mirror,becauseareaisproportionaltodiametersquared,andthesquareof
2(2times2)is4.A197-inch(5-meter)mirrorwouldyieldimages25timesbrighter
(5times5)thana1-metermirror,anda393-inch(10-meter)mirrorwouldyieldan
image100timesbrighterthana1-metermirror.
Now,thingsthatarefartherawayarealwaysgoingtobefainter.A100-wattlight
bulbwillappearmorefaintifitis1mileawayversus1footaway.Atelescopethatcan
seefainterobjectsisabletoseethingsthatarefartheraway;therefore,thebiggerthe
telescope,themoredistanttheobjectsthatwecanview.
The Power to Resolve an Image
Collectingmorelightisonlyoneadvantageofalargetelescope.Suchinstruments
alsohavegreaterresolvingpowerthatis,theabilitytoformdistinctandseparate
imagesofobjectsthatareclosetogether.Lowresolutionproducesablurredimage;
highresolutionproducesasharpimage.
Twinkle, Twinkle
Theoretically,thegiantHaletelescopeatMountPalomariscapableofaspectacular
angularresolutionof.02"(or20milliarcseconds);however,becauseofreal-world
complicationsmostlythepresenceoftheEarthsatmosphereitspracticalresolu-
tionisabout1"(1arcsecond).Thesourceofthislimitisrelatedtothereasonwhy
starstwinkle.Earthsturbulentatmospherestandsbetweenthetelescopesgigantic
primarymirrorandthestars,smearingtheimagejustasitsometimescausesstarlight
viewedwiththenakedeyetoshimmerandtwinkle.Ifyoutookastillphotographof
atwinklingstarthroughalargetelescope,youwouldseenotapinpointimage,but
onethathadbeensmearedoveraminutecircleofabout1arcsecond.Thissmeary
circleiscalledtheseeingdisk,andastronomerscalltheeffectofatmosphericturbu-
lenceseeing.
25 Chapter 2: Collecting Light
Computer Assistance
Beginninginthelatenineteenthcentury,mostserioustelescopeviewingwasdone
photographically,notinrealtime,butbystudyingphotographicplatesexposedat
thefocusofatelescope.Photographicmethodsallowedastronomerstomakelonger
observations,seeingmanymorefaintdetailsthantheycouldeverdistinguishwith
visualobserving.Inrecentyears,chemical-basedphotographyhasyieldedtodigi-
talphotography,whichrecordsimagesnotonfilmbutonCCDs(charge-coupled
devices)inprinciplethesamedeviceatthefocalplaneofyourcamcorderlensor
digitalcamera.
CCDsaremuchmoresensitivethanphoto-
graphicfilm,whichmeanstheycanrecord
fainterobjectsinbrieferexposuretimes;
moreover,theimageproducedisdigitaland
canbedirectlytransferredtoacomputer.
Rememberthesoundofold-fashioned
12-inchvinylLPrecords?Eventhebest
ofthemhadahissaudibleduringquiet
musicalpassages.CDs,recordeddigitally,
CloseEncounter
Thismightbeagood
timetotakeabreakand
turntoyourcomputer.Logon
totheWorldWideWeband
pointyourbrowsertothesiteof
theSpaceTelescopeScience
Instituteatwww.stsci.eduand
perusesomeofthewonderful
changedallthatbyelectronicallyfilter-
imagesfromtheHubbleSpace
ingoutthenonmusicalnoisefoundathigh
Telescope(whichwewilldiscuss
frequencies.Analogousdigitalcomputer
injustamoment).
techniquescanfilteroutthevisualnoise
inanimagetoimproveitsquality.
Fun House Mirrors
Despiteatmosphericturbulence,recenttechnologyhasmadeitpossibletobreakthe
1-arcsecondbarrier.
Adaptiveopticssystemsenableastronomerstocorrectthedistortionsintroducedby
theatmospherewithdistortionsoftheirown.Thedistortionsaremadetoanother
reflectivesurfaceinsertedintotheopticalpath,thepaththatlightfollowsthrough
thetelescope.Theideaisthatifthedistortionscanberemovedquicklyenough(in
realtime),thenlargetelescopeswouldhavebothoftheadvantagesthattheyshould
have,namelymoresensitivityandmoreresolution.
26 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
AnimageofPlutoandits
companionCharontaken
withtheSubaru8.3-mtele-
scoperesolvesthetwoclosely
orbitingbodiesintoseparate
pointsoflight.Theappar-
entseparationofPlutoand
Charonisonlyabout0.9",
beyonddetectionwithout
adaptiveoptics.
An Observatory in Space: The Hubble Space Telescope
AnotherwaytoescapethebadseeingcausedbyEarthsatmosphereistogetabove
theatmosphere.ThatisjustwhatNASA,inconjunctionwiththeEuropeanSpace
Agency,didwiththeHubbleSpaceTelescope(HST).HighaboveEarthsatmo-
sphere,theHSTregularlyachievesitstheoreticalresolutionofaboutlessthan0.05"
(50milliarcseconds).
TheHSTwasdeployedfromthecargobayofthespaceshuttleDiscoveryin1990.
Thetelescopeisequippedwitha94-inch(2.4-meter)reflectingtelescope,capableof
10timestheangularresolutionofthebestEarth-basedtelescopesandapproximately
30timesmoresensitivetolight,notbecauseitisbig-
AstroByte
gerthantelescopesonEarth,butbecauseitisabove
Earthsatmosphere.Unfortunately,duetoamanu-
Atacostof$3billion,the
facturingflaw,thecurvatureofthe2.4-metermirror
HubbleSpaceTelescopeis
wasoffbyliterallylessthanahair(itwastooflatby
oneofthemostexpensive
scientificinstrumentsevermade.
1
50 ofthewidthofahumanhair),whichchangedits
However,consideringthewealth
focallength.Thetelescopestillfocusedlight,but
ofscientificinformationithaspro- notwhereitneededto,intheplaneofthevarious
duced,theHubbleisabargain.
detectors.AstronautsaboardtheshuttleEndeavour
rendezvousedwiththeHSTinspacein1993and
27 Chapter 2: Collecting Light
maderepairsprimarilyinstallingasystemofsmallcorrectivemirrors.HSTthen
begantotransmitthespectacularimagesthatscientistshadhopedforandtheworld
marveledat.
TheHSTwasreplacedbytheNextGenerationSpaceTelescope(NGST),which
madewayfortheJamesWebbTelescope.
Participatory Astronomy
Thecostofnearly$3billionfortheHubbleSpaceTelescopeprovesastronomycan
beadauntinglyexpensivepursuit.Fortunately,youdonthavetospendquitethat
muchtogetstarted.Infact,youdonthavetospendanything.Youcandoalotof
observationwiththenakedeye.Also,manylocalcommunitieshaveactiveamateur
astronomerswhowouldbehappytoletyougazeattheheavensthroughtheirtele-
scopes.Investinginagoodpairofbinocularsisanothergoodwaytostartyoursky
viewing.
Buyingormakingandusingyourowntelescopecanberewardingandeven
thrilling.Itcanalsobedisappointing.Forexample,youwontbeveryhappyifyou
cannevergetawayfromthelightpollutionofthecityorsuburbs.Andacheaply
madetelescopewillfrustrateyouwithdarkandblurryimages,whereasamorecostly
devicemightsendyouintotheblackholeofcreditcarddebtorcauseadifferentkind
offrustrationasyoutrytodealwithaninstrumentmorecomplicatedandtempera-
mentalthanyoureallywanttodealwith.
Taketimetolearnaboutamateurtelescopes,includingwhatfeaturestolookfor,
howmuchtospend,andwhattodowiththethingonceyouveboughtit.Checkout
anyofthesebooks:BackyardAstronomy:YourGuidetoStarhoppingandExploringthe
Universe,editedbyRobertBurnham(TimeLife,2001);TurnLeftatOrion,byGuy
J.Consolmagno(CambridgeUniversityPress,1995);andTheBackyardAstronomers
Guide,byTerenceDickinsonandAlanDyer(Firefly,2002).
Andremember,youcangetdeeplyinvolvedinastronomywithoutowningoreven
usingatelescope.Ifyouhaveapersonalcomputer(youdo,dontyou?),consider
purchasinganastronomysoftwarepackage,suchasTheSky(fromBisqueSoftware)
orStarryNight(ProorBackyardversions,fromSpaceSoftware).Ifyoudont
wanttobuysoftwareinshrinkwrap,takealookatCVCsAstronomyFreewareand
Softwareatwww.cvc.org/astronomy/freeware.htmandAstronomyFreeSoftware
athttp://freeware.intrastar.net/astronmy.htmforarundownofpopularpackages,
includingmanythatarefreelydownloadable.
28 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
Butyoudontneedtobuyorevendownloadfreesoftwareifyoudontwantto.Try
surfingtheInternetintoouterspace.Agreatplacetostartiswww.nasa.gov,which
hasfantasticimagesofspaceexploration.HubbleSpaceTelescopeimagesareavail-
ableathttp://hubble.nasa.govandelsewhereontheInternet,andimagesfromthe
VeryLargeArrayandtheGreenBankTelescopeareavailableatwww.nrao.edu.
AnothergreatsourceistheJetPropulsionLaboratorieswebsiteatwww.jpl.nasa.gov.
Andthesearejustforstarters.Anygoodsearchenginewillfindthrillingimages,
includingmanyfromongoingspacemissionsaswellasearthboundobservatories.
The Least You Need to Know
u Lightisaformofelectromagneticradiation.Radiationcarriesenergyandcon-
veysinformation.
u Objectsinspaceproduceorreflectthevariousformsofelectromagneticradia-
tion(includingradio,infrared,visiblelight,ultraviolet,x-rays,andgammarays);
thisradiationiswhatweseewithoureyesordetectwithspecialinstruments.
u Thetwobasicopticaltelescopetypesarethelens-basedrefractorsandthe
mirror-basedreflectors.
u Thetwomainfunctionsoftelescopesaretocollectlightandresolveobjects.
Largertelescopes(barringtheeffectsofEarthsatmosphere)arebetterableto
performbothfunctions.
u Newtechnologies,suchasadaptiveoptics,allowground-basedtelescopesto
achievemuchsharperimageswhilemaintainingtheconvenienceandlowercost
ofbeingontheground.
3
i
I i
u i l i i i
u i i
u ili li
u i l i i i
u i i
li i i i ini
l l l j l i i
ll j icl
i i l
i i i l
i i i ll lsi i
i llisi i lei i l
i i li i
ll j
i l (
wi ) i isibl l
i i i isl in
l i iti i
Chapter
Over the Ra nbow
n Th s Chapter
Understand nge ectromagnet crad at on
Transm ss onofenergybywaves
Ouratmosphereasce ngandsky ght
Us ngthee ectromagnet cspectrumtoget nformat onfromthesky
Rad at onacrossthespectrum
The ghtwerece vefromd stantsources sgeneratedonthet estof
sca es.Toexp orethe argestob ects,suchasga ax es,wef rsthaveto
understandthesma estofob ects:atomsandthepart esthatmakeup
atoms.Thephotonsthatwedetectw thoureyesandcatchw thourte e-
scopesweregenerated nmanyd fferentways:somet mesbye ectrons
hopp ngbetweend fferentorb ta eve nanatomorothert mesbythe
energet cco onsofatom cnuc .Inth schapter,weexp oretheways
nwh chphotonsof ghtar se,howtheygetfromtheretohere,andwhat
theycante usabouttheob ectsthatweobserve.
Wehaveconcentratedthusfaronopt ca photons theonesyoucansee
thyoureyes .As tturnsout,oureyesrespondtov ewave engths
becausethat swherethepeakoftheem ss onfromtheSun ocated
thee ectromagnet cspectrum.Ifyoureyesweremoresens veto nfrared
30 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
radiation,forexample,youwouldseesomethingsyoucantnowsee(bodyheat,for
one),butyoudmissalotofotherusefulstuff,suchasthevisualappearanceofthe
bodythatsgivingoffheat.
Inthischapter,wetalkmoreaboutvisiblelightandtherestoftheelectromagnetic
spectrum,ofwhichvisiblelightisatinysubset.Thinkofitthisway:iftheelectro-
magneticspectrumisrepresentedbyapianokeyboard,thenthevisiblepartofthe
spectrumisbutasinglekey:onenote.Inthecosmicconcerto,therearemanynotes,
andwewanttobeabletohearthemall.
Full Spectrum
Often,whenpeoplegetexcited,theyrunaround,jumpupanddown,andshout
withoutmakingawholelotofsense.Butwhenatomicparticlesgetexcited,theycan
produceenergythatisradiatedatavarietyofwavelengths.Incontrasttothebabble
ofanexcitedhumanthrong,thiselectromagneticradiationcantellyoualot,ifyou
havetheinstrumentstointerpretit.
Onesuchinstrument,thehumaneye,caninterpretelectromagneticradiationinthe
400to700nanometer(or4,000to7,000Angstrom)wavelengthrange.Ananometer
(abbreviatednm)isonebillionthofameter,or10
9
meter.AnAngstrom(abbreviated
A)is10timessmaller,or10
10
meter.Butthatisonlyasmallpartofthespectrum.
Whatabouttherest?
The Long and the Short of It
Whenmostpeoplehearthewordradio,theythinkoftheboxintheircarthat
receivesradiosignalsbroadcastfromlocaltowers,amplifiesthem,thenusesthemto
driveaspeaker,producingsoundwavesheardwiththeears.Butradiowavesthem-
selvesareassilentasopticallightorx-raysorgammarays.Theyaresimplyaformof
electromagneticradiationthathasverylongwavelengths.
Sotheonlydifferencebetweenradiowavesandvisiblelightwavesisthelengthof
thewaveorthefrequency,whichisalwaysinverselyrelatedtowavelength.Indeed,all
formsofelectromagneticradiationrepresentedacrosswhatwecalltheelectromag-
neticspectrumradiowaves,infrared,visiblelight,ultraviolet,x-rays,andgamma
raysaretransmittedatthespeedoflightaswavesdifferentiatedonlybytheirwave-
lengthandfrequency.Radiowavesareatthelowendofthespectrum,whichmeans
theirwavesarebig(onthescaleofmillimeterstometersinsize)andtheirfrequency,
Chapter 3: Over the Rainbow 31
therefore,lowinthemegahertz(million)togigahertz(billion)range.Gammarays,
incontrast,areatthehighendofthespectrum,withveryshortwavelengthsandvery
highfrequencies.
CloseEncounter
Radiowaves,visiblelight,gammaraystheonlydifferencebetweentheserays
iswavelength.Butitisquiteadifference.Someoftheradiowavesreceivedbythe
VeryLargeArrayradiotelescopeinNewMexicohavewavelengthsaslargeasayard-
stick,whereasgammarayshavewavelengthsaboutthesizeofanatomicnucleus.
Theenergyofaparticularwavelengthofelectromagneticradiationisdirectlyproportional
toitsfrequency.Thus,photonsoflightthathavehighfrequenciesandshortwavelengths
(suchasx-raysandgammarays)arethemostenergetic,andphotonsthathavelow
frequencies(radiowaves)aretheleastenergetic.Doyoueverwonderwhytheorigin
storiesofcomic-booksuperheroesofteninvolvegammarays?Thosegamma-rayphotons
carryalotofenergy,andapparentlyittakesalotofenergytomakeasuperhero.
Becausewearemeremortals,however,wearehighlyfortunatethatEarthsatmosphere
absorbsmostofthehigh-energyphotonsthatstrikeit.Energeticphotonstendtoscramble
geneticmaterial,andthehumanracewouldntlastlongwithouttheprotectiveblanket
ofozoneinourupperatmosphere.Ifamassivestarweretoexplodesomewherenear
Earthinthefuture,themostharmfuleffectwouldbethehigh-energyphotonsthatwould
causeawaveofmutationsinthenextgeneration.
What Makes Color?
Visiblelight,wehavesaid,isdefinedaslightwithwavelengthsfrom400to700nm
inlength,aboutthedimensionsofanaverage-sizedbacterium.
Allcolorsarecontainedwithinthistinyrangeofwavelengths.Justaswavelength(or
frequency)determineswhetherelectromagneticradiationisvisiblelightorx-raysor
somethingelse,soitdetermineswhatcolorwesee.Oureyesresponddifferentlyto
electromagneticwavesofdifferentwavelengths.Redlight,atthelow-frequencyend
ofthevisiblespectrum,hasawavelengthofabout7.010
7
meters(andafrequency
of4.310
14
Hz).Violetlight,atthehigh-frequencyendofthevisiblespectrum,hasa
wavelengthof4.010
7
meters(andafrequencyof7.510
14
Hz).Allothercolorsfall
betweentheseextremes,inthefamiliarorderoftherainbow:orangejustabovered;
yellowaboveorange;thengreen,blue,indigo,andviolet.Aneasywaytoremember
thisistothinkofthenameRoyG.Biv,witheveryletterinthenamerepresenting
thefirstnameofacolor(red,orange,yellow,green,blue,indigo,andviolet).
32 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
So-calledwhitelightisacombinationofallthecolorsofthevisiblespectrum.Light
isdifferentfrompaint.Dumptogetheralotofdifferentcolorsofpaint,andyoullend
upwithabrownishgray.However,dumptogetherallofthecolorsoftherainbow,
andyoullgetwhitelight.Whensunlightisrefracted(orbent)asitpassesthrough
waterdropletsintheair,differentcolorsoflightarebenttodifferentdegrees.The
dividedlightthenreflectsonthebacksideoftheraindrop,andyouseetheresultof
thisprocessoccurringinamyriadofwaterdropletsasaspectacularrainbow.
AstroByte
For25years,cosmicgammaraybursts(GRBs)havebeenoneofthegreatmysteries
ofmodernastronomy.GRBshavegivenusseveralcluesastowhattheymightbe.
FirstdiscoveredbyEarth-monitoringsatelliteslookingforsecretnucleartestexplosions,
GRBswereseentooccurfrequentlyandappearedtobespreadevenlyoverthesky.
Theirdistributionontheskyindicatedthattheyweretheresultofeventshappeningeither
verycloseorveryfar(inothergalaxies).Theeventswerenot,forexample,seentobe
concentratedintheplaneofourGalaxy.
Concentratedstudyandfollow-upobservationshaveshownthatGRBsappeartoarise
indistantgalaxies.Iftheyaredistantandverybright,thenthesourceoftheGRBmust
beaveryenergeticevent.OnepossibleexplanationofGRBsisthattheyaretheresult
ofthemergeroftwoneutronstars,thedenseremnantcoresofexhaustedmassivestars.
ThisexplanationhasaccountedformanyoftheknowncharacteristicsofGRBs.
Heavenly Scoop
Weseecelestialobjectsbecausetheyproduceenergy,andthatenergyistransmitted
tousintheformofelectromagneticradiation.Asyouwillseeinlaterchapters,dif-
ferentphysicalprocessesproducedifferentwavelengths(energies)oflight.Thusthe
portionofthespectrumfromwhichwereceivelightitselfisanimportantpieceof
information.
Atmospheric Ceilings
Theinformationthenewswegetfromspaceiscensoredbytheseverallayersof
Earthsatmosphere.Ineffect,aceilingpiercedbytwoskylightssurroundsEarth.
Aratherbroadrangeofradiowavesreadilypenetratesouratmosphere,asdoesapor-
tionofinfraredandmostvisiblelight,inadditiontoasmallportionofultraviolet.
Astronomersspeakoftheatmospheresradiowindowandopticalwindow,whichallow
33 Chapter 3: Over the Rainbow
passageofelectromagneticradiationofthesetypes.Totherestofthespectrum
lower-frequencyradiowaves,somelower-frequencyinfrared,and(fortunatelyfor
oursurvival)mostoftheenergeticultravioletrays,x-rays,andgammaraysthe
atmosphereisopaque,animpenetrableceiling.Anatmosphereopaquetothesewave-
lengthsbuttransparenttovisiblelightandsomeinfraredisabigreasonwhylifecan
surviveatallonEarth.
and Skylights
Forastronomers,however,thereisadownsidetotheselectiveopacityofEarths
atmosphere.Observationsofultraviolet,x-ray,andgamma-rayradiationcannotbe
madefromthesurfaceofEarth,butmustbemadebymeansofsatellites,whichare
placedinorbitwellabovetheatmosphere.
Untilwellintothetwentiethcentury,astronomershadnowaytoseemostofthe
nonvisibleelectromagneticradiationthatreachedEarthfromtheuniverse.Then
alongcameradioastronomy,whichgotitsstartin19311932andwascrankinginto
highgearbytheendofthe1950s.Overthepast40yearsorso,muchofourcurrent
knowledgeoftheuniversehascomeaboutthroughradioobservations.
Dark Doesnt Mean You Cant See
Onaclearnightfarfromurbanlightpollution,theskyisindeeddazzling.Just
rememberthattheelectromagneticinformationyoureyesaretakingin,wondrousas
itis,comesfromaverythinsliceoftheentirespectrum.Earthsatmosphereallows
onlyvisiblelightandabitofinfraredandultravioletradiationtopassthroughaso-
calledopticalwindow,butitallowsabroadportionoftheradiospectrumtopass
througharadiowindow.
Anatomy of a Radio Telescope
Inprinciple,aradiotelescopeworkslikeanopticaltelescope.Itisabucketthat
collectsradiofrequencywavesratherthanvisiblelightwavesandfocusesthemona
detectororreceiver.AlargemetaldishlikeagiantTVsatellitedishissupported
onamoveablemount.Adetector,calledareceiverhorn,ismountedonlegsabovethe
dish(primefocus)orbelowthesurfaceofthedish(Cassegrainfocus).Thetelescope
ispointedtowardtheradiosource,anditshugedishcollectstheradiowavesand
focusesthemonthereceiver,whichamplifiesthesignalandsendsittoacomputer.
34 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
Becausetheradiospectrumissobroad,astronomershavetodecidewhichportion
oftheradiospectrumtoobserve.Sotheyusedifferentreceiversforobservationsat
differentfrequencies.Receiversareeitherswappedinandout,or(moretypically)the
radiosignalisdirectedtothecorrectreceiverbymovingasecondaryreflectingsur-
face(likethesecondarymirrorinanopticaltelescope).
Bigger Is Better: The Green Bank Telescope
Inthecaseofradiotelescopes,sizereallydoesmatter.Theresolutionofatelescope
dependsnotonlyonitsdiameter,butalsoonthewavelengthofthedetectedradia-
tion(theratioofwavelengthtotelescopediameterdeterminestheresolution).Radio
wavesarebig(ontheorderofcentimetersormeters),andthetelescopesthatdetect
themarecorrespondinglyhuge.Also,theradiosignalstheseinstrumentsdetectare
veryfaint,andjustasbiggeropticaltelescopeswithbiggermirrorscollectmorelight
thansmallerones,biggerradiotelescopescollectmoreradiowavesandimagefainter
radiosignalsthansmallerones.
AstronomersNotebook
Collectingradiosignalsisjustpartofthetask,
however.YoumightrecallfromChapter2,that
Whydoradiotelescopeshave
forpracticalpurposes,verygoodopticaltelescopes
tobesobig?A300-footor locatedonEarthssurfacecanresolvecelestial
100-meterdishmightseem
objectsto1"(1arcsecond
1
/60 of1arcminute,
excessive.Theresolutionisactu-
which,inturn,is
1
/60 of1degree).Thebestangular
allydeterminedbytheratioof
resolutionthataverylargesingle-dishradiotele-
thewavelengthbeingobserved
tothediameterofthetelescope.
scopecanachieveissome10timescoarserthan
Soopticaltelescopes(which
this,about10",andthis,coarseasitis,ispossible
detectshort-wavelengthoptical
onlywiththeverylargestsingledishradiotele-
photons)canbemuchsmaller
scopesintheworld.TheNationalRadioAstronomy
thanradiotelescopes,whichare Observatoryhasrecentlycompletedtheworlds
tryingtodetectlong-wavelength
largestfullysteerableradiotelescope.The100-m
radiowavesandhavethesame
dishoftheGreenBankTelescopeatGreenBank
resolution.
inPocahontasCounty,Virginia,hasabestresolu-
tionof14".
Theworldslargestnonsteerablesingle-dishradiotelescopewasbuiltin1963at
Arecibo,PuertoRico,andusesadish300meters(984feet)indiametersunkintoa
naturalvalley.Althoughitsgreatsizemakesthisthemostsensitiveradiotelescope,
theprimarysurfaceisnonsteerabletotallyimmobileand,therefore,islimitedto
observingobjectsthathappentopassroughlyoverhead(within20degreesofzenith)
asEarthrotates.
35 Chapter 3: Over the Rainbow
i i l
i i
( i l
)
TheArec boRad oTe escope,
Arec bo,PuertoR co.
ImagefromNat ona
AstronomyandIonosphere
Center
Interference Can Be a Good Thing
Awaytoovercomethelowangularresolutionduetothesizeofradiowavesisto
linktogetheralotofsmallertelescopessotheyactlikeonegianttelescope.Aradio
interferometerisacombinationoftwoormoreradiotelescopeslinkedtogether
electronicallytoformakindofvirtualdish,anarrayofantennasthatactslikeone
giganticantenna.
TheNationalRadioAstronomyObservatory(NRAO) maintainsandoperatesthe
VeryLargeArray(VLA)interferometeronavastplainnearSocorro,NewMexico,
consistingof27largedishesarrayedonrailroadtracksthatarelaidoutinaY-shaped
pattern.Eacharmis12.4miles(20km)long,andthelargestdistancebetweentwoof
theantennasis21.7miles(35km).Asaresult,theVLAhastheresolvingpowerbut
notthesensitivityofaradiotelescope21.7milesacross.
Forradioastronomerswhowantsomethingevenlargerthanverylarge,thereis
VeryLongBaselineInterferometry(VLBI),whichcanlinkradiotelescopesindif-
ferentpartsoftheworldtoachieveincredibleangularresolutionsofathousandthof
anarcsecond(.001")orbetter.FromitsofficesinSocorro,NewMexico,theNRAO
alsooperatestheVLBA(VeryLongBaselineArray),whichconsistsof10radiodishes
scatteredovertheUnitedStates,fromMaunaKea,Hawaii,toSt.Croix,U.S.Virgin
Islands.
36 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
Stillnotbigenough?In1996,JapaneseastronomerslaunchedintoEarthorbitaradio
telescopetobeusedinconjunctionwiththeground-basedtelescopesinorderto
achievetheresolutionofatelescopelargerthanEarthitself.Formoreinformation,
seewww.nrao.edu.
What Radio Astronomers See
Insomniaisavaluableafflictionforopticalastronomerswhoneedtomakegooduse
ofthehoursofdarknesswhentheSunisontheothersideofEarth.ButtheSunis
notaparticularlybrightradiosourceand,therefore,wontinterferewithobservations
intheradiospectrum.Soradioastronomers(andradiotelescopes)canworknight
andday.TheVLA,forexample,gathersdata(orrunstests)24hoursaday,363days
ayear.Notonlyisdarknessnotrequired,butyoucanalsomakeradioobservations
throughacloud-filledsky.
RadioastronomerscanobserveobjectswhosevisiblelightdoesntreachEarth
becauseofobscurationbyinterstellardustorsimplybecausetheyemitlittleorno
visiblelight.Thefantasticobjectsknownasquasars,pulsars,andtheregionsaround
blackholesallofwhichyouwillencounterlaterinthisbookareoftenfaintor
invisibleopticallybutdoemitradiowaves.
The Rest of the Spectrum
Opticalastronomywiththenakedeyeisatleast5,000yearsoldandprobablymuch
older.Opticaltelescopeastronomyisabout400yearsold.Radioastronomyisa
youthfuldisciplineatabout70years,ifwedateitsbirthfromtheworkofKarl
Jansky,theAmericantelecommunicationsengineerwhopioneeredtheprinciplesof
radioastronomyintheearly1930s.Butithasbeenonlysincethe1970sthatother
partsoftheelectromagneticspectrumhavebeenregularlyexploredfortheastro-
nomicalinformationtheymightyield.Eachnewwindowthrownopenonthecosmos
hasbroughtinafreshbreezeandenrichedourunderstandingoftheuniverse.
New Infrared and Ultraviolet Observations
Telescopesneedtobespeciallyequippedtodetectinfraredradiationtheportionof
thespectrumjustbelowtheredendofvisiblelight.Infraredobservatorieshaveappli-
cationsinalmostallareasofastronomy,fromthestudyofstarformation,coolstars,
andthecenteroftheMilkyWay,toactivegalaxiesandthelarge-scalestructureof
theuniverse.
37 Chapter 3: Over the Rainbow
IRAS(theInfraredAstronomySatellite)waslaunchedin1983andsentimagesback
toEarthformanyyears.Likeallinfrareddetectors,though,theonesonIRAShad
tobecooledtolowtemperaturessothattheirownheatdidnotoverwhelmtheweak
signalstheyweretryingtodetect.Althoughthesatelliteisstillinorbit,ithaslong
sincerunoutofcoolantandcannolongercaptureimages.Theinfraredcapabilityof
theHubbleSpaceTelescopeprovidedbyitsNICMOS(Near-InfraredCameraand
Multi-ObjectSpectograph)yieldedspectacularresultswhileinoperation.Launched
onAugust25,2003,theSpitzerSpaceTelescope(formerlycalledtheSpaceInfrared
TelescopeFacility,orSIRTF)observestheuniverseatwavelengthsbetween3and
180microns(amicronisamillionthofameter).
AndNASAsJamesWebbSpaceTelescope(formerlytheNext-GenerationSpace
TelescopeNGST),scheduledforlaunchin2011,willbeoptimizedtooperateat
infraredwavelengthsandwillbecooledpassivelybyalargesolarshield.
Ultravioletradiation,whichbeginsinthespectrumatfrequencieshigherthanthose
ofvisiblelight,isalsobeingstudiedwithnewtelescopes.Becauseouratmosphere
blocksallbutasmallamountofultravioletradiation,wemustmakeultravioletstud-
iesbyusinghigh-altitudeballoons,rockets,orsatellitesliketheHopkinsUltraviolet
Telescope(HUT)flownin1990and1995inthepayloadbayofthespaceshuttle
Endeavour.
Chandrasekhar and the X-Ray Revolution
Astronomerscannowstudyelectromagneticradiationatthehighestendofthespec-
trum,butbecausex-raysandgammarayscannotpenetrateouratmosphere,satellites
mustdoallthiswork.X-raysaredetectedfromveryhigh-energysources,suchas
theremnantsofexplodedstars(supernovaremnants)andjetsofmaterialstreaming
fromthecentersofgalaxies.Workbeganinearnestin1978withthelaunchofthe
High-EnergyAstronomyObservatory(laterdubbedtheEinsteinObservatory),an
x-raytelescope.Germanylaunchedthenextx-raytelescope,theRentgenSatellite
(ROSAT),in1990.Finally,in1999,theChandraX-rayObservatory(namedfor
astronomerSubrahmanyahChandrasekhar),theworldspremierx-rayinstrument,
waslaunched.Ithasproducedunparalleledhigh-resolutionimagesofthex-rayuni-
verse.TheChandraimageoftheCrabNebula,hometoaknownpulsar,showed
never-before-seendetailsoftheenvironmentofanexplodedstar.Forrecentimages,
gotowww.chandra.harvard.edu,whichiscontinuouslyupdated.
In1991,theComptonGammaRayObservatory(CGRO)waslaunchedbythespace
shuttleAtlantisandwasinoperationuntilJune2003.Itrevealeduniqueviewsofthe
38 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
cosmos,especiallyinregionswheretheenergiesinvolvedareveryhigh:nearblack
holes,atthecentersofactivegalaxies,andnearneutronstars.Youcancheckouta
missionsummaryoftheCGROathttp://cossc.gsfc.nasa.gov.
The Black-Body Spectrum
AsMaxwellfirstdescribedinthenineteenthcentury,allobjectsemitradiationatall
timesbecausethechargedatomicparticlesofwhichtheyaremadeareconstantlyin
randommotion.Astheseparticlesmove,theygenerateelectromagneticwaves.Heat
anobject,anditsatomicparticleswillmovemorerapidly,therebyemittingmore
radiation.Coolanobject,andtheparticleswillslowdown,emittingproportionately
lessandlower-energyelectromagneticradiation.Ifwecanstudythespectrum(that
is,theintensityoflightfromavarietyofwavelengths)oftheelectromagneticradia-
tionemittedbyanobject,wecanunderstandmuchaboutthesource.Oneofthemost
importantquantitieswecandetermineisitstemperature.Fortunately,wedontneed
tostickathermometerinastartoseehowhotitis.Allwehavetodoislookatits
lightcarefully.
Hereshow:allobjectsemitradiation,butnonaturalobjectemitsallofitsradiation
atasinglefrequency.Typically,theradiationisspreadoutoverarangeoffrequencies.
Ifwecandeterminehowtheintensity(amountorstrength)oftheradiationemitted
byanobjectisdistributedacrossthespectrum,wecanlearnagreatdealaboutthe
objectsproperties,includingitstemperature.
Physicistsoftenrefertoablackbody,atheoretical
(thatis,imaginary)objectthatabsorbsallradia-
Ablack body isanidealized
tionfallinguponitandreemitsalltheradiationit
(imaginary)objectthatabsorbs
absorbs.Thewayinwhichthisreemittedenergyis
allradiationthatfallsonitand distributedacrosstherangeofthespectrumisdrawn
perfectlyreemitsallradiationit
asablack-bodycurve.
absorbs.Thespectrumthatsuch
anobjectemitsisanidealized
Now,noactualobjectinthephysicalworldabsorbs
mathematicalconstructcalleda
andradiatesinthisidealfashion,butwecanusethe
black-body curve, whichcan black-bodycurveasamodelagainstwhichthepeak
serveasamodelformeasuring
intensityofradiationfromrealobjectscanbemea-
thepeakintensityofradiation
sured.Thereasonisthatthepeakoftheblack-body
emittedbyarealobject,suchas
curveshiftstowardhigherfrequencies(andshorter
astar.
wavelengths)asanobjectstemperatureincreases.
Thus,anobjectorregionthatisemittingmostly
Chapter 3: Over the Rainbow 39
veryshortwavelengthgamma-rayphotonsmustbemuchhotterthanoneproduc-
ingmostlylongerwavelengthradiowaves.Ifwecandeterminethewavelengthsof
thepeakofanobjectselectromagneticradiationemissions,wecandetermineits
temperature.
Home on the Range
Astronomersmeasurepeakintensitywithsophisticatedscientificinstruments,but
wealldothisintuitivelyalmosteveryday.Forexample,onanelectrickitchenrange,
whentheknobforoneoftheheatingelementsisturnedtooff,theheatingelementis
blackincolor.Thistellsyouthatitmightbesafetotouchit.Butifyouweretoturn
ontheelementandholdyourhandaboveit,youwouldfeelheatrisingandknowit
wasstartingtogethot.Ifyouhadinfraredvision,youwouldseetheelementglow-
ingintheinfrared.Astheelementgrowshotter,itwilleventuallyglowvisiblyred,
and,evenwithoutspecialinfraredvision,youwouldknowitwasabsolutelyabadidea
totouchit,regardlessofwherethecontrolknobhappenedtobepointing.
Atroomtemperature,themetaloftheheatingelementisblack,butasitheatsup,
itchangescolor:fromdullredtobrightred.Ifyouhadaveryhigh-voltageelectric
rangeandasufficientlydurableheatingelement,youcouldcrankupthetemperature
sothatitbecameevenhotter.Itwouldemitmostofitselectromagneticradiationat
progressivelyhigherfrequencies.
Now,anobjectthatomitsmostofitsradiationatopticalfrequencieswouldbevery
hot.Andakitchenrangewillnever(wehope)reachtemperaturesof6,000K,likethe
Sun.Theredcoloryouseefromtherangeisinthetailofitsblack-bodyspectrum.
Evenwhenhot,itisstillemittingmostofitsradiationintheinfraredpartofthe
spectrum.
Read Any Good Spectral Lines Lately?
Usingthespectrumandarmedwiththeproperinstrumentation,astronomerscan
accuratelyreadthetemperatureofevenverydistantobjectsinspace.Andevenwith-
outsophisticatedequipment,youcanstartleyourfriendsbylettingthemknowthat
Betelgeuse(areddishstar)musthavealowersurfacetemperaturethantheyellowSun.
Astronomersalsousethespectrumtolearnevenmoreaboutdistantsources.Aspec-
troscopepassesincominglightthroughanarrowslitandprism,splittingthelight
intoitscomponentcolors.Certainprocessesinatomsandmoleculesgiveriseto
40 Part 1: Eyes, Telescopes, and Light
emissionatveryparticularwavelengths.Usingsuchadevice,astronomerscanview
theseindividualspectrallinesandgleanevenmoreinformationaboutconditionsat
thesourceofthelight.
Althoughordinarywhitelightsimplybreaksdownintoacontinuousspectrumthe
entirerainbowofhues,fromredtoviolet,shadingintooneanotherlightemitted
bycertainsubstancesproducesanemissionspectrumwithdiscreteemissionlines,
whichare,ineffect,thefingerprintofthesubstance.
Hydrogen,forexample,hasfourclearlyobservablespectrallinesinthevisiblepart
ofthespectrum(red,blue-green,violet,anddeepviolet).Thecolorfromthesefour
lines(addedtogetheraslight)ispinkish.Thesefourspectrallinesresultfromthe
electronthatisboundtotheprotoninahydrogenatomjumpingbetweenparticu-
larenergylevels.Manyotherspectrallinesarebeingemitted;itjustsohappens
thatonlyfourofthemareinthevisiblepartofthespectrum.Inourhydrogenatom
example,anegativeelectronisboundtoapositiveproton.Theelectron,whilebound
totheproton,canonlyexistincertainspecificstatesorenergylevels.Thinkofthese
energylevelsasrungsonaladder.Theelectroniseitheronthefirstrung,thesecond
rung,orthethirdrung,andsoon;itcantbeinbetween.Whentheelectronmoves
fromahigherenergyleveltoalowerone,itgivesoffenergyintheformofaphoton.
Becausethelevelstheelectroncaninhabitarelimited,onlyphotonsofafewspecific
frequenciesaregivenoff.Theseparticularphotonsareapparentasbrightregionsin
thespectrumofhydrogen:theelementsspectralemissionlines.
Dependingonhowyouviewanastronomicalsource,youwillseedifferenttypesof
spectra.Ablack-bodysourcevieweddirectlywillproduceacontinuousspectrum.But
ifthephotonsfromthesourcepassthroughaforegroundcloudofmaterial,thecloud
(dependingonitscomposition)willabsorbcertainenergies,andyouwillseeablack-
bodyspectrumwithcertainportionsofthespectrummissingordark.Thisiscalled
anabsorptionspectrum.Ifacloudofmaterialabsorbsenergyandthenreemitsitin
adifferentdirection,youwillseetheresultasemissionlines,orbrightregionsinthe
spectrum.Thecloudsofhotgasaroundyoungstarsproducesuchemissionlines.
Thelightthatreachesusfromstarscarriesalotofinformation.Thecolorofthe
objectcantellusitstemperature;thewavelengthofthelightreachinguscantellus
abouttheenergiesinvolved;andthepresence(orabsence)ofcertainwavelengthsin
ablack-bodyspectrumcantelluswhatelementsarepresentinagivensource.Who
knewwecouldlearnsomuchwithoutactuallygoinganywhere?
Chapter 3: Over the Rainbow 41
The Least You Need to Know
u Thedifferencebetweenvisiblelightandotherelectromagneticwaves,say,radio
waves,isjustamatterofwavelengthorfrequency.
u Unlikesoundwaves,lightwavescantravelthroughavacuumemptyspace
becausethesewavesaredisturbancesintheelectromagneticfieldandrequire
nomedium(substance)fortransmission.
u Onewayspectrallinesariseisbythespecificenergiesgivenoffwhenelectrons
jumpbetweenenergylevelsinanatomorwhenmoleculesspinatdifferentrates.
u Astronomersusespectroscopestoreadthespectralfingerprintproduced
bythelightreceivedfromdistantobjectsandtherebydeterminethechemical
makeupofanobject.
u Aradiotelescopetypicallyconsistsofalargeparabolicdishthatcollectsand
focusesveryweakincomingradiosignalsonareceiver.Thesignalisthen
amplifiedandprocessedusingelectronicsandcomputers.
u Inrecentyears,astronomershavelaunchedinstrumentsintoorbitthatcan
detectallsegmentsoftheelectromagneticspectrum,frominfrared,through
visible,andontoultraviolet,x-rays,andgammarays.Thehighestfrequency
radiation(x-raysandgammarays)comesfromsomeofthemostenergeticand
exoticobjectsintheuniverse.
2 l i
i l i i i
i l i l i il i j
pl i l ialpl j i
pl ll l i l
i l
l i i
j i l i l i i ly
di l l l l l
Part
Wor ds W thout End
Th sparttakesanextendedtouroftheso arsystem,beg nn ngw than
overv ewoftheso arsystem.Afterth s,we ook ndeta atthee ghtma or
anets ntheso arsystem,thefourterrestr anetsandthefour ov an
anetsaswe asP uto,oncecons deredap anetandnowdeemedby
astronomerssometh nge se.
Thenweexp oreourowncompan on,theMoon,andthemoonsandr ngs
ofthe ov anp anets.Thef na chapter nth sparttakesustothenew
scoveredrea mofextraso arp anets,wor dsbeyondourso arsystem.
4
l ily
I i
u l i
u i
u Pl
u All i
u i i
i i i i l
l i l iti l
will i l (
l l )i i i i
billi i ill i l
l i l l i i i
i iti i li i
l i i l l
i l i i i i l
i
Chapter
So ar System Fam
Snapshot
n Th s Chapter
Aso arsystem nventory
Introduct ontotheSun
anetarystats
aboutastero ds
Comets,meteors,meteoro ds,andmeteor tes
Asnapshotfreezesan nstant nt me.Whenweth nkaboutourso ar
system,weusua lyassume thasa waysbeenmuchas snowanda ways
be.Butwhatweknowf rsthandoftheso arsystem 4,000yearsof
accumu atedknow edge sonlyameresnapshot ncompar sonto ts4.6
on-yearage.Ittookhumank ndm enn atoreachtheconc usionthat
ourp anet spartofaso arsystem,oneofmanyp anetssp nn ngon ts
ax sorb ngtheSun.Therewerecentur esofwrest ngw ththeEarth-
centeredp anetarysystemf rstpresentedbyAr stot e,thenbyPto emy,
try ngtomaketheexpectedp anetaryorb tsco nc dew thactua
observat on.
46 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Knowledgeofthesolarsystemaroseinsomesenseasasideproductoftherealinitial
goals:tobeabletopredictthemotionoftheplanetsandstarsforthepurposesof
creatingcalendarsand(insomecases)asameansoffortunetelling.However,even
theearliestastronomers(ofwhomweknow)wantedtodomorethanpredictplan-
etarymotion.InthesixteenthandseventeenthcenturieswhenCopernicus,Galileo,
TychoBrahe,andKeplerfinallysucceededinfindingoutwhatwasreallygoingon,
itwasamomentoustimeforastronomyandhumanunderstanding.
Understandinghowtheplanetsmoveisimportant,ofcourse,butourunderstanding
ofthesolarsystemhardlyendswithsuchknowledge.Inthelastfewdecadesofthe
twentiethcenturyandnowinthetwenty-first,astronomershavelearnedmoreabout
thesolarsystemthaninallthe400yearssinceplanetarymotionswereprettywell
naileddown.Asthischaptershows,theplanetaryneighborhoodisaveryinteresting
place,andourownworld,Earth,isuniqueamongtheplanetsasahometolife.
Neighborhood Stroll
Althoughitappearsthatabouthalfofallstarsarelocatedinbinarysystems(two
stars),oursolarsystemiscenteredonasinglestar,theSun.Eightplanetsorbit
aroundtheSun(inorderofdistancefromtheSun):Mercury,Venus,Earth,Mars,
Jupiter,Saturn,Uranus,andNeptune.(Pluto,longcountedastheninthplanet,was
recentlydowngradedfromafull-fledgedplanettoameredwarfplanet.Around
someoftheseplanetsorbitmoonsabout90atlatestcount.Bythe1990s,astrono-
mershadobservedmorethan6,000largeasteroids,ofwhichapproximately5,000
havebeenassignedcatalognumbers.(Suchanassignmentismadeassoonasaccurate
orbitaldataisrecorded.)Mostasteroidsarerathersmall;itisestimatedthatthereare
1millionwithdiametersgreaterthan1km(orabout
3
5 ofamile).Some,perhaps250,
havediametersofatleast62miles(100km),whileabout30havediametersofmore
than124miles(200km).Alloftheseplanetsandasteroidsarethedebrisfromthe
formationoftheSunthatcoalescedslowlythroughthemutualattractionofgravity.
Inaddition,thesolarsystemcontainsagreatmanycometsandbillionsofsmaller,
rock-sizemeteoroids.
Some Points of Interest
Theorbitsoftheplanetslienearlyinthesameplane,exceptforMercury,whichdevi-
atesfromthisplaneby7degrees.BetweentheorbitofMarsandJupiter,mostofthe
solarsystemsasteroidsarefoundinaconcentratedareaknownastheasteroidbelt.
47 Chapter 4: Solar System Family Snapshot
Theorbitsoftheplanetsarenotequallyspaced,tending(veryroughly)todouble
betweenadjacentorbitsthefartheraplanetisfromtheSun.
TosaythatthedistancesbetweentheplanetsandtheSunareverygreatisanunder-
statement.Interplanetarydistancesaresogreatthatitbecomesawkwardtospeakin
termsofmilesorkilometers.Forthatreason,astronomershaveagreedonsomething
calledanastronomicalunit(A.U.),whichistheaveragedistancebetweenEarthand
theSunthatis,149,603,500kilometersor92,754,170miles.
Letsusethisunittogaugethesizeofthesolarsystem.Theaveragedistancefrom
theSuntoPluto,oneofthelargestdwarfplanets,is40A.U.(3,710,166,800milesor
almost6billionkm).AtjustaboutamilliontimestheradiusofEarth,thatsquite
adistance.Thinkofitthisway:ifEarthwereagolfball,Plutowouldbeachickpea
about8milesaway,Jupiterwouldbeabasketballabout1mileaway,andtheSun
wouldgofloor-to-ceilingina10-footroomandbelessthanaquarter-mileaway.
However,comparedto,say,thedistancefromEarthtotheneareststar(afterthe
Sun),evenPlutoisanearneighbor.FortyA.U.islessthan
1
1,000 ofalight-year,the
distancelighttravelsinoneyear:almost6trillionmiles.AlphaCentauri,thenearest
starsystemtoourSun,isabout4.3light-yearsfromus(morethan25trillionmiles).
Onourgolfballscale,AlphaCentauriwouldbeabout55,000milesaway.Noteven
TigerWoodshasadrivelikethat.
More or Less at the Center of It All
Nearthecenterofthesolarsystemmoreaccurately,atonefocusoftheelliptical
orbitsoftheplanetsistheSun.TheSunisnotjustthemiddleofthesolarsystem;
itismostofthesolarsystem,containingmorethan99.9percentofitsmatter.Jupiter,
thelargestplanetinthesolarsystem,isover300timesthemassofEarth,butthe
SunismorethanathousandtimesmoremassivethanJupiterandabout300,000times
moremassivethanEarth.
Planetary Report Card
Letsmakeasurveyoftheplanets.Hereswhatwellbemeasuringandcomparingin
thetablethatfollows:
u Semi-majoraxisoforbit.PlanetsorbittheSun,notinperfectlycircularpaths
butinellipticalones.Thesemi-majoraxisofanellipseisthedistancefrom
thecenteroftheellipsetoitsfarthestpoint.Thisdistancedoesntexactlycor-
respondtothedistancefromtheSuntothefarthestpointofaplanetsorbit,
48 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
becausetheSunisntattheexactcenteroftheellipse,butatoneoftheellipses
twofoci.WewillexpressthisnumberinA.U.
u Siderealperiod.Thisnumberexpressesthetimeittakesaplanettocomplete
oneorbitaroundtheSun,usuallyexpressedinEarthyears.
u Mass.Thisisthequantityofmatteraplanetcontains.ThemassofEarthis
5.97710
24
kg.WewillassignEarthsmassthevalueof1.0andcomparethe
massesoftheotherplanetstoit.
u Radius.Attheequator,theradiusofEarthisslightlylessthan3,963miles
(6,400km).WewillassigntheradiusofEarthavalueof1.0andcomparethe
radiiofotherplanetstoit.
u Numberofknownmoons.Thisnumberisself-explanatoryalthoughitis
anever-changingnumberfortheouterplanets.Theparentheticalfiguresfor
JupiterandSaturnindicatethenumberofsmallsatellitesthathavebeendiscov-
eredsince2000.
u Averagedensity.Thisvalueisexpressedinkilogramsofmasspercubicmeter.
Thesubstanceoftheinnerplanetsisdenseandtightlypacked;intheouter
planets,thedensitiesaretypicallylower.
Semi-Major Sidereal Mass Radius
AxisofOrbit Period (inEarth (inEarth Density
Planet (inA.U.) (inYears) Masses) Masses) Moons* (kg/m
3
)
Mercury 0.39 0.24 0.055 0.38 0 5,400
Venus 0.72 0.62 0.81 0.95 0 5,200
Earth 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1 5,500
Mars 1.5 1.9 0.11 0.53 2 3,900
Jupiter 5.2 11.9 318 11.2 49(13) 1,300
Saturn 9.5 29.5 95 9.5 48(12) 700
Uranus 19.2 84 15 4.0 27 1,200
Neptune 30.1 165 17 3.9 13 1,700
*NumberofmoonsforeachplanetisbasedonSeptember2007datafromNASA.
Chapter 4: Solar System Family Snapshot 49
The Inner and Outer Circles
Astronomersusedtodividetheplanetsintotwobroadcategorieswithoneplanet
leftover.Thefourplanets(includingEarth)closesttotheSunaretermedtheterres-
trialplanets.ThefourfarthestfromtheSunarethejovianplanets.Plutosnewstatus
asadwarfplanetmeansthatitdoesnotneedtofitintoeitherofthesecategories.
Snapshot of the Terrestrial Planets
Mercury,Venus,Mars,andEartharecalledtheterrestrialplanetsbecausetheyall
possesscertainEarth-like(terrestrial)properties.TheseincludeproximitytotheSun
(within1.5A.U.),relativelycloselyspacedorbits,relativelysmallmasses,relatively
smallradii,andhighdensity(rockyandsolid-surfaced).Comparedtothelarger,
moredistantjovianplanets,theterrestrialsrotatemoreslowly,possessweakmagnetic
fields,lackrings,andhavefewornomoons.
Snapshot of the Jovian Planets
ThejoviansarefarfromtheSunandtravelinwidelyspacedorbits.Theyaremassive
planetswithlargeradii,yetareoflowdensitywithpredominantlygaseousmakeup
andnosolidsurface.Incontrasttotheterrestrialplanets,theyrotatefaster,possess
strongmagneticfields,haverings,andareorbitedbymanylargemoons.
Serving Up the Leftovers
Whatstheoldeststuffinyourrefrigerator(asidefromthatrubberyceleryyou
boughtbutneverate)?Leftovers!Thesameistrueinthesolarsystem.Thefragmen-
taryleftoversoftheformationoftheSunandplanetsaresomeoftheoldestobjects
inthesolarsystem.Foralongtime,fewscientistspaidmuchattentiontothisdebris
orknewmuchaboutit.Morerecently,however,theyhavecometorealizethatmany
significantcluestotheoriginandearlyevolutionofthesolarsystemaretobefound
notintheplanetsbutinthesmallerbodies,theplanetarymoonsandsolarsystem
debris.Forthemostpart,theplanetsareveryactiveplaces.Atmosphereshavepro-
ducederosion,andinternalgeologicalactivityhaserasedancientsurfaces.OnEarth,
weather,water,andtectonicmotionhavelongsincerecycledtheoriginalsurfaceof
theplanet.
50 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Sostudyingtheplanetscanrevealrelativelylittleabouttheoriginsofthesolar
system.However,onmoonsandasteroids,atmospheresaresparseornonexistent,
andgeologicalactivityisminimalorabsent.Theresult?Manyofthesebodieshave
changedlittlesincethesolarsystemwasborn.Theyare,ineffect,cosmicleftovers.
The Asteroid Belt
Ofthemorethan6,000asteroidswithregularorbitsthatastronomershavenotedand
cataloged,mostofthemareconcentratedintheasteroidbelt.Sofar,everyasteroid
thathasbeenobservedorbitsinthesamedirectionasEarthandotherplanets
exceptone,whoseorbitisretrograde(backward,orcontrarytothedirectionofthe
planets).Althoughtheasteroidsmoveinthesamedirectionandprettymuchonthe
sameplaneastheplanets,theshapeoftheirorbitsisdifferent.Manyasteroidorbits
aremoreeccentric(theellipseismoreexaggerated,oblong)thanthoseoftheplanets.
Landing on ErosThe Love Boat
Inearly2001,anasteroid-exploringprobeorbitedandfinallycrash-landedonthe
surfaceofanasteroidnamedEros.Asitapproachedtheasteroidssurface,itsentback
tantalizingclose-upimagesofthesurface.
i
l i
oi i
i
ll l i-
( )
These magesofErosshow
thec osestv ewsofanaster-
deverseen.Thetop mages
are550macross,andthe
bottom magesare230m
across.Sma bou dersdom
natethesurface.
ImagefromNASA
Chapter 4: Solar System Family Snapshot 51
Rocks and Hard Places
Asteroidsarecomposedofstonyaswellasmetallicmostlyironmaterialsandare
basicallytinyplanetswithoutatmospheres.Someasteroidshaveagooddealofcar-
bonintheircompositionaswell.These,calledcarbonaceouschondrites,arethought
torepresenttheveryfirstmaterialsthatcametogethertoformtheobjectsofthe
solarsystem.Carbonaceouschondritesaretrulyancientmessengers,havingavoided
changeforbillionsuponbillionsofyears.
Earlierastronomerssurmisedthatasteroidswerefragmentsresultingfromvarious
meteoriccollisions.Althoughsomeofthesmallermeteoroidswerelikelyproduced
thisway,wenowbelievethatthemajoraster-
oidsprobablycameintobeingatthetimeof
theformationofthesolarsystemasawhole.
Theoreticalstudiessuggestthatnoplanet
From1993to1994,theGalileo
AstronomersNotebook
probepassedthroughtheaster-
couldhaveformedattheradiusoftheasteroid
oidbeltonitswaytoJupiter
belt(about3A.U.fromtheSun).Theregion
andtookpicturesofanasteroid
betweenMarsandJupiterisdominatedby
orbitedbyitsownminiature
thegravitationalinfluenceofthegiantplanet moon.Thepotato-shapedaster-
Jupiter.Thisforcestirredupthepotential
oidnamedIdaisabout35miles
planet-formingmaterial,causingittocollide
(56km)longandisorbitedata
andbreakupinsteadofcomingtogetherto
distanceofroughly60miles(97
createaplanet-sizedobject.
km)byarocklessthan1milein
diameter.Thislittlemoonisthe
Thesmallerasteroidscomeinawidevarietyof
smallestknownnaturalsatellitein
shapes,rangingfromnearlyspherical,toslab-
thesolarsystem.
like,tohighlyirregular.
Impact? The Earth-Crossing Asteroids
Althoughmostasteroidsremainintheasteroidbelt,somehavehighlyeccentricorbits
thattakethemoutofthebeltandacrosstheorbitalpathofEarth(aswellasthepaths
ofotherterrestrialplanets).
Nearly100oftheseso-calledApolloasteroidshavebeenidentifiedsofar,andanum-
berofastronomerspassionatelyadvocatefundingeffortstoidentifyandtrackeven
morebecausethepotentialforadoomsdaycollisionwithEarthisalltooreal.With
advancewarning,somescientistsbelieve,missileswiththermonuclearwarheadscould
beexplodednearanincomingasteroid,sufficientlyalteringitscoursetoavoidEarth
orshatteringitintoalargenumberofsmallerasteroids.Yourlocalmovietheateror
52 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
videostoreisagoodsourcetostudyHollywoodstakeonthesenightmarescenarios,
buttheyareaverycrediblethreat.ProjectNEAT(NearEarthAsteroidTracking)is
fundedbyNASA.Formoreinformation,seehttp://neat.jpl.nasa.gov.
Itisbelievedthatafewasteroidsofmorethanahalf-milediametermightcollide
withEarthinthecourseofamillionyears.Suchimpactswouldbecataclysmic,each
theequivalentofthedetonationofseveralhydrogenbombs.Notonlywouldagreat
crater,some8milesacross,beformed,butanEarth-envelopingdustcloudwould
alsodarkentheskies.Somethinkthegreatextinctionofthedinosaurs65million
yearsagowasduetosuchanimpact.Weretheimpacttooccurintheocean,tidal
wavesandmassivefloodingwouldresult.Earthimpactsofsmallerobjectsarenot
uncommon,butonJune30,1908,alargeobjectapparentlytheicynucleusofa
smallcometfellinthesparselyinhabitedTunguskaregionofSiberia.Thefalling
objectoutshonetheSun,anditsexplosiveimpactwasfeltmorethan600milesaway.
Averywideareaofforestwasobliteratedquiteliterallyflattened.Picturesfromthe
timeshowmilesofforestwithtreesstrippedandlyingontheirsideslikematchsticks,
eerilypointingawayfromtheimpactsite.
Anatomy of a Comet
ThewordcometderivesfromtheGreekwordkome,meaninghair.Thename
describestheblurry,diaphanousappearanceofacometslongtail.
Butthetailisjustpartoftheanatomyofacometandisnotevenapermanentpart,
asitformsonlyasthecometnearstheSun.Formostofitsorbit,thecometexistsas
amain,solidbodyorthenucleus,whichisarelativelysmall(afewmilesindiameter)
massofirregularshapemadeupoficeandsomethinglikesoot,consistingofthe
sameelementsthatwefindinasteroids.
Theorbitofthetypicalcometisextremelyeccentric(elongated),sothatmostcomets
(calledlong-periodcomets)travelevenbeyondPlutoandmighttakemillionsofyears
tocompleteasingleorbit.So-calledshort-periodcometsdontventurebeyond
Plutoand,therefore,havemuchshorterorbitalperiods.
AsacometapproachestheSun,thedustonitssurfacebecomeshotter,andtheice
belowthecrustysurfaceofthenucleussublimatesthatis,immediatelychangesto
agaswithoutfirstbecomingliquid.Thegasleavesthecomet,carryingwithitsome
ofthedust.Thegasmoleculesabsorbsolarradiation,thenreradiateitatanother
wavelengthwhilethedustactstoscatterthesunlight.Thisprocesscreatesacoma,
asphericalenvelopeofgasanddust(perhaps60,000milesacross)surroundingthe
nucleusandalongtailconsistingofgasesandmoredustparticles.
53 Chapter 4: Solar System Family Snapshot
A Tale of Two Tails
Mostcometsactuallyhavetwotails.Thedusttailisusuallybroaderandmorediffuse
thantheiontail,whichismorelinear.Theiontailismadeupofionizedatomsthat
is,atomsthatareelectricallycharged.Boththedusttailandtheiontailpointaway
fromtheSun,butthedusttailisusuallyseentohaveacurvedshapethattrailsthe
directionofmotionofthecomet.Carefultelescopicorbinocularobservationsof
nearbycometscanrevealbothofthesetails.
Whatwecannotseeopticallyisthevasthydrogenenvelopethatsurroundsthecoma
andthetail.Itisinvisibletoopticalobservation.
Commonsensetellsusthatthetailwouldstreambehindthefast-movingnucleus
ofthecomet.Thisisnotthecase,however.Boththeionanddusttailspointaway
fromtheSun,regardlessofthedirectionofthecometstravel.Indeed,asthecomet
roundstheSunandbeginstoleaveitsproximity,thetailortailsactuallyleadthe
nucleusandcomet.Thisisbecauseacomettailisblownlikeawindsockby
thesolarwind,aconstantstreamofmatterandradiationthatescapesfromtheSun.
Astronomersdiscoveredtheexistenceofthissolarwindbyobservingthebehavior
ofcomettails.
Mommy, Where Do Comets Come From?
Thesolarsystemhastwocometaryreservoirs,bothnamedaftertheDutchastrono-
merswhodiscoveredthem.ThenearerreservoiriscalledtheKuiperBelt(after
GerardPeterKuiper,19051973).Theshort-periodcomets,thosewithorbitalperiods
lessthan200years,arebelievedtocomefromthisregion,whichextendsfromthe
orbitofPlutoouttoseveral100A.U.Cometsfromthisregionorbitpeacefullyunless
somegravitationalinfluencesendsoneintoaneccentricorbitthattakesitoutsideof
thebelt.
Long-periodcomets,itisbelieved,originateintheOortCloud(afterJanOort,
19001992),avastarea(some50,000100,000A.U.inradius)surroundingthesolar
systemandconsistingofcometsorbitinginvariousplanes.Oortcometsarethought
tobedistributedinasphericalcloudinsteadofadisk.
TheOortCloudisatsuchagreatdistancefromtheSunthatitonlyextendsaboutone
thirdofthedistancetotheneareststar.Wedontseethevastmajorityofthesecomets
becausetheirorbitalpaths,thoughstillboundbytheSunsgravitationalpull,never
approachtheperimeterofthesolarsystem.However,itisbelievedthatthegravita-
tionalfieldofapassingstarfromtimetotimedeflectsacometoutofitsorbitwithin
theOortCloud,sendingitonapathtotheinnersolarsystem,perhapssealingourfate.
54 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Afterashort-periodorlong-periodcometiskickedoutofitsKuiperBeltorOort
Cloudhome,itassumesitseccentricorbitindefinitely.Itcantgohomeagain.Each
timeacometpassesclosetotheSun,abitofitsmassisboiledawayabout
1
1,000 of
itsmasswitheachpass.Aftersome100passages,acomettypicallyfragmentsand
continuestoorbitasacollectionofdebrisorcoalesceswiththeSun.AsEarthpasses
throughtheorbitalpathsofsuchdebris,weexperiencemeteorshowers.
CloseEncounter
Cometsdonotrandomlyoccur,butareregular,orbitingmembersofthesolar
system.ThemostfamouscometofallisHalleysComet,namedaftertheBritish
astronomerEdmundHalley(16561742),whopublishedabookin1705,showingby
mathematicalcalculationthatcometsobservedin1531,1607,and1682wereactuallya
singlecomet.Halleypredictedthecometwouldreturnin1758,andwhenitdid,itwas
namedinhishonor.SubsequentcalculationsshowthatHalleysComet,whichappears
every76years(mostrecentlyin1986),hadbeenseenasearlyas240B.C.E. andwas
alwaysasourceofgreatwonderandevenfear.
Catch a Falling Star
Fewastronomicalphenomenaaremorethrillingthanthesightofameteor.Bestof
all,suchsightingsarecommonandrequirenotelescope.
Meteors, Meteoroids, and Meteorites
Meteorsareoftencalledshootingstars,althoughtheyhavenothingatalltodowith
stars.Ameteorisastreakoflightintheskyresultingfromtheintenseheatingofa
narrowchannelinEarthsupperatmosphere.Theheatgeneratedbyfrictionwith
airmoleculesasthemeteoroidhurtlesthroughEarthsatmosphereionizesstrips
electronsawayfromatomsalongapathwaybehindthispieceofspacedebris.The
ionizedpathinEarthsatmosphereglowsforabrieftime,producingthemeteor.
Althoughsmallermeteoroids(oftencalledmicrometeoroids)aretypicallytherocky
fragmentsleftoverfromabroken-upcomet,themeteorphenomenonisverydifferent
fromacomet.Ameteorsightingisamomentaryevent.Themeteorstreaksacrossa
partofthesky,whereasacometdoesnotstreakrapidlyandmay,infact,bevisiblefor
manymonthsbecauseofitsgreatdistancefromEarth.Ameteorisaneventoccur-
ringinEarthsupperatmosphere,whereasacometistypicallymanyA.U.distant
fromEarth.
55 Chapter 4: Solar System Family Snapshot
Meteoristhetermforthesightofthestreakoflightcausedbyameteoroidwhichis
thetermfortheactualrockyobjectthatenterstheatmosphere.Mostmeteoroidsare
completelyburnedupinouratmosphere,butafewdogetthroughtostrikeEarth.
Anyfragmentsrecoveredarecalledmeteorites.
ThismeteorcraterinAri-
zonawasformedabout
50,000yearsagoasthe
resultoftheimpactofan
objectsome80feetindiam-
eter.Thecraterisnearlya
mile(overakilometer)in
diameter.
(ImagefromJPL/NASA)
April Showers (or the Lyrids)
WheneveracometmakesitsnearestapproachtotheSun,somepiecesbreakofffrom
itsnucleus.Thelargerfragmentstakeuporbitsneartheparentcomet,butsomefall
behind,sothatthecometspathiseventuallyfilledwiththesetinymicrometeoroids.
Periodically,Earthsorbitintersectswitha
clusterofsuchmicrometeoroids,resultingin
ameteorshowerasthefragmentsburnupin
ourupperatmosphere.
WhenEarthsorbitintersects
thedebristhatlitterthepathof
Meteorshowersassociatedwithcertain
acomet,webeholdameteor
cometsoccurwithhighregularityand shower, aperiodwhenwesee
arenamedaftertheconstellationfrom
moremeteorsthantheaverage.
whichtheirstreaksappeartoradiate.The
followingtableliststhemostcommon
andprominentshowers.Theshowernamesaregenitiveformsoftheconstellation
name;forexample,thePerseidshowercomesfromthedirectionoftheconstella-
tionPerseus,theLyridsfromLyra.Thedateslistedarethoseofmaximumexpected
56 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
activity,andyoucanjudgetheintensityoftheshowerbytheestimatedhourlycount.
Thetablealsoliststheparentcomet,ifknown.Consultamonthlyastronomymaga-
zinesuchasAstronomyorSky&Telescopetoobtainspecificpeaktimesforagiven
yearsmeteorshowers.
Maximum Estimated
NameofShower Activity HourlyCount ParentComet
Quadrantid January3 50 Unknown
BetaTaurid June30 25 Encke
Perseid August12 50+ 1862III(Swift-Tuttle)
Draconid October89 500+ Giacobini-Zimmer
Orionid October20 25 Halley
Leonid November1617 10* 1866I(Tuttle)
Geminid December1117 5075 3200Phaeton
*Every33years,EarthsorbitintersectsthedensestpartoftheLeoniddebrispath,resultinginthepoten-
tialforameteorinfallrateof1,000aminute!Suchanintersectionoccurredin1999andwillhappen
againin2032.
The Least You Need to Know
u Theeightplanetsofthesolarsystemaredividedintotherockyterrestrialplanets
(thosenearesttheSun:Mercury,Venus,Earth,andMars)andgaseousjovian
planets(thosefarthestfromtheSun:Jupiter,Saturn,Uranus,andNeptune).
u AlthoughtheSunandplanetsarecertainlythemajorobjectsinthesolarsystem,
astronomersalsopaycloseattentiontotheminorbodiesasteroids,comets,
meteors,andplanetarymoonsthatcantellusalotabouttheoriginofthesolar
system.
u Althoughmostasteroidsarerestrictedtohighlypredictableorbits,afewcross
Earthsorbitalpath,posingapotentiallycatastrophichazard.
u Cometsandmeteorshowerspresentampleopportunitiesforexcitingamateur
observation.
5
l : I
Pl
I i
u i l i i
u i i
u ialpl
u Pl
u l ials
u i i i
l i i l
i il i l i
l i i i i i
l l i i
l i i i l i
i l ll i l li l l li le
l ll i ll i i ll
l llwi i i ll i l (
) i i i i i i
Chapter
Hard, Rocky P aces The nner
anets
n Th s Chapter
Somev ta stat st cs
Orb tandrotat on
Atmospheresontheterrestr anets
anetarysurfaces
Thegeo ogyoftheterrestr
Howeveryth ngm ghthavebeend fferent
Ourtwoc osestne ghbors ntheso arsystem,MarsandVenus,are
constantrem ndersofhoweas yth ngscou dhaveturnedoutd ffer-
ent yhereonEarth.Venus ssohotandforb dd ngthat tm ghtbea
goodp acetosetDantesInferno,anda thoughp cturesofMarsm ght
resemb etheAmer canSouthwest, tsatmosphere ssoco dandth nthat
tshard ythereata .Putt ngap aneta tt ec osertotheSunora tt
fartherawaycantru ymakea thed fference.Equa yamaz ng sthata
threep anetsfa th nwhat sca edthehab tab ezoneoftheSun see
Chapter18 ,wh ch stherangeofd stancefromtheSunw th nwh ch
58 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
watercanexistasaliquidonaplanetssurface.Butonlyoneplanet,Earth,hasabun-
dantliquidwater.RecentimagingofthesurfaceofMarsindicatesthatwatermight
stillexistthereinliquidform,albeitonlyfleetingly.
Inthischapter,wetakeacloserlookatthefourrockyplanetsthatareclosesttothe
Sun:Mercury,Venus,Mars,andEarththeterrestrials.
The Terrestrial Roster
ExceptforEarth,theterrestrialplanets,Mercury,Venus,andMars,areallnamed
afterRomangods.Mercury,thewing-footedmessengerofthegods,isanaptname
fortheplanetclosesttotheSun;itssiderealperiod(thetimeittakesaplanettocom-
pleteoneorbitaroundtheSun)isamere88Earthdays,anditsaverageorbitalspeed
(30milespersecondor48km/s)isthefastestofalltheplanets.Mercuryorbitsthe
SunfourtimesforeachEarthorbit.
NamedfortheRomangoddessofloveandfertility,Venusis(toobserversonEarth)
thebrightestoftheplanets,and,eventothenakedeye,quitebeautifultobehold.Its
atmosphereisnotsolovely,however.Theplanetiscompletelyenvelopedbycarbon
dioxideandthickcloudsthatconsistmostlyofsulfuricacid.
ThenameofthebloodyRomanwargod,Mars,suitstheorange-redfaceofournear-
estplanetaryneighbortheplanetthathasmostintriguedobserversandthatseems,
atfirstglance,theleastalienofallourfellowtravelersaroundtheSun.
YoulookedatsomevitalstatisticsoftheplanetsinChapter4.Nowherearesome
morenumbers,specificallyfortheterrestrialplanets.Noticethatthepresenceofan
atmosphere(forVenusandEarth)createsmuchlessvariationinsurfacetemperature.
Surface Rotation
Radiusin Gravity Period Surface
Massin Miles (Relative inSolar Temperature
Planet Kilograms (andkm) toEarth) Days inK
Mercury 3.310
23
1,488(2,400) 0.4 59 100700
Venus 4.910
24
3,782(6,100) 0.9 243* ~730
Earth 6.010
24
3,968(6,400) 1.0 1 ~290
Mars 6.410
23
2,108(3,400) 0.4 1 100250
*TherotationperiodisnegativebecausetherotationofVenusisretrograde;thatis,theplanetrotatesonits
axisintheoppositedirectionfromtheotherplanets.ViewedfromabovetheNorthPoleofEarth,allofthe
planetsexceptVenusrotatecounterclockwise.ThatmeansthatonVenus,theSunwouldrise(ifyoucould
seeitthroughthethickcloudcover)inthewest.
Chapter 5: Hard, Rocky Places: The Inner Planets 59
WhenwediscusstheformationofthesolarsysteminChapter8,wellmentionafew
observationalfactsthatconstrainourmodelsofplanetarysystemformation.Butas
yousee,afewrulesofplanetarymotionareimmediatelyapparent.Allfourterrestrial
planetsorbittheSuninthesamedirection.AllexceptVenusrotateontheiraxesin
thesamedirectionastheyorbittheSun.Theorbitalpathsoftheinnerfourplanets
arenearlycircular.AndtheplanetsallorbittheSuninroughlythesameplane.
Thesolarsystemisadynamicandrealsystem,notatheoreticalconstruct,andsome
interestingexceptionstotheserulescangiveusinsightintotheformationofthis
solarsystem.
CloseEncounter
MostofusintheUnitedStatesareaccustomedtotheFahrenheittemperature
scale.TherestoftheworldusestheCelsius(Centigrade)scale.Astronomers,like
mostscientists,measuretemperatureontheKelvinscale.Throughoutthisbook,wehave
expresseddistanceintheunitsfamiliartomostofourreaders:miles(withkilometersor
metersgivenparenthetically).Formasswegiveallvaluesinkilograms.TheKelvinscale
fortemperatureisconventionalandveryusefulinastronomy;letusexplain.
TheFahrenheitscaleisreallyquitearbitrarybecauseitszeropointisbasedonthe
temperatureatwhichalcoholfreezes.Whatsfundamentalaboutthat?Worse,itputs
atpeculiarpointsthebenchmarksthatmostofusdocareabout.Forexample,water
freezesat32Fatatmosphericpressureandboilsat212F.TheCelsiusscaleissome-
whatlessarbitrarybecausewaterfreezesat0Candboilsat 100Catatmospheric
pressure.ButbecausetheatmosphericpressureofEarthisbynomeansauniversalquan-
tity,astronomersandotherslookedformorefundamentalbenchmarks.
TheKelvinscaleisleastarbitraryofall.Itforcesustoaskafundamentalquestion:what
isheat?
Theatomsandmoleculesinanymatterareinconstantrandommotion,whichrepresents
thermalenergy.Aslongasthereisatomicormolecularmotion,thereisheat(evenin
objectsthat,tothehumansenses,feelverycold).Weknowofnomatterintheuniverse
whoseatomsandmoleculesareentirelymotionless,but,intheory,suchanabsolutezero
pointdoesexist.TheKelvinscalebeginsatthattheoreticalabsolutezero,thepointat
whichthereisnoatomicormolecularmotion.OntheFahrenheitscale,thattemperatureis
459.OntheCelsiusscale,itis273.OntheKelvinscale,itismerely0.Thus,inthe
Kelvinscaletherearenonegativetemperaturesbecauseabsolutezerois,well,absolute.
60 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Mercury: The Moons Twin
Inmanyways,MercuryhasmoreincommonwiththelifelessMoonofourown
planetthanwiththeotherterrestrialplanets.Itsfaceisscarredwithancientcraters,
theresultofmassivebombardmentthatoccurredearlyinthesolarsystemshistory.
ThesecratersremainpristinebecauseMercuryhasnowater,erosion,oratmosphere
toerasethem.TheclosestplanettotheSunwithanaveragedistanceof960,000
miles(1,546,000km)MercuryisdifficulttoobservefromEarthandcanonlybe
viewednearsunriseorsunset.
Mercuryssurfacewasrevealedindetailforthefirsttimeinimagestransmittedby
suchunmannedprobesasMariner10(inthe1970s).Mariner10alsodiscovereda
weakmagneticfield.Asaresult,astronomersconcludedthattheplanetmusthave
acorerichinmolteniron.Thiscontentionisconsistentwiththeplanetsposition
closesttothecenterofthesolarsystem,wheremostofthepreplanetarymatterthe
seedsubstancethatformedtheplanetswouldhavebeenmetallicincomposition.
ThismosaicofMercuryssur-
facewastakenbyMariner10
duringitsapproachonMarch
29,1974.Thespacecraftwas
about124,000miles(200,000
km)abovetheplanet.Notehow
closelyMercuryssurfaceresem-
blestheMoons.
(ImagefromJPL/NASA)
Chapter 5: Hard, Rocky Places: The Inner Planets 61
Lashed to the Sun
Inthedaysbeforespace-basedtelescopesandprobes,earthboundastronomers
didthebesttheycouldtogaugetherotationofMercury.Thenineteenth-century
astronomerGiovanniSchiaparelliobservedthemovementofwhatfewindistinctsur-
facefeatureshecoulddiscernandconcludedthat,unlikeanyotherplanet,Mercurys
rotationwassynchronouswithitsorbitaroundtheSun.
SynchronousorbitmeansthatMercuryalwayskeepsonefacetowardtheSunandthe
otherawayfromit,muchastheMoonalwayspresentsthesamefacetoEarth.
Technologymarcheson.In1965,bymeansofradarimaging,astronomersdiscovered
thatMercurysrotationperiodwasnot88days,asitwaslongthoughttobe,butonly
59days.ThisdiscoveryimpliedthatMercurysrotationwasnotpreciselysynchro-
nouswithitsorbitafterallbutthatitrotatedthreetimesarounditsaxisforevery
twoorbitsoftheSun.
I Cant Breathe!
LikeEarthsMoon,Mercurypossessesinsufficientmasstoholdbygravitationan
atmosphere.Inthesamewaythatmassattractingmassbuiltupplanetesimalsthe
embryonicstageofformingplanets,massesnomorethanseveralhundredmiles
acrosssotheearlyplanetsbuiltupatmospheresbyhangingontothemwiththeir
gravitationalpull.IfanatmospherewaseverassociatedwithMercury,theheatingof
theSunandtheplanetssmallmasshelpedittoescapelongago.Withoutanyatmo-
spheretospeakof,theplanetisvulnerabletobombardmentbymeteoroids,x-rays,
andultravioletradiation,aswellasextremesofheatandcold.
Despitetheabsenceofatmosphere,regionsatthepolesofMercuryremainperma-
nentlyinshadow,withtemperaturesaslowas125K.Theseregions,andsimilar
regionsonEarthsMoon,mighthaveretainedsomewaterintheformofice.
Forecast for Venus: Hot, Overcast, and Dense
VenussthickatmosphereanditsproximitytotheSunmakeforacruelcombination.
TheplanetabsorbsmoreoftheSunsenergyand,becauseofitsheavycloudcover,is
unabletoradiateawaymuchoftheheat.Evenbeforeastronomerssawpicturesofthe
planetssurface,theyknewitwouldnotbeawelcomingplace.
62 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
UntiltheadventofradarimagingaboardspaceprobessuchasPioneerVenus(inthe
late1970s)andMagellan(inthemid-1990s),detailsaboutthesurfaceofVenuswere
shroudedinmystery.Opticalphotonsreflectofftheuppercloudlayersoftheplanet,
andallastronomerscanseewitheventhebestopticaltelescopesistheplanetsswirl-
ingupperatmosphere.Modernradioimagingtechniques(whichinvolvebouncing
radiosignalsoffthesurface)haverevealedasurfaceofrollingplainspunctuatedbya
pairofraisedlandmassesthatresembleEarthscontinents.Venushasnocoastlines,
allofitssurfacewaterhavinglongagoevaporatedintheghastlyheat.Thetwoland
masses,calledIshtarTerraandAphroditeTerra,arehighplateausinaharsh,water-
lessworld.
ThelandscapeofVenusalsosportssomelowmountainsandvolcanoes.Volcanic
activityonthesurfacehasproducedcalderas(volcaniccraters)andcoronae,whichare
vast,rough,circularareascreatedbytitanicvolcanicupswellingsofthemantle.
Venusissurelylifelessbiologically,butgeologically
itisverylively.Astronomersthinkvolcanicactivity
isongoing,andmanybelievethesignificantbutfluc-
Amagnetosphere isazone
ofelectricallychargedparticles
tuatinglevelofsulfurdioxideabovetheVenusian
trappedbyaplanetsmagnetic
cloudcovermightbetheresultofvolcaniceruptions.
field.Themagnetospherelies
ProbessenttoVenusthusfarhavenotdetecteda
abovetheplanetsatmosphere.
magnetosphere;however,astronomersbelievetheplanet
hasaniron-richcore.Scientistsreasonthatthecore
ofVenusmightsimplyrotatetooslowlytogeneratea
detectablemagneticfield.
i i
ll
isi l i
i i l i
i
( / )
Radarmapp ngcarr edout
bytheMage anprobemade
th mageofvo can cdomes
ntheE st areg onofVenus
n1991.
ImagefromJPL NASA
Chapter 5: Hard, Rocky Places: The Inner Planets 63
The Sun Also Sets (in the East)
Asweveseen,Mercuryspeculiarrotationalpatterncanbeexplainedbyitsproximity
totheSun.Butnosuchgravitationalexplanationisavailableforthestrangebehavior
ofVenus.Ifat59days,Mercuryrotatesonitsaxisslowly,Venusisevenmoreslug-
gish,consuming243Earthdaystoaccomplishasinglespin.
Whatsmore,itspinsbackward!Thatis,viewedfromaperspectiveaboveEarths
NorthPole,alltheplanets(terrestrialandjovian)spincounterclockwiseexceptfor
Venus,whichspinsclockwise.
Nobodyknowswhyforsure,butwecansurmisethatsomerandomeventoccurred
duringtheformationofthesolarsystemacollisionorcloseencounterwithanother
planetesimal,perhapsandcausedtheplanetsrotationaloddities.Aviolentcollision,
liketheonethatformedEarthsMoon,mighthavestartedVenusonitsslowback-
wardspin.
Venusian Atmosphere
Chemically,theatmosphereofVenusconsistsmostlyofcarbondioxide(96.5percent).
Theremainderismostlynitrogen.Theseareorganicgases,whichmightleadoneto
jumptotheconclusionthatlifesomeformoflifemightexistonVenus.Indeed,
duringthe1930s,spectroscopicstudiesofVenusrevealedthetemperatureofthe
planetsupperatmospheretobeabout240KclosetoEarthssurfacetemperatureof
290K.SomespeculatedthattheenvironmentofVenusmightbeadensejungle.
Inthe1950s,forthefirsttime,radiowavespenetratedthedensecloudlayerthat
envelopsVenus.Itturnedoutthatsurfacetemperatureswerenot240K,butcloserto
600Kincompatiblewithanyformoflife.
Theoutlookgotonlyworsefromthere.Spacecraftprobessoonrevealedthatthe
denseatmosphereofVenuscreateshighsurfacepressurethecrushingequivalentof
90Earthatmospheresandthatsurfacetemperaturescantop730K.
Andwhataboutthoseclouds?
OnEarth,cloudsarecomposedofwatervapor.ButVenusshowslittlesignofwater.
Itscloudsconsistofsulfuricaciddroplets.Talkaboutacidrain!
64 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
The Earth: Just Right
Inourmarchthroughtheterrestrialplanets,thenextlogicalstopwouldbeEarth.
Wehavealreadymentionedsomeoftheuniqueaspectsofourhomeplanetandwill
continuetodosothroughthecourseofthebook.Inparticular,wewilllookatEarth
asahometolifewhenwediscussthesearchforlifeelsewhereintheMilkyWay
(Chapter18).
ButletstakeabriefmomentnowtothinkofEarthasjustanotheroneoftheterres-
trialplanets.EarthisalmostthesamesizeasVenusandhasarotationalperiodand
inclinationonitsaxisalmostidenticaltoMars.Howisit,then,thatEarthisappar-
entlytheonlyoneofthesethreeplanetstosupportlife?
Asinrealestate,itallcomesdowntothreethings:location,location,andlocation.
EarthisfarenoughfromtheSunthatithasnotexperiencedtherunawaygreen-
houseeffectofVenus.ItiscloseenoughtotheSuntomaintainasurfacetemperature
thatallowsforliquidwaterandismassiveenoughtoholdontoitsatmosphere.The
moltenrockinthemantlelayeraboveitscorekeepsthecrustofEarthinmotion(a
processcalledplatetectonics),andtherotationofthischargedmaterialhasgenerated
amagneticfieldthatprotectsEarthfromthebruntofthesolarwind.
Theseconditionshavecreatedanenvironmentinwhichlifehasgottenafootholdand
flourished.Andlifehasacquiredenoughdiversitythattheoccasionalsetback(like
theasteroidthatmayhavestruckEarthsome65millionyearsago)mightchangethe
courseofevolutionoflifeontheplanetbuthasnotwipeditoutyet.
Mars: That Looks Like New Meico!
Thoseofuswhoweregluedtoourtelevisionsetsin1997whenNASAsharedimages
oftheMartiansurfaceproducedbytheMarsPathfinderprobewerestruckbythe
resemblanceofthelandscapetoEarth.Eventhevividredcoloringoftherockysoil
seemedfamiliartoanyonewhohasbeentopartsofAustraliaoreventhestateof
Georgiathoughthegenerallandscape,apartfromitscolor,morecloselyresembles
desertinNewMexico.IncontrasttoMercuryandVenus,whicharebarelyinclined
ontheiraxes(infact,theiraxesarealmostperpendiculartotheirorbitalplanes),
Marsisinclinedatanangleof25.2degreesquiteclosetoEarthsinclinationof23.5
degrees.
Andthatsonlyonesimilarity.AlthoughMercuryandVenusmoveinwaysvery
differentfromEarth,Marsmovesthroughspaceinawaythatshouldseemquite
Chapter 5: Hard, Rocky Places: The Inner Planets 65
familiartous.Itrotatesonitsaxisonceevery24.6hoursalittlemorethanan
EarthdayandbecauseitisinclinedmuchasEarthis,italsoexperiencesfamiliar
seasonalcycles.
ThestrangenessofMercuryandVenusmakeMarslookmoresimilartoEarththan
itreallyis.Generationshavelookedtotheredplanetasakindofsolarsystemsibling,
partlybelieving,partlywishing,andpartlyfearingthatlifemightbefoundthere.But
thefactisthatlifeasitexistsonEarthcannotexistontheotherterrestrialplanets.
Martian Weather Report: Cold and Thin Skies
WhiletheatmosphereofVenusisverythick,thatofMarsisverythin.Itconsists
ofabout95percentcarbondioxide,3percentnitrogen,2percentargon,andtrace
amountsofoxygen,carbonmonoxide,andwatervapor.Althoughourimaginations
mighttendtopaintMarsasahotdesertplanet,itisactuallyaverycold,verydry
placesome50K(onaverage)colderthanEarth.
i i i lly
i l
i
f
i i
i i
icl i
( )
Th ssect onofageometr ca
mproved,co or-enhanced
vers onofa360-degreepan
wastakenbytheImager or
MarsPathf nderdur ng
threeMart andays n1997.
NotetheSojournerrover
veh eand tstracks.
ImagefromNASA
The Martian Chronicles
PercivalLowell,thesonofoneofNewEnglandswealthiestandmostdistinguished
families,wasborninBostonin1855.Inthe1890s,hereadatranslationofan1877
bookbyGiovanniSchiaparelli,thesameItalianastronomerwhohadconcluded
(incorrectly,asitturnedout)thatMercurysrotationwassynchronizedwithitsorbit.
ReportinghisobservationsofthesurfaceofMars,Schiaparellimentionedhavingdis-
coveredcanali.Theword,whichmeansnothingmorethanchannelsinItalian,was
translatedascanalsinthetranslationLowellread,andthebuddingastronomer,
alreadycharmedbyexoticplaces,setoffinquestofthemostexoticofall:Marsand
whateverraceofbeingshadexcavatedcanalsuponit.
66 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Lowelldedicatedhisconsiderablefamilyfortunetothestudyoftheplanet.Hebuilt
aprivateobservatoryinFlagstaff,Arizona,and,afteryearsofobservation,published
MarsandItsCanalsin1906.Notingthatthecanalnetworkunderwentseasonal
changes,growingdarkerinthesummer,Lowelltheorizedthattechnologically
sophisticatedbeingshadcreatedthecanalstotransportcrop-irrigationwaterfrom
theMartianpolaricecaps.In1924,astronomerssearchedforradiosignalsfromthe
planet(usingatechniquethatanticipatedthecurrentSETIsearchforradiosignals
fromtheuniverse),buttonoavail.YettheideaofintelligentlifeonMarswasso
ingrainedinthepublicimaginationthat,onOctober30,1938,OrsonWellesscele-
bratedradioadaptationofH.G.Wellss1898sciencefictionnovelaboutaninvasion
fromMars,WaroftheWorlds,triggerednationalpanic.
Avarietyofspaceprobeshavenowyieldedveryhigh-resolutionimagesofMars,
revealingtheapparentcanalsassimplynaturalfeatures,likecratersorcanyons.
AlthoughitistruethatMarsundergoesseasonalchanges,theicecapsconsistofa
combinationoffrozencarbondioxideandwater.
Why Mars Is Red
IfwefeelanydisappointmentatthelossoftheMartiancanals,atleastwecanstill
enjoytheimageoftheangryredplanet.Yetthesourceofthereddishhueisnotthe
bloodyspiritoftheRomangodofwar,butsimpleiron.TheMartiansurfacecon-
tainslargeamountsofironoxide,redandrusting.AsViking1andMarsPathfinder
imagesrevealed,eventheMartianskytakesonarust-pinktingeduringseasonaldust
storms.
WindskickupintheMartiansummerandblowthedustaboutastheyplayapromi-
nentrole,formingvastdunesandstreakingcraters.Anespeciallylargeduneisfound
surroundingthenorthpolarcap.
Volcanoes, Craters, and a Grand Canyon
TheMarinerseriesofplanetaryprobeslaunchedinthe1960sand1970srevealeda
startlingdifferencebetweenthesouthernandnorthernhemispheresofMars.The
southernhemisphereisfarmorecrateredthanthenorthern,whichiscoveredwith
wind-blownmaterialaswellasvolcaniclava.Somescientistshaveevenspeculated
thatthesmoothnorthernhemispherehidesalargefrozenocean.
VolcanoesandlavaplainsfromancientvolcanicactivityaboundonMars.Becausethe
planetssurfacegravityislow(0.38thatofEarth),volcanoescanrisetospectacular
Chapter 5: Hard, Rocky Places: The Inner Planets 67
heights.LikeVenus,Marslacksastrongmagneticfield,but,incontrasttoVenus,it
rotatesrapidly;therefore,astronomersconcludethatthecoreofMarsisnonmetallic,
nonliquid,orboth.AstronomersbelievethatthecoreofMarshascooledandislikely
solid,consistinglargelyofironsulfide.
UnlikeEarth,Marsfailedtodevelopmuchtectonicactivity(instabilityofthecrust),
probablybecauseitssmallersizemeantthattheouterlayersoftheplanetcooledrap-
idly.Volcanicactivitywasprobablyquiteintensesome2billionyearsago.
AlsoimpressiveareMartiancanyons,
includingVallesMarineris,theMariner
AstroByte
Valley,whichrunssome2,500miles(4,025
OlympusMons,foundon
km)alongtheMartianequatorandisas
Mars,isthelargestknownvol-
muchas75miles(120km)wideand,in canointhesolarsystem.Itis
someplaces,morethan4miles(6.5km)
340miles(544km)indiameter
andalmost 17miles(27km)high.
deep.TheVallesMarinerisisnotacanyon
intheearthlysense,becauseitwasnotcut
byflowingwater,butisageologicalfault
feature.
Water, Water Anywhere?
ClearlyvisibleonimagesproducedbyMartianprobesarerunoffandoutflowchan-
nels,whicharebelievedtobedryriverbeds,evidencethatwateronceflowedasa
liquidonMars.GeologicalevidencedatestheMartianhighlandsto4billionyears
ago,thetimeinwhichwaterwasapparentlysufficientlyplentifultocausewidespread
flooding.Recenttheoriessuggestthat,atthetime,Marshadathickeratmosphere
thatallowedwatertoexistinaliquidstate,evenatitslowsurfacetemperatures.
TheMarsGlobalSurveyor(MGS)missionhasfoundfurthergeologicalevidenceof
thepresenceofliquidandsubsurfacewaterevidencethathaskeptalivehopesthat
microbiallifemighthaveexisted,ormightevenyetexist,onMars.
Mostrecently,theMGScamerashaverevealedtwolocationswherewaterappears
tohaveflowedbrieflyeveninthepastfewyears.Bothlocationsareontheinterior
slopesofcratersandwerediscoveredbycomparingimagesfromthelate1990sto
morerecentimages.Forthelatestimagesandnews,checkouttheofficialMGSweb
siteathttp://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/.
68 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
TwocratersonMarshave
newdepositsthathave
formedingullysettingsdur-
ingthecourseoftheMars
GlobalSurveyor(MGS)
mission.Thiscraterinthe
CentauriMontesregionwas
firstimagedbytheMars
OrbiterCameraonAug.
30,1999.Thedepositwas
notpresentatthattime,so
itmusthaveformedbetween
thatdateandFeb.21,2004.
(ImagefromJPL/NASA)
All Bets Are Off
BookiesnolongertakebetsonwhetherlifeeverexistedonMars.Theoddswere
1,000:1inthe1970sand16:1bythestartof2004.AndtheresultsofthelatestNASA
missiontoMars,reportedinMarch2004,clearlyindicatedthepresenceofwaterat
sometimeinthehistoryofMars,whichnotonlyremovedthisbetfromthebooks
butalsotransformedourviewoftheredplanetaswellasthesolarsystem.Thepres-
enceofwatersuggeststheveryrealpossibilityoflife.
OneoftheprimaryscientificgoalsofthetwoMars
AstroByte
ExplorationRovers(MERs),SpiritandOpportunity,
NASAlaunchedtworemote
wastodeterminewhetherornotMarshadbeena
MarsExplorationRovers wetterplaceinthedistantpast.Astronomershoped
(MERs),Spirit andOpportunity,
alsotodetermineifithadbeenwetforextended
onJune10andJuly7,2003.
periodsoftime,longenoughsolifemighthave
Theirprimarygoalwastosearch
arisenthere.
theMartiansurfaceforevidence
ofwater.Theroverslandedon
MarsonJanuary3andJanuary
24,2004,andimmediatelygot
towork.Theyhavebeenopera-
tionaleversince,andbothare
InMarch2004,NASAreleasedresultsfromthe
OpportunityroverthatlandedinMerdianiPlanum,
aregionknowntoberichinhematite,aformofiron
thattypicallyformsinwateryenvironments.The
roverconfirmedthepresenceofhematite,butthat
nowover1,000Martiandays
wasjustastart.
pastwarranty.
Whenthecamerassentthefirstimagesbackfrom
thelandingsite,JPLscientistswereamazedtosee
Chapter 5: Hard, Rocky Places: The Inner Planets 69
thatthecrafthadrolledtoastopinatinycrateraholeinone,assomeofthem
describedit.Noordinarycrater,thisonecontainedanoutcroppingofrockthat,
toscientists,lookedlikesomethingnoonehadeverseenbefore.ItwasMartian
bedrock.
Goneweretheredstone-scatteredfieldsoftheVikingandPathfindermissions.This
wasanalienlandscapewithinanalienlandscape.ThesurfacearoundOpportunity
wasdarkandsmooth,withaclearoutcroppingofrockatthelipofthecrater.After
surveyingitsimmediatesurroundings,Opportunitybegantoexaminethebedrockin
detail.Init,theroversMoessbauerspectrometerdetectedahydrated(water-bearing)
ironsulfatemineralcalledjarosite.OnEarth,jarositecanforminhot,acidicenviron-
ments,muchlikehotsprings.
However,scientistsrequiremultiplelinesofevidencewhenmakingadramaticclaim,
andthelong-termpresenceofwateronMarsiscertainlydramatic.Theotherevi-
denceforthepresenceofwaterincludesindentationsintherock,spherules,and
crossbedding.Theindentations(calledvugs)areprobablyduetotheformation
ofcrystalsintherockwhenitsatforlongperiodsinasalt-waterenvironment.The
spherules(dubbedblueberries)havebeendetectedatmanylayersintherock,indi-
catingthattheymighthaveformedwhenmineralsseepedoutofporousrock.Finally,
tinyridgepatternsintherockindicateeitherwaterorwinderosionoverlongperi-
odsoftime.Thesmallscaleofthecrossbeddingintheoutcroprockshasgeologists
thinkingthatwateristhemorelikelycause.
IfMarswaswateryforalongperiodoftime,astheseresultsstronglyindicate,the
oddsforlifehavingexistedatleastinoneotherplaceintheuniverseindeed,inour
veryownsolarsystemgowayup,andsomeimagesfromtheMarsGlobalSurveyor
(MGS)missionhaveshownevidenceofwaterflowsrecentenoughtohaveoccurred
duringthelifetimeofthemission.ForthelatestinformationabouttheMars
Explorationrovers,gotowww.marsrover.nasa.gov.
Martian Moons
MarsandEartharetheonlyterrestrialplanetswithmoons.Aswehavesaid,our
Moonisremarkablylarge,comparableinsizetosomeofthemoonsofJupiter.The
moonsofMars,colorfullynamedPhobos(Fear)andDeimos(Panic),afterthehorses
thatdrewthechariotoftheRomanwargod,werenotdiscovereduntil1877.
Theyareratherunimpressiveasmoonsgo,resemblinglargeasteroids.Theyare
smallandirregularlyshaped(Phobosis17.4mileslong12.4miles[28km20km]
70 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
wide,andDeimosis10miles6.2miles[16km10km]).Theyarealmostcertainly
asteroidsthatweregravitationallycapturedbytheplanetandfellintoorbitaroundit.
Where to Net?
Mercury,Venus,andMarsareourneighbors,theplanetsweknowmostaboutand
perhapsfeeltheclosestconnectionto.Atthat,however,theyarestillstrangeand
inhospitableworlds.Strange?Inhospitable?Well,asAlJolsonwasfamousforsaying,
Youaintseennothinyet.
The Least You Need to Know
u TheterrestrialplanetsareMercury,Venus,Earth,andMars.
u AlthoughtheterrestrialplanetssharecertainEarthlikequalities,theydifferin
significantwaysthat,amongotherthings,maketheexistenceoflifeonthose
planetsimpossibleoratleasthighlyunlikely.
u MercuryandVenusdisplayrotationalpeculiarities.InthecaseofMercury,we
canexplainitsrotationbyitsproximitytotheSun;buttheslowretrograde
rotationofVenuscanbebestexplainedbytheoccurrenceofsomerandomevent
(probablyacollision)earlyintheformationofthesolarsystem.
u Oftheterrestrialplanets,onlyEarthhasanatmosphereandenvironmentcon-
ducivetolife.
u AlthoughMarsmightlookandseemfamiliar,itsthin,icyatmospherewhipped
byduststormsisaharshenvironment.
u SeveralrecentmissionstoMarshaveprovidedcompellingevidenceofwater.
6
Bl :
Pl
I i
u j i l li
u j i
u i
u i l i
u
u i i
i lil i i l l
i i l i l i li it
i l i ll i i i
l l li i l
i i lil i l l i l i
li l i i
ll li i
ialpl
i l
l i l idl i
Chapter
oated and Gassy The Outer
anets
n Th s Chapter
The ov anp anetary ne-up
Thegassy ov ans
Thed scoveryofUranusandNeptune
Rotat ona qu rks
Atmosphereandweather
Inter orstructureoftheouterg ants
Imag neGa eossurpr sewhenhepo ntedate escopeatthep anet
Jup ter n1610.Noton ywas tmorethanafeature esspo ntof ght
hadasurfacebut twasa soorb tedbyfoursma erbod es.H sd scovery
wou dcauseagooddea ofupheava nthewayhumansv ewedthemse ves
ntheun verse,andGa eoh mse fwou dendup ntroub ew ththe
Catho cChurch.Thep anetsarefoundnearan mag naryarcacrossthe
skythatweca theec pt c.Longbeforeastronomersknewthattheter-
restr anetssharedcommonfeatures,theyknewtwoofthewanderers
theywatchedwered fferent.A thoughMercuryandVenusneverstrayed
farfromtheSun,andMarsmovedre at ve yrap yacrossthesky,Jup ter
72 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
andSaturnmovedponderously,majesticallythroughthestellarocean.Longbefore
theinventionofthetelescope,thatmotionwasacluethattheouterplanetsthose
farthestfromtheSunwereunique.Mercury,Venus,andMarsmightseeminhospi-
table,forbidding,anddownrightdeadly,butoursisterterrestrialplanetshavemorein
commonwithEarththanwiththesegiantsofthesolarsystemsfarthestreaches.The
jovianplanetsaretrulyother-worldly,manytimeslargerandmoremassivethanEarth,
yetlessdense.Theyareballsofgasthatcoalescedarounddensecores,accompanied
bymultiplemoonsandevenrings.Inthischapter,weexplorethesedistantworlds.
The Jovian Line-Up
JupiterwasthesupremegodinRomanmythology.InMiddleEnglishhisnamewas
transmutedintoJove,fromwhichthewordjovialcomes,because,duringtheastro-
logicallyobsessedMiddleAges,theinfluenceofJupiterwasregardedasthesource
ofhumanhappiness.Anotheradjective,jovian,usuallyspelledwithalowercaseinitial
letter,meanslikeJupiter.IftheterrestrialplanetshaveEarthlike(terrestrial)
qualities,allthejovianplanetshavemuchincommonwithJupiter.
InadditiontoJupiter,byfarthelargestplanetinthesolarsystem(about300times
moremassivethanEarthandwitharadius11timesgreater),thejoviansinclude
Saturn,Uranus,andNeptune.
Planetary Stats
Themostimmediatelystrikingdifferencesbetweentheterrestrialandjovianworlds
areinsizeanddensity.Recallourroughscale:ifEarthisagolfball0.2milesfrom
theSun,thenJupiterisabasketball1mileawayfromtheSun,andthedwarfplanet
Plutoisachickpea8milesaway.Atthisscale,theSunsdiameterwouldbeasbigas
theheightofatypicalceiling(almost10feet).Althoughthejovianplanetsdwarfthe
terrestrials,theyaremuchlessdense.Letssumupthejovians,comparedtoEarth,
inthefollowingtable.
Wehavegivenagravitationalforceandatemperatureatthesurfaceofthejovian
planets,butasyoullsee,theydontreallyhaveasurfaceinthesensethattheterres-
trialplanetsdo.Thesenumbersarethevaluesfortheouterradiusoftheirswirling
atmosphere.OnesurprisemightbethatthesurfacegravityofSaturn,Uranus,and
NeptuneisveryclosetowhatwehaveatthesurfaceofEarth.Gravitationalforce
dependsontwofactors:massandradius.Althoughtheseouterplanetsaremuchmore
massive,theirradiiaresolargethattheforceofgravityattheirsurfacesiscloseto
thatofthesmaller,lessmassiveEarth.
73 Chapter 6: Bloated and Gassy: TheOuter Planets
Surface
Magnetic Surface
Radius Field Gravity Rotation Atmospheric
Massin inMiles (Relative (Relative Periodin Temperature
Planet Kilograms (andkm) toEarth) toEarth) SolarDays inK
Earth 6.010
24
3,968 1 1 1 290
(6,380km)
Jupiter 1.910
27
44,020 14 2.5 0.41 124
(71,400km)
Saturn 5.710
26
37,200 0.7 1.1 0.43 97
(60,200km)
Uranus 8.810
25
16,120 0.7 0.9 0.72* 58
(25,600km)
Neptune 1.010
26
15,500 0.4 1.2 0.67 59
(24,800km)
*TherotationperiodofUranusisnegativebecauseitisretrograde;likeVenus,itrotatesonitsaxisinthe
oppositedirectionfromtheotherplanets.
Ofthejovians,JupiterandSaturnhavethemostincommonwithoneanother.Both
arehuge,theirbulkconsistingmainlyofhydrogenandhelium.Duringtheearly
phasesofsolarsystemdevelopment,theoutersolarsystem(fartherfromtheSun)
containedmorewaterandorganicmaterialsthantheinnerpart,andthelargemass
andcoolertemperaturesoftheouterplanetsmeantthattheywereablegravitationally
toholdontothehydrogenandheliumintheiratmospheres.
Jupitersatmosphereishost
tostorms(leftpanel)and
lightning(rightpanels)much
likethosefoundonEarth.
Theseimagesfromthe
GalileomissiontoJupiter
showanumberoflightning
strikesvisibleinthetwo
imagesontheright,taken
minutesapart.
(ImagefromJPL/NASA)
74 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
AstronomersNotebook
Whyarethejovianplanetssolarge?Theseplanetsformedfromnebularmaterial(the
stuffthatformedthesolarsystem)farfromtheSun,inregionsthatwererelativelycool.
Thelowertemperaturesenabledwater,ice,andothermoleculestocondenseintheouter
solarsystemsooner,whenthosesamemoleculeswerestillgaseousintheregioncloser
tothestill-formingprotosun.Asaresult,alargerquarryofsolidmaterialwasavailable
intheoutersolarsystemtostartbuildingupintoplanetesimals.Ineffect,theoutersolar
systemgotaheadstart.Theselargerplanetesimals(andtheirstrongergravitationalfields)
heldontoalargermassofhydrogenandhelium,andthusthegasgiantswereborn.
Theterrestrialsconsistmostlyofrockyandmetallicmaterials,andthejovianspri-
marilyoflighterelements.Wedeterminethedensityofaplanetbydividingitsmass
byitsvolume.Althoughtheouterplanetsareclearlymuchmoremassive(which,you
mightthink,wouldmakethemmoredense),theyaremuchlargerinradius,andso
encompassafargreatervolume.Forthatreason,theouterplanetshave(onaverage)a
lowerdensitythantheinnerplanetsasyoucanseeinthefollowingtable:
Planet Density(kg/m
3
)
Earth 5,500
Jupiter 1,330
Saturn 710
Uranus 1,240
Neptune 1,670
Now,letsmoveontoUranusandNeptunedistant,faint,andunknowntoancient
astronomers.
AlthoughtheyarebothmuchlargerthanEarth,theyarelessthanhalfthediam-
eterofJupiterandSaturn;inourscalemodel,theywouldeachbeaboutthesizeofa
cantaloupe.UranusandNeptune,thoughlessmassivethanSaturn,aresignificantly
moredense.NeptuneisdenserthanJupiteraswell,andUranusapproachesJupiterin
density.
PonderNeptune.Remember,densityisequaltothemassofanobjectdividedbyits
volume.AlthoughthemassofNeptuneisabout19timessmallerthanthatofJupiter,
itsvolumeis24timessmaller.Thus,weexpectitsdensitytobeabout
24
19 or1.3times
75 Chapter 6: Bloated and Gassy: TheOuter Planets
greater.AlthoughwecannotyetpeerbeneaththeatmosphericsurfacesofUranusand
Neptune,thehigherdensitiesofthesetwoplanetsprovideavaluablecluetowhats
inside.
Reflectingtheirgenesis,allthejovianplanetshavethickatmospheresofhydrogen
andheliumcoveringasuperdensecoreslightlylargerthanEarthorVenus.The
rockycoresofallfouroftheseplanetsarebelievedtohavesimilarradii,ontheorder
of4,300to6,200miles(7,000to10,000km);butthiscorerepresentsamuchsmaller
fractionofthefullradiusofJupiterandSaturnthandothecoresofsmallerUranus
andNeptunethusthehigheraveragedensityofthelattertwoplanets.
Theatmospheresofthejovianplanetsareancientandhaveprobablychangedlittle
sinceearlyinthelifetimeofthesolarsystem.Withtheirstronggravitationalfields
andgreatmass,theseplanetshaveheldontotheirprimordialatmospherichydrogen
andhelium,whereasmostoftheseelementslongagoescapedfromthelessmassive
terrestrialplanets,whichhavemuchweakergravitationalpull.
Buthereswherethingsgetstrange.OnEarth,wehavethesky(andatmosphere)
aboveandthesolidgroundbelow.Inthecaseofthejovianplanets,thegaseous
atmosphereneverreallyends.Itjustbecomesdenserwithdepth,aslayeruponlayer
pressesdown.
Thereisnonormalsolidsurfacetotheseplanets!Asthegasesbecomemoredense,
theybecomeliquid,whichispresumablywhatliesatthecoreofthejovianworlds.
Whenastronomersspeakoftherockycoresoftheseplanets,theyaretalkingabout
chemicalcompositionratherthanphysicalstate.EvenonEarth,rockcanbeheated
andpressedsufficientlytoliquefyit(thinkofvolcaniclava).Itislikethisdeepinside
thejovianatmospheres:theybecomeincreasinglydense,butneversolid,surrounding
aliquidcore.InthecaseofJupiterandSaturn,thepressuresaresogreatthateven
theelementhydrogentakesonaliquidmetallicform.
Latecomers: Uranus and Neptune
Sinceancienttimes,theinventoryofthesolarsystemwasclearandseeminglycom-
plete:theSunand,inadditiontoEarth,fiveplanets,Mercury,Venus,Mars,Jupiter,
andSaturn.Then,onMarch13,1781,thegreatBritishastronomerWilliamHerschel,
tirelesslymappingtheskieswithhissisterCaroline,tooknoteofwhathebelievedto
beacometintheregionofastarcalledHGeminorum.Infact,withtheaidofatele-
scope,HerschelhaddiscoveredUranus,thefirstnewplanetsinceancienttimes.
76 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
AfterUranushadbeenfound,anumberofastronomersbeganplottingitsorbit.But
somethingwaswrong.Repeatedly,overthenexthalfcentury,theplanetsobserved
positionsdidnttotallycoincidewithitsmathematicallypredictedpositions.Bythe
earlynineteenthcentury,anumberofastronomersbeganspeculatingthatthenew
planetsapparentviolationofNewtonslawsofmotionhadtobecausedbytheinflu-
enceofsomeundiscoveredcelestialbodythatis,yetanotherplanet.Forthefirst
time,IsaacNewtonsworkwasusedtoidentifytheirregularityinaplanetsorbitand
topredictwhereanotherplanetshouldbe.Allgoodscientifictheoriesareabletomake
testablepredictions,andherewasagoldenopportunityforNewtonstheoryofgravity.
NASAsHubbleSpaceTele-
scopemadethisimageof
Uranus,includingitsrings,
theinnermoons,anddistinct
cloudsinUranusssouthern
hemisphere.
(ImagefromK.Seidelmann/
USNO/NASA)
OnJuly3,1841,JohnCouchAdams(18191892),aCambridgeUniversitystudent,
wroteinhisdiary:Formedadesigninthebeginningofthisweekofinvestigating,
assoonaspossibleaftertakingmydegree,theirregularitiesinthemotionof
Uranusinordertofindoutwhethertheymaybeattributedtotheactionof
anundiscoveredplanetbeyondit.Truetohisword,in1845,hesenttoJames
Challis,directoroftheCambridgeObservatory,hiscalculationsonwherethenew
planet,asyetundiscovered,couldbefound.Challispassedtheinformationtoanother
astronomer,GeorgeAiry,whodidntgetaroundtodoinganythingwiththefigures
forayear.Bythattime,workingwithcalculationssuppliedbyanotherastronomer(a
FrenchmannamedJeanJosephLeverrier),JohannGalle,oftheBerlinObservatory,
foundtheplanetthatwouldbecalledNeptune.ThedatewasSeptember23,1846.
77 Chapter 6: Bloated and Gassy: TheOuter Planets
StormyweatheronNeptune.
Madewithacombinationof
observationsfromtheHubble
SpaceTelescope(HST)and
theNASAInfraredTelescope
Facility(ITF)onMauna
Kea,Hawaii,thisimage
showsasurfacemottledwith
stormsandtornbywindsof
upto900milesperhour.
(ImagefromL.Sromovsky/
UW-Madison/NASA)
CloseEncounter
ThedarkbrownishstripesacrossJupiterarecalledbelts, thebrighterstripes,zones.
Beltsaredark,coolerregions,settlinglowerintotheatmosphereaspartofaconvec-
tivecycle.Zonesareregionsofrisinghotatmosphericgas.Thebandsaretheresultof
regionsoftheatmospheremovingfromhighpressuretolowpressureregions(muchas
theydoonEarth).TherapidrotationofJupiterconfinesthismovementtonarrowbelts.
Theplanetdoeshaveanatmosphericgeographythatcanbemapped:
u Thelight-coloredcentralbandistheequatorialzone.Itmightappearwhite,
orange,oryellow.
u TheGreatRedSpot,ahurricanethathasbeenobservedsouthoftheequatorial
zonesincetheinventionoftelescopes,hasadiameterapproximatelytwicethat
ofEarth.
u Oneithersideoftheequatorialzonearedarkbandscalledthenorthandsouth
equatorialbelts.Attimes,youmightwitnessasouthequatorialbeltdisturbance:
anatmosphericstorm.
u Northandsouthoftheequatorialbeltsarethenorth andsouth temperate belts.
u AttheextremenorthernandsouthernendsofJupiterarethepolar regions, which
aresometimesbarelyperceptibleandsometimesquiteapparentdarkareas.
78 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Views from the Voyagers and Galileo
Duringthe1970sand1980s,twoVoyagerspaceprobesgaveusunprecedentedimages
ofthejovianplanets.Voyager1visitedJupiterandSaturn,andVoyager2addedUranus
andNeptunetothelist.
TheVoyagermissionsalsorevealedvolcanicactivityonIo,oneofJupitersmoons.As
forSaturn,anew,previouslyunknownsystemofringsemerged:severalthousand
ringlets.TenadditionalmoonswerediscoveredorbitingUranus,whichalsorevealed
thepresenceofastrongermagneticfieldthanhad
beenpredicted.AndtheNeptuneflybyledtothe
discoveryofthreeplanetaryringsaswellassixpre-
TheVan Allen belts, namedfor
viouslyunknownmoons.Thehithertofeatureless
theirdiscoverer,Americanphysi-
bluefaceoftheplanetwasresolvedintoatmospheric
cistJamesA.VanAllen,arevast
doughnut-shapedzonesofhighly
bands,aswellasgiantcloudstreaks.Asaresultof
energeticchargedparticlesthat
theVoyager2flyby,themagnetospheresofNeptune
aretrappedinthemagneticfield andUranusweredetected.AswiththeVanAllenbelts
ofEarth.Thezoneswerediscov-
aroundEarth,themagnetospheresoftheseplanets
eredin1958.
trapchargedparticles(protonsandelectrons)from
thesolarwind.
Ifonlyitsnamesakecouldhavelivedtoseeit!Launchedin1989,Galileoreached
Jupiterin1995andbeganacomplex23-monthorbitaltouroftheplanetandits
moonsalmost400yearsaftertheItalianastronomerfirstgazedonthem.Amongthe
mostextraordinaryofGalileosdiscoveriesisanewringofdustthathasaretrograde
(backward)orbitaroundJupiter.About700,000miles(1,120,000km)indiameter,
thisdoughnut-shapedringmovesintheoppositedirectionoftherotatingplanetand
itsmoons.TheGalileomissionendeddramaticallyonSeptember21,2003,whenthe
spacecraftenteredJupitersatmosphere.Ittransmittedbrieflybeforesuccumbingto
hightemperaturesandpressures.
CloseEncounter
LateinJuly1994,Galileo wasinorbitonthefarsideofJupiterwhenmorethan
20fragmentsofCometShoemaker-Levy9plungedintotheatmosphereovera6-day
period.ThefragmentsweretheresultofJupiterstidalforces,whichpulledapreviously
normalcometintoachainofsmallercomets.Travelingatmorethan40milespersec-
ond(60km/s),thefragmentscreatedaseriesofspectacularexplosionsintheplanets
upperatmosphere,eachwithaforcecomparabletothedetonationofabillionatomic
bombs.So-calledblack-eyeimpactsiteswerecreated,theresultofchangesthatthe
impactsproducedintheupperatmosphereoftheplanet.
Chapter 6: Bloated and Gassy: TheOuter Planets 79
The View from Cassini
TheCassinispacecraft,whichstarteditstourofSaturnanditsmoonsinJuly2004,
isnowwellintoitsexplorationoftheplanet,itsmoons,anditsmagnetosphere.Inits
plannedfour-yeartour,itwillcomplete74orbitsofSaturn,44closeflybysofTitan,
and8closeflybysofothersatellites,includingEnceladus,Phoebe,Hyperion,Dione,
Rhea,andIapetus.
TheCassini-Huygensmissionhaschangedourunderstandingoftheringedplanetand
confirmedmanyhypothesesaboutthenatureofitsmysteriousmoon,Titan.Inthe
springof2007,radarimagersonNASAsCassinispacecraftfoundevidenceofseas
onTitan,mostlikelyfilledwithliquidmethaneorethane.Severaloftheseseasare
muchlargerthantheGreatLakesofNorthAmerica.
ThisimageofSaturnand
itsringsisfromtheCassini
wide-anglecamera,taken
fromadistanceofapproxi-
mately999,000kilometers
(621,000miles)onMay4,
2005.Thespacecraftwas
onlyafewdegreesabovethe
ringplane.
Rotation: A New Twist
Withallthebandsandsurfacefeaturesofthebiggestjovianplanets,youdthinkit
wouldberelativelyeasytocalculaterotationratesbyeye.Onecouldjustlookfor
aprominentsurfacefeatureandtimehowlongittakesthatfeaturetomakeonetrip
around.
80 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Well,itsnotthateasy.Becausetheseplanetslacksolidsurfaces,differentfeatureson
thesurfaceactuallyrotateatdifferingrates.Thisdifferentialrotationisnotdramatic
inthecaseofJupiter,whoseequatorialregionrotatesonlyslightlyfasterthanregions
athigherlatitudes.East-westwindsmoveatabout190milesperhour(300km/h)
inJupitersequatorialregionsandatazippy800milesperhour(1,300km/h)inthe
equatorialregionsofSaturn.Itturnsoutthatthebestwaytoclocktherotationrates
oftheseplanetsisnottolookattheiratmospheresbuttomeasuresomethingtiedto
theplanetscores.Theperiodsoffluctuationintheradioemission(whicharisefrom
thecore-generatedmagneticfields)aretakentobethetruerotationrate.
AlthoughNeptuneandSaturnareslightlytippedontheiraxessimilartoEarth(30,
27,and23.5degrees,respectively),Jupitersaxisisnearlyperpendiculartotheplane
ofitsorbit;theplanettiltsfromtheperpendicularamere3degrees.
ThetrueoddballinthisrespectisUranus,whichtilts98degrees,ineffectlyingon
itsside.TheresultofthispeculiarityisthatUranushasthemostextremeseasonsin
thesolarsystem.Whileonepoleexperiencescontinuousdaylightfor42Earthyears
atastretch,theotherisplungedintoanequalperiodofdarkness.
Stormy Weather
Jupitersspectacularsurfacefeaturesbelieaturbulentatmosphere.Inadditiontoa
prevailingeastwardandwestwardwindflowcalledzonalflow,manysmaller-scale
weatherpatternsexistasevidencedbysuchfeaturesastheGreatRedSpot.
The Great Red Spot
TheBritishscientistRobertHooke(16351703)firstreportedtheGreatRedSpot,
whichisastorm,aswirlinghurricaneorwhirlpool,ofgiganticdimensions(twicethe
sizeofEarth),atleast300yearsold.Itrotatesonceeverysixdaysandisaccompanied
byothersmallerstorms.NeptunehasasimilarstormcalledtheGreatDarkSpot.
Howcouldastormlastforthreecenturiesormore?Weknowfromourexperience
onEarththathurricanesformovertheoceanandmightremainactivetherefor
daysorweeks.Whentheymoveoverland,however,theyaresoonspent(albeitoften
destructively);thelandmassdisruptstheflowpatternandremovesthesourceof
energy.OnJupiter,however,thereisnoland.Onceastormstarts,itcontinuesindefi-
nitelyuntilalargerstormdisruptsit.TheGreatRedSpotiscurrentlythereigning
stormontheplanet.
Chapter 6: Bloated and Gassy: TheOuter Planets 81
Bands of Atmosphere
TheatmosphericbandsthatareJupitersmoststrikingfeaturearetheresultofconvec-
tivemotionandzonalwindpatterns.Warmgasesrise,whilecoolergasessink.The
locationofparticularbandsappearstobeassociatedwiththewindspeedonJupiter
atvariouslatitudes.
Anyonewhowatchesanearthlytelevision
weatherforecastisfamiliarwithhigh-
pressureandlow-pressureareas.Airmasses
Convective motion isanyflow
movefromhigh-pressureregionstolow-
patterncreatedbytherising
pressureregions.Butweneverseethese
movementofwarmgases(or
regionsonEarthasregularzonesorbands
liquids)andthesinkingmove-
mentofcoolergases(orliquids).
thatcircletheplanet.ThatsbecauseEarth
doesntrotatenearlyasfastasJupiter.The
rapidrotationofthegasgiantspreadsthe
regionsofhighandlowpressureoutover
theentireplanet.
Convectivemotionisknownto
occurinplanetaryatmospheres,
theSunsphotosphere,andthetea
kettleboilingwateronyourstove.
Layers of Gas
OnJuly13,1995,nearthestartofitsmission,Galileoreleasedanatmosphericprobe,
whichplungedintoJupitersatmosphereandtransmitteddataforalmostanhour
beforeintenseatmosphericheatandpres-
suredestroyedit.Afteranalysisofthisdata
AstroByte
(andearlierdatafromVoyager),astronomers
concludedthatJupitersatmosphereis
ThecoretemperatureofJupiter
mustbeveryhigh,perhaps
arrangedindistinctlayers.Becausethereis
40,000K.Astronomers
nosolidsurfacetocallsealevel,thetropo-
speculatethatthecorediameter
sphere(theregioncontainingtheclouds
isabout 12,500miles(20,000
wesee)isconsideredzeroaltitude,andthe
km),aboutthesizeofEarth.
atmosphereismappedinpositiveandnega- Asthejovianplanetscollapsed,
tivedistancesfromthis.
partoftheirgravitationalenergy
wasreleasedasheat.Some
Justabovethetroposphereisahazelayer,
ofthisheatcontinuestobe
andjustbelowitarewhitecloudsofammo-
released,meaningthatJupiter,
niaice.Temperaturesinthisregionare Saturn,andNeptunehaveinter-
125150K.Startingatabout40miles
nalheatsources.
82 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
(60km)belowtheammoniaicelevelisacloudlayerofammoniumhydrosulfideice,
inwhichtemperaturesclimbto200K.Belowthislevelarecloudsofwatericeand
watervapor,downtoabout60miles(100km).Fartherdownarethesubstancesthat
makeuptheinterioroftheplanet:hydrogen,helium,methane,ammonia,andwater,
withtemperaturessteadilyrisingthedeeperwego.Moleculesatthesedepthscanbe
probedwithobservationsatradiowavelengths.
Saturnine Atmosphere
SaturnsatmosphereissimilartoJupitersmostlyhydrogen(92.4percent)and
helium(7.4percent)withtracesofmethaneandammonia;however,itsweakergravity
resultsinthickercloudlayersthatgivetheplanetamoreuniformappearance,with
muchsubtlerbanding,thanJupiter.Temperaturerisesmuchmoreslowlyasafunc-
tionofdepthintheatmosphereonSaturn.
The Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune
UnmannedspacevehicleshavenotprobedtheatmospheresofUranusandNeptune,
buttheseatmosphereshavebeenstudiedspectroscopicallyfromEarth,revealing
that,likeJupiterandSaturn,theyaremostlyhydrogen(about84percent)andhelium
(about14percent).Methanemakesupabout3percentofNeptunesatmosphereand
2percentofUranuss,butammoniaisfarlessabundantoneitherplanetthanon
JupiterandSaturn.BecauseUranusandNeptunearecolderandhavemuchlower
atmosphericpressurethanthelargerplanets,anyammoniapresentisfrozen.The
lackofammoniaintheatmosphereandthesignificantpresenceofmethanegiveboth
UranusandNeptuneabluishappearancebecausemethaneabsorbsredlightand
reflectsblue.Uranus,withslightlylessmethanethanNeptune,isblue-greenwhile
Neptuneisquiteblue.
Uranusrevealsalmostnoatmosphericfeatures.Thefewpresentaresubmergedunder
layersofhaze.Neptune,asseenbyVoyager2,revealsmoreatmosphericfeaturesand
evensomestormsystems,includingaGreatDarkSpot,anareaofstormcomparable
insizetoEarth.DiscoveredbyVoyager2in1989,theGreatDarkSpothadvanished
bythetimetheHubbleSpaceTelescopeobservedtheplanetin1994.
Chapter 6: Bloated and Gassy: TheOuter Planets 83
Inside the Jovians
Howdoyougatherinformationabouttheinteriorofplanetsthatlackasolidsurface
andaresodifferentfromEarth?Youcombinethebestobservationaldatayouhave
withtestable,constrainedspeculationknownastheoreticalmodeling.Doingjustthis,
astronomershaveconcludedthattheinteriorsofallfourjoviansconsistlargelyofthe
elementsfoundintheiratmospheres:hydrogenandhelium.Deeperintheplanets,
thegases,atincreasingpressureandtemperature,becomeliquidbutneversolid.
InthecaseofJupiter,astronomersbelievethatthehotliquidhydrogenistransformed
frommolecularhydrogentometallichydrogenandbehavesmuchlikeamolten
metal,inwhichelectronsarenotboundtoasinglenucleusbutmovefreely,conduct-
ingelectricalcharge.Asyoushallseeinjustamoment,thisstateofhydrogenis
likelyrelatedtothecreationofJupiterspowerfulmagnetospheretheresultofits
strongmagneticfield.SaturnsinternalcompositionisdoubtlesssimilartoJupiters
althoughitslayerofmetallichydrogenisprobablyproportionatelythinner,andits
coreisslightlylarger.TemperatureandpressureattheSaturninecorearecertainly
lessextremethanonJupiter.
UranusandNeptunearebelievedtohaverockycoresofsimilarsizetothoseof
JupiterandSaturnsurroundedbyaslushylayerconsistingofwatercloudsand,per-
haps,theammoniathatislargelyabsentfromtheouteratmosphereoftheseplanets.
BecauseUranusandNeptunehavesignificantmagnetospheres,somescientists
speculatethattheammoniamightcreateanelectricallyconductivelayer,neededto
generatethedetectedmagneticfield.Abovetheslushylayerismolecularhydrogen.
WithouttheenormousinternalpressurespresentinJupiterandSaturn,thehydrogen
doesnotassumeametallicform.
The Jovian Magnetospheres
Jupitersmagnetosphereisthemostpowerfulinthesolarsystem.Itsextentreaches
some18,600,000miles(30millionkm)northtosouth.Saturnhasamagnetosphere
thatextendsabout600,000miles(1millionkm)towardtheSun.Themagneto-
spheresofUranusandNeptunearesmaller,weaker,and(strangely)offsetfromthe
gravitationalcenteroftheplanets.
Therapidrateofrotationandthetheorizedpresenceofelectricallyconductivemetal-
lichydrogeninsideJupiterandSaturnaccountforthestrongmagneticfieldsofthese
84 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
planets.AlthoughUranusandNeptunealsorotaterapidly,itislessclearwhatinter-
nalmaterialgeneratesthemagneticfieldssurroundingtheseplanetsbecausetheyare
notthoughttohavemetallichydrogenintheircores.Withchargedparticlestrapped
bytheirmagnetospheres,thejovianplanetsexperienceAuroraBorealis,orNorthern
Lights,justaswedohereonEarth.Theselightsoccurwhenchargedparticles
escapethemagnetosphereandspiralalongthefieldlinesontotheplanetspoles.The
HubbleSpaceTelescopehasimagedsuchaurorasatthepolesofJupiterandSaturn.
The Least You Need to Know
u ThejovianplanetsareJupiter,Saturn,Uranus,andNeptune.
u Althoughtheyarethelargest,mostmassiveplanetsinthesolarsystem,these
planetsareonaveragelessdensethantheterrestrialplanets,andtheirouterlay-
ersofhydrogenandheliumgascoveradensecore.
u Neptunewasdiscoveredin1846becauseastronomersweresearchingforan
explanationofUranussslightlyirregularorbit.Newtonstheoryofgravitypro-
videdanexplanationthemassofanotherplanet.
u Thejovianplanetsallhaveincommonthickatmospheres,ringsystems,and
strongmagneticfields.
u Themissionstotheouterplanets,Voyager1,Voyager2,andGalileo,havehad
ahugeimpactonincreasingourunderstandingofthejovianplanetswiththe
Cassini-HuygensmissiongreatlyexpandingourunderstandingofSaturnandits
moons.
7
i
I i
u i
u l
u j i i
u l i j i
u Di l
i ill l l ial
i i i l il
l l
i i ll i i
i i l
i l
If
li l i i
ldi l l
l i l
ialpl ll
Chapter
The Moon, Moons, and R ngs
n Th s Chapter
Observ ngtheMoon
Lunargeo ogy
The ov anr ngs
The argemoonsofJup terandtheother ov ans
stantdwarves:P utoandCharon
OurownMoon sst theon yce est bodyotherthanEarthwhere
humanbe ngshavestood,f rstdo ngsonear y30yearsagowhenNe
Armstrongsteppedontothe unarsurface.Whathavewe earnedfrom
the nformat onwebroughtbackfromtheApo om ss ons?Whydoesthe
Moonfasc nateus?Inth schapter,weexp oreourMoonandthemoons
andr ngsoftheouterp anets.
What We Had No Moon?
Itseems keareasonab equest ontoask.What fwehadnomoon?
Wou tmatter?WhathastheMoondoneforus ate y?
Itturnsoutthatthepresenceofa argemoonsuchaswehave sunusua
foraterrestr anet.MercuryandVenushavenomoonsata ,andMars
86 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
hastwotinyones,PhobosandDeimos.Tohaveamoonroughly
1
3 thesizeofthe
planetitorbitsisuniqueintheinnersolarsystem.OurMoon,forexample,isaslarge
assomeofthemoonsofthegiantgasplanetsintheoutersolarsystem.Iftherewere
noMoon,wewouldhavenooceantides,andtherotationrateofEarthwouldnot
haveslowedtoitscurrent24hours.ItisthoughtthatearlyinitslifeEarthrotated
onceeverysixhours.
TheMoonalsoappearstostabilizetherotationalaxisofEarth.Byperiodically
blockingthelightfromtheSunsphotosphere,theMoongivesusaviewoftheouter
layersoftheSunsatmosphere,anditalsogaveearlyastronomerscluestotherelative
locationsofobjectsinthesolarsystem.
CloseEncounter
DidyoueverwonderwhytheSunandtheMoonarethesamesizeinthesky?In
actualphysicalsize,theSundwarfstheMoon,buttheSunissomuchfartheraway
thatthetwoappearthesamesize.Trythis:holdadimeandaquarterrightinfrontof
yourface.Nowholdthemfartherawayfromyourface,adjustingthedistanceofeither
untilbothappeartobethesamesize.Whichdoyouhavetoholdfartherawayforthis
tohappen?Thebiggerone,ofcourse!WehappentobeonEarthatatimewhenthe
MoonexactlyblocksthelightfromtheSunsphotosphereduringsolareclipses.Asthe
MoonslowlydriftsawayfromEarth,itwillgetsmallerandsmallerinthesky,andpeople
willbeentitledeventuallytogrumble,Solareclipsesjustarentwhattheyusedtobe.
What Galileo Saw
WhatGalileosawwhenhetrainedatelescopeontheMoonssurface,notingthatit
wasroughandmountainous,conflictedwithexistingtheoriesthatthesurfacewas
glassysmooth.Hecloselystudiedtheterminator(theboundaryseparatingdayand
night)andnotedtheshiningtopsofmountains.Usingsimplegeometry,hecalculated
theheightofsomeofthembasedontheangleoftheSunandtheestimatedlengthof
shadowscast.Galileooverestimatedtheheightofthelunarmountainsheobserved,
buthedidconcluderightlythattheirheightswerecomparabletoearthlypeaks.
NoticingmountainsandcratersontheMoonwasimportantbecauseithelped
GalileoconcludethattheMoonwasfundamentallynotallthatdifferentfromEarth.
Ithadmountains,valleys,andevenwhatwerecalledseasinLatin,maria,although
thereisnoindicationthatGalileooranyoneelsemaintainedaftertelescopicobserva-
tionsthatthemariawereinfactwater-filledoceans.
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 87
ContendingthattheMoonresembledEarthwasnotasmallthingin1609because
suchastatementimpliedthattherewasnothingsupernaturalorspecialaboutthe
Moonor,byimplication,abouttheplanetsandthestarseither.Followedtoits
conclusion,theobservationimpliedthattherewasperhapsnothingdivineorextraor-
dinaryaboutEarthitself.Earthwasoneofmanybodiesinspace,liketheMoonand
theotherplanets.
What You Can See
Evenifyoudonthaveatelescope,youcanmakesomeveryinterestinglunarobser-
vations.Youmight,forexample,trytrackingtheMoonsdailymotionagainstthe
backgroundstars.BecausetheMoontravels360degreesaroundEarthin27.3days,it
willtravelthroughabout13degreesin24hoursorabouthalfadegree(itsdiameter)
everyhour.
ThetelescopethroughwhichGalileoGalileimadehisremarkablelunarobservations
wasabrand-newandveryrareinstrumentin1609,butyoucaneasilysurpassthe
qualityofhisobservationswithsimplebinoculars.
Noothercelestialobjectissoclosetous.Beingthisclose,theMoonprovidesthe
mostdetailedimagesofanextraterrestrialgeographythatyouwilleverseethrough
yourowninstrument.
TakethetimetoobservetheMoonthroughallofitsphases.Onclearnightswhen
theMoonisaboutthreeorfourdaysold,MareCrisiumandothervividfeatures
includingtheprominentcratersBurckhardtandGeminusbecomedramatically
visible.YoucanalsobegintoseeMareTranquilitatis,theSeaofTranquility,on
whichApollo11slunarmodule,Eagle,toucheddownonJuly20,1969.
Atdayseven,whentheMoonisatitsfirstquarter,mountainsandcratersaremost
dramaticallyvisible.Indeed,thisistheoptimumnightforlookingatlunarfeaturesin
theirmostdeeplyshadowedrelief.
AstheMoonentersitswaxinggibbousphasebeyondfirstquarter,itsfull,bright
lightischeerful,butitssobrightthatitactuallybecomesmoredifficulttomakeout
sharpdetailsonthelunarsurface,althoughyoudogetgreatviewsoftheeastern
maria,thelunarplains.
Pastday14,theMoonbeginstowaneasthesunsetterminatormovesslowlyacross
thelunarlandscape.Ataboutday22,theApennineMountainsareclearlyvisible.It
wasthesemountainsthatGalileostudiedmostintensely,attemptingtojudgetheir
heightsbytheshadowstheycast.
88 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
DuringthelatewaningphaseoftheMoon,moonrisecomeslaterandlateratnightas
theMoongraduallycatchesupwiththeSuninthesky.BythetimetheMoonpasses
day26,itisnothingbutathincrescentoflightpresentinthepredawnsky.Thenew
Moonfollows,andastheMoonovertakestheSun,thecrescentreappears(onthe
othersideoftheMoonatsunset),anditbeginstowaxagain.
Cold, Hard Facts About a Cold, Hard Place
TheMoonisEarthsonlynaturalsatelliteand,asnotedpreviously,isaverylarge
satelliteforaplanetassmallasEarth.TheplanetMercuryisonlyslightlylargerthan
theMoon.ThemeandistancebetweenEarthandtheMoon,asitorbitsEarthfrom
westtoeast,is239,900miles(386,239km).TheMoonislessthanonethirdthesize
ofEarth,withadiameterofabout2,160miles(3,476km)atitsequator.Moreover,it
ismuchlessmassiveandlessdensethanEarth
1
80 asmassive,withadensityof3.34
g/cm
3
,incontrastto5.52g/cm
3
forEarth.Heresonewaytothinkaboutrelativesizes
anddistances:ifEarthwerethesizeofyourhead,theorbitingMoonwouldbethe
sizeofatennisball30feetaway.
BecausetheMoonissomuchlessmassivethanEarthandaboutathirdasbig,its
surfacegravityisaboutonesixththatofourplanet.ThatswhytheApolloastronauts
couldskipandjumpastheydid,evenwearingthoseheavyspacesuits.Ifyouweigh
160poundsonEarthssurface,youwouldweighonly27poundsontheMoon.This
apparentchangewouldgiveyouthefeelingofhavinggreatstrengthbecauseyour
bodysmusclesareaccustomedtoliftingandcarryingsixtimestheloadthatburdens
themontheMoon.Ofcourse,yourmasshowmuchmatterisinyoudoesnot
change.Ifyourmassis60kilograms(kg)onEarth,itwillstillbe60kilogramson
theMoon.
TheMoonisinasynchronousorbitaroundEarth;thatis,itrotatesonceonitsaxis
every27.3days,whichisthesametimeittakestocompleteoneorbitaroundEarth.
Thussynchronized,weseeonlyonesideoftheMoon.
Its a Moon!
NoonecansaywithcertaintyhowtheMoonwasformed(wewerentthere!),but
astronomershaveadvancedfourmajortheories.Letslookateachinturn.
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 89
AstroByte
TheMoonismuchsmallerinthenightskythanyoumightthink.Cutasmallcircle
(about
1
5 inchindiameter)fromapieceofpaper.Holdthatpaperoutatarms
length.ThatishowlargetheMoonisinthenightsky.Anddontletanyonetellyou
thataharvestmoon(afullmooninSeptember)isanylargerthananyotherfullmoon.
TheMoonmightbelowerintheskyinautumn(asistheSun),soitmightlooklarger,
butitssizeisunchanged.
A Daughter?
TheoldestofthefourtheoriesspeculatesthattheMoonwasoriginallypartofEarth,
whichwassomehowspunoffasarapidlyrotating,partiallymolten,newlyforming
planet.
Onceprevalent,thistheory(sometimesreferredtoasthefissiontheory)haslargely
beenrejectedbecauseitdoesnotexplainhowtheproto-Earthcouldhavebeenspin-
ningwithsufficientvelocitytoejectthematerialthatbecametheMoon.Moreover,it
ishighlyunlikelythatsuchanejectionwouldhaveputtheMoonintoastableEarth
orbit.
A Sister?
AnothertheoryholdsthattheMoonformedseparatelynearEarthfromthesame
materialthatmadeupEarth.Ineffect,EarthandtheMoonformedasadouble-
planetsystem.
Thistheoryseemedquiteplausibleuntillunarrocksampleswererecovered,revealing
thattheMoondiffersfromEarthnotonlyindensitybutalsoincomposition.Ifthe
twobodieshadformedoutofessentiallythesamestuff,whywouldtheircomposi-
tionsbesodifferent?
A Captive?
AthirdtheorysuggeststhattheMoonwasformedindependentlyandfarfromEarth
butwaslatercapturedbyEarthsgravitationalpullwhenitcametooclose.
ThistheorycanaccountforthedifferencesincompositionbetweenEarthandthe
Moon,butitdoesntexplainhowEarthcouldhavegravitationallycapturedsuch
90 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
alargeMoon.Indeed,attemptstomodelthisscenariowithcomputersimulations
havefailed;theroguemooncantbecapturedgravitationallyunlessthetwocollide.
Moreover,althoughthetheoryaccountsforsomeofthechemicaldifferencesbetween
EarthandtheMoon,itdoesnotexplainthemanychemicalsimilaritiesthatalsoexist.
A Fender Bender?
Todaysfavoredtheorycombineselementsofthedaughtertheoryandthecapture
theoryinsomethingcalledtheimpacttheory.Mostastronomersnowbelievethata
verylargeobject,roughlythesizeofMars,collidedwithEarthwhenEarthwasstill
moltenandforming.Assumingtheimpactwasaglancingone,itissuggestedthata
pieceofshrapnelfromEarthandtheremnantoftheotherplanetesimal(aplanetin
anearlystageofformation)wereejectedandthenslowlycoalescedintoastableorbit
thatformedtheMoon.
ThismodelisalsopopularbecauseitexplainssomeuniqueaspectsofEarth(thetip
ofitsrotationalaxis,forinstance)andtheMoon.Intheimpactmodel,itisfurther
theorizedthatmostoftheironcoreoftheMars-sizedobjectwouldhavebeenleft
behindonEarth,eventuallytobecomepartofEarthscore,whilethematerialthat
wouldcoalesceintotheMoonretainedlessofthismetalliccomponent.Thismodel
thereforeexplainswhyEarthandtheMoonsharesimilarmantles(outerlayers)but
apparentlydifferincorecomposition.
Give and Take
IsaacNewtonproposedthateveryobjectwithmassexertsagravitationalpullorforce
oneveryotherobjectwithmassintheuniverse.Well,Earthismuchmoremassive
(80timesmore)thantheMoon,whichiswhytheMoonorbitsusandnotweit.If
youwanttogettechnical,webothactuallyorbitanimaginarypointcalledthecenter
ofmass.However,theMoonissufficientlymassivetomaketheeffectsofitsgravita-
tionalfieldfeltonEarth.
Anyonewholivesneartheoceanisfamiliarwithtides.Coastalareasexperiencetwo
highandtwolowtideswithinany24-hourperiod.Thedifferencebetweenhighand
lowtidesisvariable,but,outintheopenocean,thedifferenceissomewhatmore
than3feet.Ifyouveeverliftedalargebucketofwater,youknowhowheavywateris.
Imaginetheforcesrequiredtoraisethelevelofanentireocean3ormorefeet!
Whatforcecanaccomplishthis?ThetidalforceofgravityexertedbytheMoonon
Earthanditsoceans.
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 91
TheMoonandEarthmutuallypulloneachother,EarthsgravitykeepingtheMoon
initsorbitandtheMoonsgravitycausingasmalldeformityinEarthsshape.This
deformityresultsbecausetheMoondoesnotpullequallyonallpartsofEarth.It
exertsmoreforceonpartsofEarththatarecloserandlessforceonpartsofEarth
thatarefartheraway.
Newtontoldusthatgravitationalforcesdecreasewiththesquareofthedistance.
ThesedifferentialortidalforcesarepartofthecauseofEarthsslightlydistorted
shapeitsovoidratherthanaperfectsphereandtheyalsomaketheoceansflowto
twolocationsonEarth:directlybelowtheMoonandontheoppositeside.Thisflow
causestheoceanstobedeeperatthesetwolocations,whichareknownasthetidal
bulges.TheMoonpullstheentireEarthintoasomewhatelongatedfootballshape,
buttheoceans,beinglessrigidthantheearth,undergoagreaterdegreeofdeformity.
Interestingly,thesideofEarthfarthestfromtheMoonatanygiventimealsoexhibits
atidalbulge.ThisisbecauseEarthexperiencesastrongergravitationalpullthanthe
oceanontopofit,andEarthispulledawayfromtheoceanonthatside.AsEarth
rotates(onceevery24hours)beneaththeslower-orbitingMoon(onceevery27.3
days),theforcesexertedonthewatercausehighandlowtidestomoveacrosstheface
ofEarth.
Thetidesoflargestrangearethespringtides,whichoccuratnewmoon,whenthe
MoonandtheSunareinthesamedirection,andatfullmoon,whentheyarein
oppositedirections.Thetidesofsmallestrangearetheneaptides,whichoccurwhen
theSunandtheMoonareat90degreestooneanotherinthesky.Tidesaffectyou
everyday,ofcourse,especiallyifyouhappentobeasailororafisherman.Earths
rotationisslowingdownataratethatincreasesthelengthofadaybyapproximately
2
2milliseconds( 1,000 ofasecond)everycentury.Overmillionsofyears,thisslowing
effectaddsup.Fivehundredmillionyearsago,adaywasalittleover21hourslong,
andayear(oneorbitoftheSun)waspackedwith410days.Whenaplanetesimal
plowedintoEarthearlyinthehistoryofthesolarsystem,Earthwasrotatingonce
everysixhours.(Andyouthinktherearentenoughhoursinthedaynow!)
Green Cheese?
OnanynighttheMoonisvisible,thelarge,darkmariaarealsoclearlyvisible.
ThesevastplainswerecreatedbylavaspreadduringaperiodoftheMoonsevolu-
tionmarkedbyintensevolcanicactivity.Thelighterareasvisibletothenakedeye
arecalledhighlands.Generally,thehighlandsrepresenttheMoonssurfacelayer,its
92 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
crust,whilethemariaconsistofmuchdenserrockrepresentativeoftheMoonslower
layer,itsmantle.Thesurfacerockisfine-grained,aswasmadedramaticallyapparent
bytheimageofthefirsthumanfootprintontheMoon.Themariaresembleterres-
trialbasalt,createdbymoltenmantlematerialthat,throughvolcanicactivity,swelled
throughthecrust.
This Place Has Absolutely No Atmosphere
ThemassoftheMoonisinsufficientforittohaveheldontoitsatmosphere.Asthe
SunheatedupthemoleculesandatomsinwhateverthinatmospheretheMoonmight
haveoncehad,theydriftedawayintospace.Withnoatmosphere,theMoonhasno
weather,noerosionotherthanwhatasteroidimpactscauseandnolife.Although
astronomersoncethoughttheMoonhadabsolutelynowater,recentroboticlunar
missionshaveshowntheremightbewater(intheformofice)inthepermanentshad-
owsofthepolarcraters.
AnApollo11astronautleft
thisfootprintinthelunar
dust.Unlessastraymeteor-
oidimpactobliteratesit,the
printwilllastformillionsof
yearsonthewaterless,wind-
lessMoon.
(ImagefromNASA)
A Pocked Face
LookattheMoonthrougheventhemostmodestoftelescopesasGalileodid
orbinoculars,andfirstandforemostyouareimpressedbythecratersthatpockits
surface.
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 93
Mostcratersaretheresultofasteroidandmeteoroidimpacts.Onlyaboutahundred
cratershavebeenidentifiedonEarth,buttheMoonhasthousands,greatandsmall.
WastheMoonjustunlucky?No.ManymeteoroidsthatapproachEarthburnupin
ouratmospherebeforetheystriketheground.Andthetracesofthosethatdostrike
thegroundaregraduallycoveredbytheeffectsofwaterandwinderosion,aswellasby
platetectonics.Withoutanatmosphere,theMoonhasbeenvulnerabletowhateverhas
comeitsway,preservinganearlyperfectrecordofeveryimpactithaseversuffered.
Meteoroidcollisionsreleaseterrificamounts
ofenergy.Uponimpact,heatisgenerated,
meltinganddeformingthesurfacerock,
whilepushingrockupandoutandcreating
Anejecta blanket isthedebris
anejectablanketofdebris,includinglarge displacedbyameteoroidimpact.
bouldersanddust.Thisejectedmaterial
coversmuchofthelunarsurface.
And Whats Inside?
TheMoonisapparentlyasdeadgeologicallyasitisbiologically.Astronautshave
leftseismicinstrumentsonthelunarsurface,whichhaverecordedonlytheslightest
seismicactivity,barelyperceptible,incontrasttotheexciting(andsometimesterribly
destructive)seismicactivitycommononEarthandsomeotherbodiesinthesolar
system(suchasIo,amoonorbitingJupiter).
Astronomersbelieve,then,thattheinterioroftheMoonisuniformlydense,poorin
heavyelements(suchasiron)buthighinsilicates.ThecoreoftheMoon,about250
miles(402km)indiameter,mightbepartiallymolten.Aroundthiscoreisprobably
aninnermantle,perhaps300miles(483km)thick,consistingofsemisolidrock,and
aroundthislayer,asolidoutermantlesome550miles(885km)thick.Thelunarcrust
isofvariablethickness,rangingfrom40to90miles(64to145km)thick.
TheMoonisresponsibleforeverythingfromEarthstidestothelengthofourday
andperhapsthepresenceofseasons.ThinkofthatthenexttimeyouseetheMoon
shiningpeacefullyoveryourhead.
Lord of the Rings
OurEarthhasoneofthemostdazzlingmoonsinthesolarsystem,butwhenitcomes
tospectacularrings,wemustbowtoSaturn.
94 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Looking from Earth
Galileostelescope,awondrousdeviceintheearlyseventeenthcentury,wouldbeno
matchforevenacheapamateurinstrumenttoday.WhenhefirstobservedSaturn,all
Galileocouldtellabouttheplanetwasthatitseemedtohaveears.Hespeculated
thatthisfeaturemightbetopographical,greatmountainrangesofsomesort.Or,he
thought,perhapsSaturnwasatripleplanetsystem,withtheearsasoutriggerplan-
ets.Itwasntuntilahalf-centuryafterGalileosspeculations,in1656,thatChristian
HuygensoftheNetherlandswasabletomakeoutthisfeatureforwhatitwas:athin
ringencirclingtheplanet.Afewyearslater,inthe1670s,theItalian-bornFrench
astronomerGianDomenicoCassini(16251712)discoveredthedarkgapbetween
whatarenowcalledringsAandB.WecallthisgaptheCassinidivision.
Inall,sixmajorrings,eachlyingintheequatorialplaneofSaturn,havebeenidenti-
fied,ofwhichthree,inadditiontotheCassinidivisionandasubtlerdemarcation
calledtheEnckedivision,youcanseefromEarthwithagoodtelescope.Witha
typicalamateurinstrumentyoushouldbeabletosee(attheveryleast)ringA(the
outermostring),theCassinidivision,andinsidetheCassinidivision,ringB.
TheringsmostreadilyvisiblefromEartharevast,theouterradiusoftheAring
stretchingmorethan84,800miles.
Bigastheyare,theringsarealsoverythininplacesonlyabout65feet(20m)thick.
Ifyouwantedtomakeanaccuratescalemodeloftheringsandfashionedthemtothe
thicknessofthissheetofpaper,theywouldhavetobeamilewidetomaintainproper
scale.
Saturnanditsringsasseen
withtheVeryLargeArray
at3.6cm.Thecoolerring
systemisseeninabsorption
(light)againstthedarkemis-
sionfromtheupperatmo-
sphereoftheplanet.
(ImagefromB.Dunn/NRAO/
AUI)
Wheredotheringscomefrom?Therearetwowaystotrytoanswerthisquestion,
andbothinvolvethegravitationalfieldofthehostplanet.First,theringsmightbe
theresultofashatteredmoon.Accordingtothistheory,asatellitecouldhavebeen
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 95
orbitingtooclosetotheplanetandbeentornapartbytidalforces(thesamesortof
forcesthatpulledcometShoemaker-Levy9topieces),orthemoonmighthavebeen
shatteredbyacollision.Ineithercase,thepiecesoftheformermooncontinuedto
orbittheplanet,butnowasfragmentarymaterial.
Theotherpossibilityisthattheringsarematerialleftoverfromtheformationofthe
planetitself,materialthatwasneverabletocoalesceintoamoonduetothestrong
gravitationalfieldofthehostplanet.
Up Close and Personal: Voyager
Zoominginclose,theVoyagerprobestoldusmuchmoreabouttheringsthanwe
couldhavediscoveredfromourearthlyperspective.First,datafromVoyagercon-
firmedthattheringsareindeedmadeupofparticles,primarilyofwaterice.Voyager
alsorevealedadditionalrings,invisiblefromEarth.TheFring,forexample,ismore
thantwicethesizeoftheAring,stretchingout
to186,000miles.
AstronomersNotebook
TheDringistheinnermostringcloserto
ThebiggestgapinSaturns
theplanetthantheinnermostringvisiblefrom rings,theCassinidivision,isthe
Earth,theCring.FandEarelocatedoutside
resultnotofmoonlets,butofthe
gravitationalinfluenceofMimas,
theAring.
Saturnsinnermostmoon,which
Buttheseadditionalringsareonlypartofwhat
deflectedsomeoftheringspar-
Voyagertoldus.Voyager2revealedthatthesix ticlesintodifferentorbits,creating
majorringsarecomposedofmanythousandsof
agaplargeenoughtobevisible
individualringlets,whichastronomerslikento
fromEarth.
ripplesorwavesintherings.
More Rings on the Far Planets
Duringa1977Earth-basedobservationofUranusinthecourseofastellarocculta-
tion(thepassageofUranusinfrontofastar),thestarslightdimmedseveraltimes
beforedisappearingbehindtheplanet.Thatdimmingofthestarslightrevealedthe
presenceofninethin,faintringsaroundtheplanet.Voyager2revealedanotherpair.
Uranussringsareverynarrowmostofthemlessthan6miles(10km)wideand
arekepttogetherbythekindofshepherdsatellitesfoundoutsideofSaturnsFring.
NeptunehasfaintringssimilartothoseofUranus.
96 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
On the Shoulders of Giants
Oneofthekeydifferencesbetweentheterrestrialandmanyjovianplanetsisthat,
althoughtheterrestrialshavefewifanymoons,thejovianshavemany:62(atleast)
forJupiter,60forSaturn,27forUranus,and13forNeptune.Oftheseknown
moons,onlysixareclassifiedaslargebodies,comparableinsizetoEarthsmoon.
Ourownmoonisallthemoreremarkablewhencomparedtothemoonsofthemuch
largerjovianplanets.ItislargerthanalloftheknownmoonsexceptforGanymede,
Titan,Callisto,andIo.Thelargestjovianmoons(inorderofdecreasingradius)are
u Ganymede,orbitingJupiter;approximateradius:1,630miles(2,630km).
u Titan,orbitingSaturn;approximateradius:1,600miles(2,580km).
u Callisto,orbitingJupiter;approximateradius:1,488miles(2,400km).
u Io,orbitingJupiter;approximateradius:1,130miles(1,820km).
u Europa,orbitingJupiter;approximateradius:973miles(1,570km).
u Triton,orbitingNeptune;approximateradius:856miles(1,380km).
ItisinterestingtocomparethesetoEarthsmoon,witharadiusofabout1,079miles
(1,740km),andthedwarfplanetPluto,smallerthanthemall,witharadiusof713
miles(1,150km).
Therestofthemoonsareeithermedium-sizedbodieswithradiifrom124miles
(200km)to465miles(750km)orsmallbodies,withradiioflessthan93miles
(150km).Inrecentyears,wehavediscoveredmanysmallbodiesorbitingJupiterand
Saturn.Manyofthemoonsareentirelyormostlycomposedofwaterice,andsomeof
thesmallestbodiesarenomorethanirregularlyshapedrockandicechunks.
Faraway Moons
ThankstotheVoyager,Galileo,andCassinispaceprobes,wehavesomeremarkable
imagesanddataaboutthemoonsatthefarreachesofthesolarsystem.Theso-called
GalileanmoonsofJupiter,SaturnsTitan,andNeptunesTritonhavereceivedthe
mostattentionbecausetheyarethelargest.
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 97
Jupiters Four Galilean Moons
ThefourlargemoonsofJupiterareverylarge,ranginginsizefromEuropa,only
abitsmallerthanEarthsmoon,toGanymede,whichislargerthantheplanet
Mercury.Certainly,theyarelargeenoughtohavebeendiscoveredeventhrough
thecrudetelescopeofGalileoGalilei,afterwhomtheyhavebeengiventheir
groupname.Inhisnotebooks,GalileocalledthemoonssimplyI,II,III,andIV.
Fortunately,theywereeventuallygivenmorepoeticnames:Io,Europa,Ganymede,
andCallisto,drawnfromRomanmythology.Thesefourare,appropriately,theatten-
dantsservingthegodJupiter.
IoisclosesttoJupiter,orbitingatanaveragedistanceof261,640miles(421,240km);
Europacomesnext(416,020milesor669,792km);thenGanymede(663,400milesor
1,068,074km);andfinallyCallisto(1,165,600milesor1,876,616km).Intriguingly,
datafromGalileosuggeststhatthecoreofIoismetallicanditsouterlayersrocky
muchliketheplanetsclosesttotheSun.Europahasarockycore,withacoveringof
iceandwater.Thetwoouterlargemoons,GanymedeandCallisto,alsohaveicysur-
facessurroundingrockycores.
Thispatternofdecreasingdensitywithdistancefromthecentralbodymimicsthat
ofthesolarsystematlarge,inwhichthedensestplanets,thosewithmetalliccores,
orbitnearesttheSun,whilethosecomposedoflessdensematerialsorbitfarthest
away.Thissimilarityisnomerecoincidence,andwecanuseittoinvestigatehow
theJupitersystemformedandevolved.LetslookbrieflyateachofJupiterslarge
moons.
Becauseofourownmoon,weareaccustomedtothinkingofmoonsgenerallyasgeo-
logicallydeadplaces.ButnothingcouldbefurtherfromthetruthinthecaseofIo,
whichhasthedistinctionofbeingthemostgeologicallyactiveobjectintheentire
solarsystem.
Iosspectacularlyactivevolcanoescontinuallyspewlava,whichkeepsthesurfaceof
themoonrelativelysmoothanycratersarequicklyfilledinbutalsoangry-looking,
vividorangeandyellow,andsulfurous.Intruth,Ioismuchtoosmalltogeneratethe
kindofheatenergythatproducesvolcanism(volcanicactivity);however,orbitingas
closeasitdoestoJupiter,itissubjectedtothegiantplanetstremendousgravitational
field,whichproducestidalforcesthatstretchtheplanetfromitssphericalshapeand
createitsgeologicallyunsettledconditions.Thinkaboutwhathappenswhenyou
rapidlysqueezeasmallrubberball.Theactionsoonmakestheballquitewarm.
98 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
TheforcesJupiterexertsonIoareanalogoustothis,butonatitanicscale.Bythe
way,dontinvestinanIoglobeforyourdesk.Itssurfacefeatureschangefasterthan
politicalboundariesonEarth!
IncontrasttoIo,Europaisacoldworldbutprobablynotanentirelyfrozenone,
andperhaps,therefore,notabiologicallydeadone.ImagesfromGalileosuggestthat
Europaiscoveredbyacrustofwaterice,whichisnetworkedwithcracksandridges.
Itispossiblethatbeneaththisfrozencrustisanoceanofliquidwater(notfrozen
waterorwatervapor).
isi i
i i
ll
i l
( / )
Th ce sonthesurfaceof
Europa.Thesmoothdark
reg onsm ghtbeareaswhere
waterhaswe edupfrom
underneaththe ceshe f
thatcoversthemoon.
ImagefromNASA JPL
Ganymedeisthelargestmooninthesolarsystem(biggerthantheplanetMercury).
Itssurfaceshowsevidenceofsubsurfaceiceliquefiedbytheimpactofasteroidsand
thenrefrozen.Callistoissmallerbutsimilarincomposition.Bothareancientworlds
ofwaterice,impactedbycraters.Thereislittleevidenceofthecurrentpresenceof
liquidwateronthesemoons.
Titan: Saturns Highly Atmospheric Moon
IfIoisthemostgeologicallyactivemooninthesolarsystemandGanymedethelarg-
est,SaturnsTitanenjoysthedistinctionofhavingthemostsubstantialatmosphere
ofanymoon.Nowispy,tracecovering,Titansatmosphereismostlynitrogen(90
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 99
percent)andargon(nearly10percent)withtracesofmethaneandothergasesinan
atmospherethickerthanEarths.Earthsatmosphereconsistsof78percentnitrogen,
21percentoxygen,and1percentargon.SurfacepressureonTitanisabout1.5times
thatofEarth.Butitssurfaceisverycold,about90K.Remember90Kis183C!
Titansatmospherepreventsanyvisible-lightviewofthesurface,althoughastrono-
mersspeculatethattheinteriorofTitanisprobablyarockycoresurroundedbyice,
muchlikethatofGanymedeandCallisto.BecauseTitanstemperatureislowerthan
thatofJupiterslargemoons,ithasretaineditsatmosphere.Thepresenceofanatmo-
spherethickwithorganicmolecules(carbonmonoxide,nitrogencompounds,and
varioushydrocarbonshavebeendetectedintheupperatmosphere)hasledtospecu-
lationthatTitancouldpossiblysupportsomeformofexoticlife.Cassini-Huygens
arrivedatSaturnin2004;sincearrival,ithashadmanycloseflybysofTitan,and
theHuygenslandercametorestonthesurfaceoftheplanetin2005.Mostrecently,
astronomershavefoundstrongevidenceofthepresenceofethaneormethanelakes,
somelargerthantheGreatLakesofNorthAmerica.
Thisradarimage,obtained
bytheCassiniprobeduring
anear-polarflybyonFebru-
ary22,2007,showsalarge
islandinthemiddleofone
ofthelargerlakesimagedon
SaturnsmoonTitan.
(ImagefromNASA/JPL)
Theselakeshavebeendiscoveredbyradarimaging,withdarkareasintheradar
imageindicativeofsmoothareas.Thesmoothareasaremostlikelyliquid,rock,ice,
ororganicmaterial.Thedetectedlakesrangeindiameterfrom3kilometers(1.8
miles)tomorethan70kilometers(43miles)across.
100 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
CloseEncounter
LaunchedfromKennedySpaceCenteronOctober15,1997,theCassini-Huygens
spacecraftconsistsoftheCassini orbiterandtheHuygens probe,whichenteredthe
atmosphereofSaturnsmoonTitanandlandedonitssurface.Cassini enteredSaturns
orbitonJune30,2004.TheEuropeanSpaceAgencys(ESA)Huygens probeplunged
intoTitansatmosphereinJanuary2005.Itisthefirstprobetolandonamooninthe
outersolarsystem.Seventeennationscontributedtobuildingthesespacecraft.
Cassinisorbitaltourhasprovidedanunprecedentedwealthofimagesandotherdata,
givingscientiststheirfullestunderstandingofanyjovianworld.TheHuygens missionhas
yieldedbreathtakingimagesandotherimportantdataasithasdirectlysampledTitans
atmosphere.YoucancheckontheprogressofthemissionandviewitsphotosofJupiter
atwww.jpl.nasa.gov.
Triton, Neptunes Large Moon
Tritonsdistinctionamongthejovianmoonsisaretrograde(backward)orbitinthe
reversedirectionoftheothermoons.Moreover,Tritonisinclinedonitsaxisabout
20degreesandistheonlylargejovianmoonthatdoesntorbitintheequatorialplane
ofitsplanet.Manyastronomersbelievethatthesepeculiaritiesaretheresultofsome
violentevent,perhapsacollision.OtherssuggestthatTritondidntformaspartof
theNeptuniansystemofmoonsbutwascapturedlaterbytheplanetsgravitational
field.
A Dozen More Moons in the Outer Solar System
ThankstoVoyager,thesixmedium-sizedmoonsofSaturnhavealsobeenexplored.
AllofthesebodiesaretidallylockedwithSaturn,theirorbitssynchronous,sothat
theyshowbutonefacetotheirparentplanet.Theyarefrozenworlds,madeofmostly
rockandwaterice.ThemostdistantfromSaturn,Iapetus,orbitssome2,207,200
miles(3,560,000km)fromitsparent.Becausethesemoonsorbitsynchronously,
astronomersspeakoftheirleadingfacesandtrailingfaces.Thatonefacealwayslooks
inthedirectionoftheorbitandtheotherintheoppositedirectionhascreatedasym-
metricalsurfacefeaturesonsomeofthesemoons.TheleadingfaceofIapetus,for
example,isverydarkincolor,whilethetrailingfaceisquitelight.Althoughsome
astronomerssuggestthatthedarkmaterialcoveringthismoonsleadingfaceisgener-
atedinternally,othersbelievethatIapetussweepsupthematerialitencountersinthe
courseofitsorbit.
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 101
TheinnermostmoonofSaturn,Mimasis115,320miles(186,000km)fromSaturn.
ItisalsothesmallestofSaturnsmoons,witharadiusofjust124miles(200km).
MimasisveryclosetoSaturnsringsandseemstohavebeenbatteredbymaterial
associatedwiththem.Heavilycrateredoverall,thissmallmoonhasoneenormous
craternamedfortheastronomerWilliamHerschel,whichmakesitresemblethe
EmpiresDeathStarfromStarWars.Whatevercausedthisimpactprobablycame
closetoshatteringMimas.Indeed,someastronomersbelievethatsimilarimpacts
mighthavecreatedsomeofthedebristhatformedSaturnsgreatrings.
Themedium-sizedmoonsofUranusareMiranda,orbiting80,600miles(130,000
km)abovetheplanet;Ariel,118,400miles(191,000km)out;Umbriel,164,900miles
(266,000km)out;Titania,270,300miles(436,000km)out;andOberon,361,500
miles(583,000km)out.Ofthese,themostremarkableisMiranda,which,incontrast
totheothermoons,isextremelyvariedgeographically,withridges,valleys,andoval-
shapedfaults.TothecameraofVoyager2,itpresentedachaotic,violentlyfractured,
cobbled-togethersurfaceunlikethatofanyothermooninthesolarsystem.Clearly,
thismoonhadaviolentpast,althoughitisunclearwhetherthedisruptionsitsuffered
camefromwithin,without,orboth.SomeastronomersbelievethatMirandawasvir-
tuallyshattered,itspiecescomingbacktogetherinanear-jumble.
Pluto Found
IrregularitiesintheorbitofUranusimpliedtheexistenceofNeptune,whichwasnt
discovereduntilthemiddleofthenineteenthcentury.YetthediscoveryofNeptune
neverdidfullyaccountfortheidiosyncrasiesoftheUranianorbit.Neptunealso
seemedtobeinfluencedbysomeas-yet-unknownbody.Thekeen,ifeccentric,
astronomerPercivalLowell(18551916)crunchedthenumbersforUranussorbitand
forsome10yearssearchedinvainforanewplanet.ClydeTombaugh(19061997)
wastooyoungtohaveknownPercivalLowellpersonally,buthetookajobas
assistantastronomerattheobservatoryLowellhadbuiltinFlagstaff,Arizona.By
studyingphotographicimages,Tombaugheventuallyfoundtheplanetin1930.
ThatTombaughfoundPlutoameresixdegreesfromwhereLowellhadsaiditwould
beismoreatestamenttoserendipitythantoastronomicalcalculations.Thesuppos-
edlypersistentirregularitiesintheorbitsofUranusandNeptune,onwhichhebased
hiscalculations,dontexist.
ButtherewasPlutonevertheless:3.7billionmiles(5.9billionkm)fromtheSun,on
average,yetwithanorbitsoeccentricthat,aboutevery248years,itactuallycomes
closertotheSunthanNeptunedoes.
102 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Dwarf Planet
Whenitwasfirstdiscovered,scientistsconsideredPlutoaplanet,butinthesummer
of2006,theInternationalAstronomicalUnion(IAU)debatedthestatusofPlutoand
decidedtodifferentiateitfromtheterrestrialandjovianplanetsbythetitledwarf
planet.Itthusjoinsanumberofotherobjectsinthiscategory,includingCeres(in
theasteroidbelt)andEris(anobjectslightlylargerthanPluto).Asastronomersdis-
covermoreobjectslikePlutointheouterreachesofthesolarsystem,theywillfill
outtheranksofthisnewcelestialcategory.
A New Moon
If,havingbeendiscoveredin1930,Plutowasalateadditiontoourknownsolarsystem,
itsmoon,Charon,isalmostbrandnew,havingbeenfoundin1978.Named,fittingly,
forthemythologicalferrymanwhorowedthedeadacrosstheRiverStyxtotheunder-
worldruledbyPluto,Charonisalittlemorethanhalfthesizeofitsparent:806miles
(1,300km)indiameterversusPlutos1,426miles(2,300km).Orbiting12,214miles
(19,700km)fromPluto,ittakes6.4Earthdaystomakeonecircuit.PlutoandCharon
aretidallylockedforeverfacingoneanothertheorbitalperiodandrotationperiod
forbothsynchronizedat6.4days.Charonsstatusisundeterminedasasatelliteofa
dwarfplanet.IfitwereorbitingtheSun(andnotPluto),itwouldfitthedefinitionof
adwarfplanet.
PlutoanditsmoonCharon
wereimagedwiththeHubble
SpaceTelescope(HST)in
1994.Theimagewastaken
whenPlutowas2.6billion
miles(4.4billionkm)from
Earthnearly30A.U.
away.
(ImagefromR.Albrecht/ESA/
NASA)
Chapter 7: TheMoon, Moons, and Rings 103
The Least You Need to Know
u EarthsgravitationalfieldholdstheMooninorbit,buttheMoonsgravitation
alsoprofoundlyinfluencesEarth,creatingoceantides.
u TheMoonisbiologicallydeadandgeologicallyinactive.
u ThereisabundantevidencethattheMoonwasformedasaresultofacollision
betweenEarthandanotherplanet-sizedobjectveryearlyinthehistoryofthe
solarsystem.
u Thejovianrealmisrichinmoonsandplanetaryrings;someofthesemoonsare
volcanicallyactive,othershavemeasurableatmospheres.
u IohasfrequentvolcaniceruptionsthatloftmaterialintoorbitaroundJupiter.
Europa,alsoorbitingJupiter,mighthaveliquidwaterbeneathitsfrozen,cracked
surface.
u Pluto,discoveredin1930,isnolongerconsideredaplanetbutisnowoneofa
growingnumberofdwarfplanetsinthesolarsystem.
8
i l
I i
u l igi l i
u l
u l
u i i
i l l i i l
l isj i l
i i l l l l li l
l l i
ti i l
i l l l i
i i l l l
ll i l l
all
i i l i igi
l i i i i l i
i i li l i
illi l l i i l i i l
i i iti is
Chapter
Th s Wor d and Beyond
n Th s Chapter
Atheoryofso arsystemor nandevo ut on
Thedeathoftheso arsystem
Thesearchforotherp anetarysystems
Currentandfuturetechn ques nthesearch
Inth schapter,weexp orep anetarysystems naun versa sense.That
ourso arsystem ustoneamongmyr adp anetarysystemshasbecome
ncreas ng yc earthroughthe astsevera years.A tt eoveradecadeago,
ourownp anetarysystemwastheon yoneweknewforsureex sted.But
meshavechanged,andtheheadcount supwayup.Over200p anets
outs deourownso arsystem,orextraso arp anets,havebeend scov-
ered.Observat onss nce1995haverevea edthatwearenota one,at east
notasaco ect onofp anets.Infact,p anetsappeartobethenormaround
sortsofstars.
Oneofthemostd ff cu taspectsaboutunderstand ngtheor nsofour
ownso arsystem sthat thasbeen nex stenceforavery ongt me.Based
onstud esofmeteor tes,astronomersbe evetheso arsystem sabout
4.6b onyearso d.Theprob emweface sak nto ook ngatam dd e-
agedmanandbe ngaskedtodescr bethecond onsatthemomentofh
106 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
birth.Wherewasthehospital?Whowastheattendingphysician?Wemightbeable
toobserveotherbirthsandassumethathisbirthwasmuchthesame,but,ofcourse,
noonelivingwaspresenttowatchthebirthofthissolarsystem,souncoveringits
beginningshasrequiredsomeserioussleuthing.
Ifweconsiderobservationsfromourownsolarsystemaswellasthoseoftheover200
otherplanetarysystems(andcounting)thatwearenowawareofmanyofthemat
verydifferentstatesofevolutionwecanbetterunderstandhowplanetarysystems,
includingourown,areborn,live,anddie.
Solar System History
Amazingly,afewfragmentsfromtheearlymomentsofthesolarsystemsbirthhave
survivedtogiveuscluesastohowtheplanetstookshapearoundtheyouthfulSun.
Themostimportantcluestotheoriginofthesolarsystemarenottobefoundinthe
Sunandplanets,butinthoseuntouchedsmallerfragments:theasteroids,meteoroids,
andsomeoftheplanetarymoons(includingourowncompanion).
What Do We Really Know About the Solar System?
Inaveryrealsensewehaveinmeteoritesandmoonrocksmaterialwitnessesto
thecreationofthesolarsystem.Thesegeologicalremnantsarerelativelyunchanged
fromthetimethesolarsystemwasborn.Buthowdowemakeupforanabsenceof
precedentsfromwhichtodrawpotentiallyilluminatinganalogies?
Oneapproachistofindanotherplanetarysystemformingaroundastaryounger
thantheSunbutsimilartotheSunanddrawanalogiesfromit.TheHubble
SpaceTelescope,amongotherspace-borneprobes,hasgivenustantalizingclues
abouttheformationofplanetarysystems.AroundthestarBetaPictoris,forexample,
astronomershaveimagedadiskofdustymaterialinorbitfartherfromthestarthan
theorbitofthedwarfplanetPlutoisfromourownSun.
Familiar Territory
Thebestwaytounderstandtheformationofoursolarsystemistostudybothour
ownsystem,whichisnearby,andthewidevarietyofotherprotoplanetaryandplan-
etarysystemsastronomersarediscovering.
Letsstartwithwhatweknowaboutthenearestplanetarysystem,ourown.Thelast
400yearsofplanetaryexplorationhavegivenustheseundeniablefacts:
Chapter 8: ThisWorld and Beyond 107
u Mostoftheplanetsinthesolarsystemrotateontheiraxisinthesamedirection
astheyorbittheSun(counterclockwiseasseenfromtheNorthPoleofEarth),
andtheirmoonsorbitaroundtheminthesamedirection.
u Theplanetsintheinnerpartsofthesolarsystemarerockyandbunched
together,andthoseintheouterpartaregaseousandwidelyspaced.
u AlltheplanetsorbittheSuninellipticalpathsthatareverynearlycircles.
u Exceptfortheinnermostplanet(Mercury),theplanetsorbitinapproximately
thesameplane(neartheecliptic),andallorbitinthesamedirection.
u Asteroidsandcometsareveryoldandarelocatedinparticularplacesinthe
solarsystem.CometsarefoundintheKuiperBeltandOortCloud,andaster-
oidsareintheasteroidbeltbetweenMarsandJupiter.
u Inaddition,itisclearthattheasteroidsthathavebeenexaminedaresomeofthe
oldest,unchangedobjectsinthesolarsystemandthatcometstravelinhighly
ellipticalorbits,spendingmostoftheirtimeinthefarreachesofthesolarsystem.
Themostimportantconclusionwecandrawfromtheseobservationsisthatthesolar
systemappearstobefundamentallyorderlyratherthanrandom.Itdoesntappear
thattheSunformedfirstandthengraduallycaptureditsplanetsfromsurrounding
space.
From Contraction to Condensation
Considerthispossibleportraitoftheformationofoursolarsystem:acloudofinter-
stellardust,measuringaboutalight-yearacross,beginstocontract,rotatingmore
rapidlythemoreitcontractsandtherebyconservingangularmomentum.Withthe
acceleratingrotationcomesaflatteningofthecloudintoapancakelikedisk,perhaps
100A.U.across100timesthecurrentmeandistancebetweenEarthandtheSun.
The Birth of Planets
Theoriginalgasesanddustgrainsthatformedthenebularcloudcontractintocon-
densationnuclei,whichbegintoattractadditionalmatter,formingclumpsthatrotate
withinthedisk.
108 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Theseclumpsencounterotherclumpsandmorematter,growinglargerbyaccretion.
Accretionisthegradualaccumulationofmassandusuallyreferstothebuildingup
oflargermassesfromsmalleronesthroughthemutualgravitationalattractionof
matter.Thatstheremarkablebottomline:ourplanetarysystemwasbuiltslowlyby
nothingmorethangravity.
IntheOrionandtheEagleNebulae,wecanseeanenormousnumberofprotoplan-
etarydiskstakingformnewworldsbeingbornaswewatch.
CloseEncounter
InApril 1998,astronomersworkingattheKeckObservatoryinMaunaKea,
Hawaii,andatCerroTololoInter-AmericanObservatoryinChilereportedstartling
newinfraredandradiotelescopeevidencesupportingthecondensationtheory.Studying
astarknownasHR4796A,220light-yearsfromEarth,theastronomersdiscovereda
vastdustdiskformingaroundit.Adoughnutlikehole,slightlylargerthanthedistance
betweentheSunandPluto,surroundsthestar,andthediskitselfextendsmorethan
twicethedistanceofthedoughnuthole.
Althoughastronomersdidnotdetectanyplanetsinthisverydistantobject,theybelieve
thegravitationalforceofoneormoreinnerplanetsmighthavecausedtheholeinthe
disk.Ineffect,astronomersbelievetheyareseeingadistantplanetarysysteminthe
making.Atamere10millionyearsold,HR4796Aisbelievedtobetherightagefora
systemundergoingplanetaryformation.
Accretion and Fragmentation
Thepreplanetaryclumpsgrewbyaccretionfromobjectsthatweimaginetobethe
sizeofbaseballsandbasketballstoplanetesimals,embryonicprotoplanetsseveral
hundredmilesacross.Theearlysolarsystemmusthaveconsistedofmillionsof
planetesimals.
Althoughsmallerthanmatureplanets,theplanetesimalswerelargeenoughto
havegravitationalforcessufficientlypowerfultoaffecteachother.Theresult
musthavebeenaseriesofnearmissesandcollisionsthatmergedplanetesimalsinto
biggerobjectsbutalsocausedfragmentation,ascollisionsresultedinchunksofsome
planetesimalsbeingbrokenoff.TheformationoftheMoonlikelyhappenedatthis
chaoticpointinthehistoryofthesolarsystem.
Thelargerplanetesimals,withtheirproportionatelystrongergravitationalfields,
capturedthelionsshareofthefragments,growingyetlarger,whilethesmaller
Chapter 8: ThisWorld and Beyond 109
planetesimalsjoinedotherplanetsorweretossedout.Asmallnumberoffragments
escapedcapturetobecomeasteroidsandcomets,theasteroidsinsmaller,morecircu-
larorbitsandthecometsintheirwide-arcingellipticalpaths.
Unliketheplanets,whoseatmospheresandinternalgeologicalactivity(volcanismand
tectonics)wouldcontinuetoalterthem,asteroidsandcometsremainedgeologically
static,dead.Therefore,theirmaterialmarksthedateofthesolarsystemsbirth.
AstroByte
Astronomersestimatethattheevolutionfromacollectionofplanetesimalstoeightpro-
toplanets,manyprotomoons,andaprotosolarmassatthecenterofitallconsumed
about 100millionyears.Afteranadditionalbillionyears,scientistsbelievetheleftover
materialsassumedtheirpresentorbitsintheasteroidbelt,theKuiperBelt,andtheOort
Cloud.Thehightemperaturesclosetotheprotosundrovemostoftheicymaterialintothe
outersolarsystemwhere(withtheexceptionofperiodiccomets)itremainstothisday.
An Old Family Recipe
Althoughsubstantialvarietyexistsamongtheeightplanets,theytendtofallintotwo
broadcategories:thelargegaseousouterplanets,knownasthejovians,andthesmaller
rockyinnerplanets,theterrestrials(thesegroupswedescribedinpreviouschapters).
Whythisparticulardifferentiation?Aswithjustaboutanyrecipeinanykitchen,part
ofthedifferenceiscausedbyheat.
Out of the Frying Pan
Asthesolarnebulacontractedandflattened
intoitspancakelikeshape,gravitational
energywasreleasedintheformofheat,
Thetermnebula hasseveral
increasingitstemperature.Duetothe
applicationsinastronomy,and
inverse-squarelawofgravitationalattrac-
observersoftenuseittodescribe
tion,matterpiledupmostlyatthecenter
anyfuzzypatchseeninthesky.
ofthecollapsingcloud.Boththedensityof Inastrophysics,anebulaisavast
matterandthetemperaturewerehighest
cloudofdustandgas.
nearthecenterofthesystem,closesttothe
protosun,andgraduallydroppedfartherout
intothedisk.
110 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Attheverycenterofthenascentsolarsystem,whereheatanddensityweregreatest,
thesolarmasscoalesced.Inthisveryhotregion,thecarefullyassembledinterstellar
dustwaspulledapartintoitsconstituentatoms,whilethedustintheouterregions
ofthediskremainedintact.Whenthegravitationalcollapsefromacloudtoadisk
wascomplete,thetemperaturesbegantofallagain,andnewdustgrainscondensed
outofthevaporizedmaterialtowardthecenterofthesolarsystem.Thisvaporization
andrecondensationprocesswasanimportantstepintheformationofthesolarsys-
tembecauseitchemicallydifferentiatedthedustgrainsthatwouldgoontoformthe
planets.
Thesegrainsoriginallyhadauniformcomposition.Intheregionsnearestthe
protosunwheretemperatureswerehighestmetallicgrainsformedbecausemetals
survivedtheearlyheat.Fartherout,silicates(rockymaterial),whichcouldnotsurvive
intactclosetotheprotosun,werecondensedfromthevapor.Stillfartherout,there
werewater-icegrains,and,evenfarther,ammonia-icegrains.Whatisfascinatingto
realizeisthattheheatdepletedtheinnersolarsystem(whichishometoEarth)of
watericeandorganiccarboncompounds.Thesemolecules,asyouwillsee,survived
intheoutersolarsystemandmighthavelaterrainedontothesurfacesoftheinner
planetsintheformofcomets,makingEarthhabitable.
Thecompositionofthesurvivingdustgrainsdeterminedthetypesofplanetsthat
wouldform.FarthestfromtheSun,themostcommonsubstancesinthepreplanetary
dustgrainswerewatervapor,ammonia,andmethane,inadditiontotheelements
hydrogen,helium,carbon,nitrogen,andoxygenwhichweredistributedthrough-
outthesolarsystem.Thejovianplanetsandtheirmoons,therefore,formedaround
mostlyicymaterial.Andinthecoolertemperaturesfarthestfromtheprotosolar
mass,greateramountsofmaterialwereabletocondense,sotheouterplanetstended
tobeverymassive.Theirmasswassuchthat,bygravitationalforce,theyaccreted
hydrogen-richnebulargasesinadditiontodustgrains.
Hydrogenandheliumpiledontotheouterplanets,causingthemtocontractandheat
up.Theircentraltemperaturesrose,butnevergothighenoughtotriggerfusion,the
processthatproducesastarsenormousenergy.Thusthejovianworldsarehugebut
alsogaseous.Theypresentnosurfacetoexplore.
Into the Fire
Closertotheprotosun,inthehottestregionsoftheformingsolarsystem,theheavi-
estelements,noticesandgases,survivedtoformtheplanets.Thustheterrestrial
Chapter 8: ThisWorld and Beyond 111
planetsarerichintheelementssilicon,iron,magnesium,andaluminum.Thedust
grainsandtheplanetesimalsfromwhichtheseplanetswereformedwererockyand
metallicratherthanicy.
CloseEncounter
Ifthecentralareaoftheformingsolarsystemwastoohotforlightelementsand
gasestohangaround,wheredidEarthsabundantvolatilemattertheoxygen,nitro-
gen,water,andotherelementsandmoleculessoessentialtolifecomefrom?
Onetheoryisthatcomets,whichareicyfragmentsformedintheoutersolarsystem,
weredeflectedoutoftheirorbitsbytheintensegravitationalforceofthegiantjovian
planets.Bombardedbyicymeteoroidsaftertheplanethadcoalescedandcooled,
Earthwasresuppliedwithwaterandotheressentialelements.
Nomatterhowtheygothere,itisfortunatethatwater,ice,andorganiccompounds
laterraineddownontheearlyEarth,orthepresent-dayplanetmightbeaslifelessas
theMoon.
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Justasthespecificsoftheformationofthesolarsystemdependedontheformation
oftheSun,soitsdeathwillbeintimatelyrelatedtothefutureofourparentstar.The
evolutionoftheSunwillsurelyfollowthesamepathofotherstarsofitssizeand
mass,whichmeansthattheSunwilleventuallyconsumethestoreofhydrogenfuelat
itscore.Asthiscorefuelwanes,theSunwillstarttoburnfuelinitsouterlayers.It
willgrowbrighter,anditsoutershellwillexpand.Itwillbecomearedgiant,withits
outerlayersextendingasfarastheorbitofVenus.WhentheSunpuffsupintoared
giant,some2or3billionyearsfromnow,Mercurywillslowinitsorbitandprobably
fallintotheSun.VenusandEarthwillcertainlybetransformed,theiratmospheres
(and,inthecaseofEarth,itswater)beingdrivenawaybytheintenseheatofthe
swellingSun.VenusandEarthwillreturntotheirinfantstate,dryandlifeless.
Thesechangeswillalsohaveatransformingeffectontheouterplanetsandtheir
moons,warmingthemsignificantly.Perhapsevencold,dryMarswillbecomeamore
hospitablelocationthanitistoday.TherecentlyexploredmoonofSaturn,Titan,will
bewarmedbytheexpandingSun,perhapscausingabriefblossomingoflifethere.
Thequestionremains:canweextrapolateourunderstandingofsolarsystemforma-
tiontootherplanetarysystems?Clearlysomeofthedetailsmustbethesame,but
mostofthesystemsthatwehavediscoveredaredifferentenoughfromourownto
causetheoristssomeseriousheadaches.
112 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Other Worlds: The News So Far
Untilfairlyrecently,theexistenceofotherplanetarysystemswasassumed,buthad
notbeenobserved.Startingin1995,though,clearevidenceforplanetsaroundother
starsbegantoaccumulate,andbyJuneof2007,astronomershaddiscoveredover200
planetsorbitingotherstars.
Sinceancienttimes,humanshavewonderedaboutthepossibilityofotherworlds,
perhapslikeourown.TheprophetMuhammadweighedinonthetopicinthesev-
enthcenturyC.E.,commentingthatmanyworldswithhumaninhabitantsexisted.
Christiandebatesaboutthepresenceofotherworldsperiodicallyragedinwestern
Europeuntil1609,whenGalileostelescopemadeitclearthatotherworldsat
leastwithinthesolarsystemexistedwithoutadoubt.Afterotherworldswerean
acceptedfactinthesolarsystem,andastronomersunderstoodthattheSunwasjust
oneofmanystars,itwasntagreatleaptothinkthatplanetsmightexistaroundthe
otherstarsinthenightsky.
How to Find a Planet
Modelsofstarformationhavemadeitclearthatitwouldbeverydifficulttoforma
starwithoutalsoformingaplanet,ataskakintotossingapizzaandhavingitremain
atightballofdough.Buthardevidencefortheexistenceofplanetsaroundotherstars
eludedastronomersuntiltheeveofthetwenty-firstcentury.Thereareanumberof
waystohuntforplanetarysystems,somemoreobviousthanothersandsomemore
technicallyfeasiblethanothers.Astronomershavetriedeverymethodyetproposed,
withvaryingdegreesofsuccess.
Take a Picture
Themostobviousapproachistotakeapicture,whichsoundssimpleenough.When
wewantapictureofaplanetinthesolarsystem,wesimplypointatelescopeinits
direction,snapaphoto,andweredone.Ifwewantareallysharppicture,wecansend
aprobetoorbittheplanet(liketheMarsOrbiterCameraortheCassini-Huygensmission
toSaturn).Ifwewanttodiscoverplanetsaroundotherstars,wecanjustpointourtele-
scopesinthedirectionofasuspicious-lookingstarandvoila!Howhardcanitbe?
Well,wedohaveafewobservationalproblemswiththissimpleapproach,atleastwith
ourexistingtechnology.
Chapter 8: ThisWorld and Beyond 113
Thefirstproblemistherelativebrightnessofstarsandplanets.Starsshinebecause
ofthenuclearfusionoccurringintheircores.Planetsshineinthereflectedlightof
theirmotherstar.Andplanetsaremuchsmallerthanthestarstheyorbit.Asaresult,
eventhelargestplanetinoursolarsystem( Jupiter)isaboutabilliontimesfainter
thantheSun.Toputitbluntly,thesimpleimagingapproachisdifficultbecauseits
veryhardtoseeafirefly(theplanet)circlingamulti-megawattsearchlight(thestar).
Theotherproblemwithimagingdirectlyisthatplanetsandstarsareveryclose
tooneanotherrelativetohowfarawaytheyarefromus.Soourtaskistolookfor
something(aplanet)veryclosetosomethingthatisveryfaraway(astar).Most
Earth-boundtelescopesdonthaveenoughresolvingpowertodothis.Therefore,
whatwouldseemthesimplestsolutionisbeyondouravailabletechnology.Asthe
resolvingpoweroftelescopesimproves(bothwithlargerdiametersandadaptive
optics),takingpictureswillbecomemorepossible.
Watch for Wobbling
Whenalargeplanetorbitsastar,thecentralstardoesntstayexactlyfixed.Itmoves
aroundalittlebit,andthatmovementbetraysthepresenceofanorbitingplanet.The
biggertheplanet,themorethestarwobbles.
Wehavetwowaystodetectstarmotion.Oneinvolvestakingimagesthatrecord
theexactpositionsofthestars.Theotherinvolvesobservingthecolorspectrumof
acandidatestarandlookingforminutechangesinitscolorwithtime.Bothrequire
meticulousobservationsandlotsoftelescopetime.
Not Astronomy, but Astrometry
Thefirsttechnique,calledastrometry,requiresmanyimagesofastaranditsnearby
companions.Theseimagesareexaminedforminutechangesinthestarsposition.
Ifaparticularlylargeplanetorbitsastar,itispossibletomeasurethewobbleinthe
positionofthestar.Forexample,ifsomeslimyalienastronomerwerelookingatthe
Sun,he,she,oritwouldseetheSunwobblebackandforthevery11or12years.Our
alienfriendwouldbewatchingtheSunsresponsetotheorbitofJupiter.Allofthe
otherplanetswouldcausewobblesaswell,butthewobblefromJupiterwouldbethe
dominantone.
Theproblemwiththismethodisthatthewobblescausedbyeventhelargestplanets
areverysmall,atthelimitofeventhebesttelescopesnowinoperation.(Ofcourse,
alientechnologymightbefarmoreadvancedthanours.)
114 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Do the Doppler Shift
ThesecondtechniqueusestheDopplereffect,orDopplershift.Youhearthe
Dopplereffectwhenafiretruckracespastyou,thepitchofthesirengoingfromhigh
tolowasthetruckpasseswhereyouarestanding.Thesoundisblueshifted(moves
towardhigherfrequency)asthetruckapproachesandredshifted(movestoward
lowerfrequency)asitrecedes.Lightfromastardoesthesamething.
Asanorbitingplanetpullsastarawayfromtheviewer,thestarslightisredshifted.
Whentheorbitingplanetpullsthestartowardtheviewer,itslightisblueshifted.We
canusethepatternofblueshiftsandredshiftstodeterminethesizeanddistanceof
theplanetdoingthepulling.
Itshouldbenosurprisethatthefirstsystemsdiscoveredwiththistechniquewerethe
oneswiththebiggestplanetsinthesmallestorbits(doingthemostpulling),butas
moreandmoresystemshavebeendiscovered,wearefindingsystemsthatresemble
ourownmultiple-planetsystem.In1999,thefirstextrasolarmultiple-planetsystem,
UpsilonAndromeda,wasdiscoveredwiththistechnique.
Take the Planetary Transit
SolareclipsesareregulareventsonEarth.TheyoccurwhentheMoonpassesin
frontoftheSun,blockingnearlyallofitslight.Lessobviouseventsoccurwhenplan-
etslikeVenusandMercurypassinfrontoftheSun,blockingatinyfractionofits
light.Theseeventsarecalledplanetarytransits,andtheyhappenwithafairdegreeof
regularitybecausealloftheplanetsorbitprettymuchinthesameplane.
However,detectingaplanetarytransitinadistantstartakesbothluckandskill.The
luckcomesinhappeningtoviewanotherplanetarysystemedgeon.Theskillcomes
inmakingverysensitivemeasurementsofthebrightnessofastar.Whenthebright-
nessdipsinatiny,regular,andcyclicalfashion,thenatransithasbeendiscovered.
ThefirstsuchdetectionwasmadeforthestarHD209458in1999.Thegreatadvan-
tageofthissortofmeasurementisthatthedetailsofthedipcanrevealtheradius
oftheplanetthatistransiting,andifaspectrometerisusedevenfeaturesofthe
atmosphereoftheorbitingplanet.
Other Solar Systems: The News So Far
Astronomerswerepuzzledintheearlydaysofdiscoveringextrasolarplanetarysystems
becausealmostnoneofthesystemslookedanythinglikeoursolarsystem.TheDoppler
techniqueturnedupsystemaftersysteminwhichaverylarge(Jupiterlike)planetwas
Chapter 8: ThisWorld and Beyond 115
inaverysmall(Mercurylike)orbit.Debates
ragedabouthowtheformationofsuchsys-
temsfitsintothemodelfortheformationof
ourownsolarsystem.Butwithtime,astron-
omershavestartedtodiscovereversmaller
planetsineverlargerorbits,andthesesys-
temsarestartingtolookmoreandmorelike
CloseEncounter
Theracetodiscoverplanets
isheatingup.InMay2007
alone,astronomersannounced
thediscoveryof32newplanets
orbitingnearbystars.Thesenew
discoverieshaveincreasedthe
ourown.Whatisinterestingaboutthispro-
numberofknownexoplanetsto
gressionofdiscoveryisthatthereareclearly
avarietyofwaysinwhichplanetarysystems
canform,oursbeingonlyoneperhapsnot
eventhemostcommonexample.
242.Atthisrate,wewillknowof
over1,000planetsinjustafew
moreyears.
Dont Be So Self-Centered
Ourdiscoveriesinextrasolarplanetarysystemshighlightthedangerofcomingup
withatheoryofplanetarysystemformationbasedononeexample,namelyoursolar
system.Likelythedetailsoftheover200discoveredplanetaryandprotoplanetary
systemswillhelpastronomersimproveuponthemodelsthataccountfortheforma-
tionofourownsystem.
Puppis: A Familiar System
IntheconstellationPuppisinthesouthernhemisphere,astronomersusingthe
Dopplertechniquehavedetectedanewplanetarysystemverysimilartoourown.
AplanettwiceasmassiveasJupiterorbitsthestarHD70642at3.3A.U.Atthisdis-
tance,itorbitsinsixyears.Andthestarisayellowdwarf,verymuchlikeourown
Sun.
BecausethenewlydiscoveredplanetroundsHD70642inanearlycircularorbitat
adistanceof3.3A.U.,theinnerpartofthisdistantplanetarysystemisleftclearfor
Earth-sizedplanets.
Perhapsmoresignificanttothesearchnotonlyforplanetsbutalsoforlife,circular
orbitsensurethataplanetwillnotexperiencetemperatureextremes.ThePuppissys-
temisfascinatingbecausemostoftheplanetsdiscovereduntilnowhavehadhighly
ellipticalorbits,whichareprobablyincompatiblewithlife,atleastasweknowit.
PerhapsPuppiscontainsatwintoEarthandcuriouslivingthingslookingbackatus.
116 Part 2: WorldsWithout End
Where to Net?
Anumberofspacemissionsplannedinthecomingdecadearelikelytoexpandthe
stableofknownplanetarysystems.Thusfar,alltheplanetsdiscoveredhavebeen
largeandJupiterlike.Althoughthesediscoveriesarenothingshortofstunning,there
isamongsomescientistsandthepublicatlargeaburningdesiretodiscover
Earthlikeplanetsterrestrialplanetsthatresembleourown.Perhapswearesearch-
ingforourselves.
Philosophicalmusingsaside,manyplannedmissionswillpanforterrestrialgold.One
mission,TerrestrialPlanetFinder(TPF),hasasitsgoalthediscoveryofterrestrial
planetsorbitingnearbySunlikestars.Aftersuchplanetsarepinpointed,theTPFwill
performspectroscopy,examiningtheatmospheresoftheplanetsforevidenceoflife
(thepresenceofoxygen,forexample,orozone,bothofwhichwouldnotlastlong
inaplanetaryatmospherewithoutconstantreplenishmentfrombiologicalsources).
TPFwillactuallyconsistoftwoobservatories,avisiblelightcoronagraph,anda
space-basedopticalinterferometer.Theopticalinterferometerwillbeusedtotakea
picture,finally,aswementionedearlier.Thelaunchofthismissionisslatedforthe
period2012to2015.
Scheduledtolaunchevenearlier,inNovember2008,istheKeplerMission,which
willscantheskiesforplanetarytransits.Itsinstrumentationwillbeabletoscan
thousandsofstarsatonceanddetectveryfainttransits,thekindthatresultfrom
planetsassmallasEarth.
Andevennow,manyEarth-basedtelescopes,includingtheKeckinterferometerin
Hawaii,aretakingdatainthequestforplanets.Thetwogiant,10mKecktelescopes
arebeingusedinconjunctiontomakeimagesofthedustaroundnearbystars.Keck
observationswillalsoenableastronomerstomeasuretheastrometricwobblesofstars
duetoUranus-sizedplanetsnotassmallasEarth,butamajorstepintheright
direction.
Sostaytuned,wealreadyknowwehavealotofplanetarycompany,andonlytime
willtellwhatelseisoutthere.
Chapter 8: ThisWorld and Beyond 117
The Least You Need to Know
u Basedonstudiesofmeteorites,astronomersbelievethesolarsystemis4.6billion
yearsold.
u Theearlysolarsystem,likeallyoungplanetarysystems,wasfilledwithdust
grainspulledtogetherbygravitytoformplanetesimals.Thecompositionofthe
dustgrains,andthustheplanetesimals,dependedonthedistancefromtheSun.
u Agravitationallycontractingnebulainwhichdustgrainscondenseandcollide
toformplanetscanexplainmostofthepatternsobservedinoursolarsystem
andotherknownplanetarysystems.
u StarsotherthantheSunarehosttoplanetarysystems,andsomeofthesesys-
temsresembleourown.
u Threemaintechniquesexistfordiscoveringextrasolarplanetarysystems;sofar,
theDopplereffecttechniquehasbeenthemostproductive.Butnewmissions
willchangethelandscapeofdiscovery.
3
l ili i l
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Part
To the Stars
Byfarthec osestandmostfam arstar stheSun,andbeforewe eave
theconf nesofourso arsystemtoexp orethenatureofstars ngenera
wetakeac ose ookatourownstar, tsstructure,andthemechan smthat
ows ttochurnout,eachandeverysecond,theenergyequ va entof4
tr ontr on100-wattbu bs.
FromtheSun,wemoveontohowstarsarestud edandc ass ed.We
thenexp orehowstarsdeve opandwhathappenstothemwhentheyd e,
nc ud ngverymass vestarsthataremanyt mesthemassofourSun.As
weprobeste ardeath,wel exp orethetru ystrangerea mofneutron
starsandb ackho es.
9
:
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Chapter
The Sun Our Star
n Th s Chapter
TheSun:anaveragestar
Sunspots,prom nences,andso arf ares
The ayeredstructureoftheSunand tsatmosphere
TheSunasanuc earfus onreactor
mens onsandenergyoutputoftheSun
Someth ngnewundertheSun:so arneutr nos
Forthousandsofyears,stargazershadno deathatthestars, na the
beauty,hadanyth ng ncommonw ththeSun.Itshardtoseemuchs
ar tybetweenthed stant,feature esspo ntsof ghtaga nstasab eskyand
thegreatye owd skofdayt me,whosebr anceoverwhe msourv on
andwarmsourwor d.Yet,ofcourse,ourSun sastar,theverycenterof
ourso arsystem,theparentoftheterrestr and ov anp anetsandthe
ngsandmoons.Wearethe eftoversoftheformat onofth sburn ng
sphere nthesky.
Part2ofth sbookd scussedthep anetsandthe rmoons.Buttaken
together,theseob ectsrepresenton y0.1percentofthemassoftheso ar
system.Theother99.9percent sfound ntheSun.Anc entcu tures
122 Part 3: To theStars
worshippedtheSunasthesourceofalllife.Anditmakessense.TheSunisourfur-
naceandourlightbulb:theultimatesource,directlyorindirectly,ofmostenergy
andlighthereonEarth.Andbecauseitcontainsalmostallofthemass,itisthegrav-
itationalanchorofthesolarsystem.Indeed,itsverymatterisours.TheearlySunwas
thehotcenterofaswirlingdiskofgasanddustfromwhichthesolarsystemformed
some4.6billionyearsago.IftheSunwereapie,Earthandtherestoftheplanets
wouldbenothingmorethanabitofflourandsugarleftonthecounter.
Importantasitistous,theSunisonlyonestarinagalaxycontaininghundredsof
billionsofstars.Actually,astronomersfeelfortunatethattheSunissonondescript
agalacticcitizen.Itsordinarinessletsusgeneralizeaboutthemanystarsthatliefar
beyondourreach.Inthischapter,weexamineourownstarandbegintoexplorehow
theSun(andstarsingeneral)generatetheenormousenergiesthattheydo.
The Solar Mystery
TheancientGreekphilosopherAnaximenesofMiletusbelievedtheSun,likeother
stars,wasagreatballoffire.Hisbeliefwasanimportantinsightbutwasnotentirely
accurate.TheSunisnotquitesosimple.
Intermsofhumanexperience,theSunisanunfailingsourceofenergy.Wheredoes
allthatenergycomefrom?Inthenineteenthcentury,scientistsknewoftwopossible
sources:thermalheat(likeacandleburning)andgravitationalenergy.
TheproblemwiththermalenergyisthateventheSundoesnthaveenoughmassto
produceenergythewayacandledoesatleast,notongoingforbillionsofyears.
Calculationsshowedthatburningchemically(inthemanner,say,oflogsinafire-
place),themassoftheSunwouldlastonlyafewthousandyears.AlthoughaSun
thatwasafewthousandyearsoldmighthavepleased
AstroByte
sometheologiansatthetime,avarietyofevidence
showedthatEarthwasfarolder.
Thedescriptionofhowmass
hasanequivalentenergyis
Soscientiststurnedtheirattentiontogravitational
perhapsthebest-knownequa- energy,thatis,theconversionofgravitationalenergy
tionofalltime:E=mc
2
.Estands
intoheat.Thetheorywentthisway:astheSuncon-
forenergy,mformass(inkg),
densedoutofthesolarnebula,itsatomsfellinward
andc,thespeedoflight(3
andcollidedmorefrequentlyastheygotmore
10
8
m/s).Dothemath:atinybit
crowded.Thesehighervelocitiesandcollisionscon-
ofmasscanproduceanenor-
mousamountofenergy.
vertedgravitationalenergyintoheat.Gravitational
energycouldpowertheSunsoutputatitscurrent
rateforabout100millionyears.
Chapter 9: TheSun: Our Star 123
ButwhenitstartedtobecomeclearthatEarthwasmucholder(earlygeological
evidenceshowedthatitwasatleast3.5billionyearsold),scientistswentbacktothe
drawingboard,andthenineteenthcenturycametoaclosewithoutanunderstanding
ofthesourceofenergyintheSun.
AstronomersNotebook
SomeimportantmeasurementsusedtoexpresstheenergyoutputoftheSuninclude:watt
(ameasureofpower,therateatwhichenergyisemittedbyanobject);solarconstant
(theenergyeachsquaremeterofEarthssurfacereceivesfromtheSunpersecond:1,400
watts);andluminosity(thetotalenergyradiatedbytheSunpersecond:410
26
watts).
A Special Theory
Atthebeginningofthetwentiethcentury,abrilliantphysicistnamedAlbertEinstein
cameupwithananswer.ItturnsoutthatthesourceofenergyintheSunissome-
thingneverconsideredbeforesomethingthatwouldhavebeencalledalchemy
centuriesearlier.ItsohappensthattheSunconvertsatinybitofitsmassintoenergy
throughthecomingtogetherofthecoresofatoms,theirnuclei.
Whats a Star Made Of?
TheSunismostlyhydrogen(about73percentofthetotalmass)andhelium(25per-
cent).Otherelements,foundinmuchsmalleramounts,adduptojustunder2percent
oftheSunsmass.Theseincludecarbon,nitrogen,oxygen,neon,magnesium,silicon,
sulfur,andiron.Over50otherelementsarefoundintraceamounts.Nothingis
uniqueaboutthepresenceoftheseparticularelements;thesesameonesaredistrib-
utedthroughoutthesolarsystemandtheuniverse.
Toproduceenergy,hydrogenatomsintheSunscoreplowintooneanotherand
therebycreateheliumatoms.Intheprocess,alittlemassisconvertedintoenergy.That
littlebitofenergyforeachcollisionequatestoenormousamountsofenergywhenwe
countallofthecollisionsthatoccurinthecoreoftheSun.Withthisenergysource,
theSunisexpectedtolastnot1,000yearsoreven100millionyears,butabout8to10
billionyears,typicalforastarwiththeSunsmass.Thelifespanofastar,aswellsee
later,dependsonitsexactmassatitstimeofbirth.
124 Part 3: To theStars
How Big Is a Star?
10
Intermsofitssize,mass,andreleasedenergy,theSunisbyfarthemostspectacular
bodyinthesolarsystem.Witharadiusof6.9610
8
m,itis100timeslargerthan
Earth.Imagineyourselfstandinginaroomwithagolfball.IfthegolfballisEarth,
aballrepresentingtheSunwouldtouchtheeight-footceiling.Withamassof1.99
30
kg,theSunis300,000timesmoremassivethanEarth.Andwithasurfacetem-
peratureof5,780K(comparedtoEarthsaverage290Ksurfacetemperature),the
Sunsphotospherewouldmeltorvaporizeanymatterweknow.
Four Trillion Trillion Light Bulbs
Nexttimeyourescrewinginalightbulb,noticeitswattage.Awattisameasureof
powerorhowmuchenergyisproducedorconsumedpersecond.A100-wattbulb
uses100joulesofenergyeverysecond.Forcomparison,theSunproduces410
26
wattsofpower.Thatsalotof100-wattlightbulbsfourtrilliontrillionofthem,to
beexact.ThisrateofenergyproductioniscalledtheSunsluminosity.Somestarshave
luminositiesmuchhigherthanthatoftheSun,butmosthavelowerluminosities.
ThesourceoftheSunspowerandthatofallstars,duringmostoftheirlifespanis
thefusingtogetherofnuclei.Starsfirstconverthydrogenintohelium,andheavier
elementscomelater(wediscussthisprocessinChapter11).Theonlysustainedfusion
reactionswehavebeenabletoproduceonEarthareuncontrolledreactionsknown
ashydrogenbombs.Thedestructiveforceoftheseexplosionsgivesinsightintothe
enormousenergiesreleasedinthecoreoftheSun.InthecoreoftheSun,600mil-
lionmetrictonsofhydrogenareconvertedintoheliumeverysecond.Nuclearfusion
couldbeusedasanearlylimitlesssupplyofenergyonEarth;however,wearenotyet
abletocreatethenecessaryconditions,namelypowerfulmagneticfields,tocreate
controlledfusionreactions.
The Atmosphere Is Lovely
TheSundoesnthaveasurfaceassuch.Whatwecallitssurfaceisjustthelayerthat
emitsthemostlight.SoletsbeginourjourneyattheouterlayersoftheSun,the
layerswecanactuallysee,andworkourwayin.
WhenyoulookupattheSunduringtheday,whatyouarereallylookingatisits
photosphere,thelayerfromwhichthevisiblephotonsthatweseearise.Thephoto-
spherehasatemperatureofabout6,000K.Lowerlayersarehiddenbehindthe
Chapter 9: TheSun: Our Star 125
photosphere,andhigherlayersaresodiffuseandfaintwecanseethemonlyduring
totalsolareclipsesorwithspecialsatellite-borneinstruments.Abovethephotosphere
inthesolaratmospherearethechromosphere,thetransitionzone,andthecorona.
AswemovehigherintheSunsatmosphere,thetemperaturesrisedramatically.
Not That Kind of Chrome
ThepartoftheSunsatmospherecalledthechromosphereisnormallyinvisible
becausethephotosphereisfarmoredenseandbright.However,duringatotalsolar
eclipse,whichblockslightfromthephotosphere,thechromospherecanbeseenas
apinkishauraaroundthesolardisk.Thestrongestemissionlineinthehydrogen
spectrumisred,andthepredominanceofhydrogeninthechromosphereimpartsthe
pinkhue.
Thechromosphereisastorm-rackedregion,intowhichspicules,jetsofexpelledmat-
terthousandsofmileshigh,intrude.
Abovethechromosphereisthetransitionzone.Thetemperatureatthesurfaceof
thephotosphereis5,780K,muchcoolerthanthetemperaturesinthesolarinterior,
whichgetshotterclosertothecore.Yetinthechromosphere,thetransitionzone,
andintothecorona,thetemperaturerisessharplythefartheronegoesfromthesur-
faceoftheSun!Atabout6,000miles(10,000km)abovethephotosphere,wherethe
transitionzonebecomesthecorona,temperaturesexceed1,000,000K.(Fordetailed
real-timeviewsofthesolarphotosphere,chromosphere,andcorona,seehttp://
sohowww.estec.esa.nl.)
Howdoweexplainthisapparentparadox?Webelievetheinteractionbetweenthe
Sunsstrongmagneticfieldandthechargedparticlesinthecoronaheatittothese
hightemperaturesanditslowdensitymakesitmoredifficultforittocoolbecause
coolinghappensmoreeasilywhenatomscollide,whichtheydoinhigh-density
environments.
A Luminous Crown
Corona,Latinforcrown,describestheregionbeyondthetransitionzonewhich
consistsofhighlyionizedelementsstrippedoftheirelectronsbythetremendous
heatinthecoronalregion.Likethechromosphere,thecoronaisnormallyinvisible,
blottedoutbytheintenselightofthephotosphere.Onlyduringtotalsolareclipses
doesthecoronabecomevisible,attimeswhenthediskoftheMooncoversthephoto-
sphereandthechromosphere.Duringsucheclipseconditions,thesignificanceof
126 Part 3: To theStars
theLatinnamebecomesreadilyapparent:thecoronaappearsasaluminouscrown
surroundingthedarkeneddiskoftheSun.Infact,duringeclipses,withthecorona
evident,theSunlooksmostlikeatypicalchildsdrawingofit.
WhentheSunisactiveacyclethatpeaksevery11yearsitssurfacebecomes
mottledwithsunspots,andgreatsolarflaresandprominencessendmaterialfarabove
itssurface.
Solar Wind: Hot and Thin
TheSundoesntkeepitsenergytoitself.Ratherthisenergyflowsawayintheform
ofelectromagneticradiationandparticles.Theparticles(mostlyelectronsandpro-
tons)dontmovenearlyasfastastheradiation,whichescapesthesurfaceoftheSun
atthespeedoflight,buttheymovefastneverthelessatmorethan300milesper
second(500km/s).Thisswiftlymovingparticlestreamwecallthesolarwind.(You
cankeeptrackofthelatestsolarwindweatherathttp://umtof.umd.edu/pm/.)
Theincredibletemperaturesinthesolarcoronadrivethesolarwind.Asaresult,the
gasesaresufficientlyhottoescapethetremendousgravitationalpulloftheSun.The
surfaceofEarthisprotectedfromthiswindbyitsmagnetosphere,themagneticfield,
akindofcocoon,generatedbytherotationofchargedmaterialinEarthsmolten
core.Similarfieldsarecreatedaroundmanyotherplanets,whichalsohavemolten
corematerial.
Themagnetosphereeitherdeflectsorcaptureschargedparticlesfromthesolarwind.
SomeoftheseparticlesaretrappedintheVanAllenBelts,doughnut-shapedregions
aroundEarthnamedaftertheirdiscoverer,UniversityofIowaphysicistJamesAlfred
VanAllen(19142006).SomeofthechargedparticlesraindownonEarthspolesand
collidewithitsatmosphere,givingrisetodisplaysofcolorandlightcalledAuroras
(intheNorthernHemisphere,theAuroraBorealis,orNorthernLights,andinthe
SouthernHemisphere,theAuroraAustralis,orSouthernLights).TheAurorasare
especiallyprominentwhentheSunreachesitspeakofactivityevery11years.The
latestcycleofactivitystartedin1996,peakedin2000,andendedin2006.Thenext
peakactivityshouldoccurin2011.
Into the Sun
HavingdescribedthelayersintheSunsouteratmosphere,letslookatsomeoftheir
moreinterestingaspects:thestormsintheatmosphere.Solarweatherintheformof
sunspots,prominences,andsolarflaresregularlydisturbstheSunsatmosphere.
Chapter 9: TheSun: Our Star 127
WiththeproperequipmentornothingmorethananInternetconnection(goto
http://sohowww.estec.esa.nl)youcanobservemanyofthesignsofactivityonthe
Sunssurface.
A Granulated Surface
TheSunssurfaceusuallyappearsfeature-
less,except,perhaps,forsunspots.However,
viewedthroughasolarfilterandathigh-
Sunspots areirregularlyshaped
resolution,thesurfaceoftheSunactually
appearshighlygranulated.Now,granule
isarelativeconceptwhentalkingabouta
bodyasbigastheSun.Infact,eachgranule
darkareasonthefaceofthe
Sun.Theyappeardarkbecause
theyarecoolerthanthesurround-
ingmaterial.Theyaretiedtothe
presenceofmagneticfieldsat
isaboutthesizeofanEarthlycontinent,
appearinganddisappearingasahotbubble
theSunssurface.
ofphotosphericgasrisestothesolarsurface.
Galileo Sees Spots
Peoplemusthaveseensunspotsbefore1611,whenGalileoand,independently,
otherastronomersaswellfirstreportedthem.Thelargestspotsarevisibletothe
nakedeye,atleastwhentheSunisseenthroughthinclouds,yetinGalileosday,the
worldwasreluctanttoacceptimperfectionsonthefaceoftheSun,and,asfaraswe
know,noonestudiedsunspotssystematicallybeforeGalileo.
Fromtheexistenceandbehaviorofsunspots,Galileodrewaprofoundconclusion.
Hedeclared,in1613,thattheSunrotated,interpretingtheapparentmovementofthe
spotsacrossthefaceoftheSunasevidenceoftheSunsrotation.Thesunspotswere
justalongfortheride.
Sunspots: What Are They?
Sunspots,irregularlyshapeddarkareasonthefaceoftheSun,lookdarkbecausethey
arecoolerthanthesurroundingmaterial.Stronglocalmagneticfieldspushaway
someofthehotionizedmaterialrisingfromlowerinthephotosphere.Asunspotis
notuniformlydark.Itscenter,calledtheumbra,isdarkestandissurroundedbya
lighterpenumbra.IfyouthinkofasunspotasablemishonthefaceoftheSun,just
rememberthatonesuchblemishmighteasilybethesizeofEarthorlarger.
128 Part 3: To theStars
Sunspotssometimespersistformonthsandmightappearsingly,although,usually,
theyarefoundinpairsorgroups.Suchtypicalgroupingsarerelatedtothemagnetic
natureofthesunspotsandtheircorrelationwiththepresenceofmagneticloops.
Everypairofspotshasaleaderandafollower,withrespecttothedirectionofthe
Sunsrotation,andtheleadersmagneticpolarityisalwaystheoppositeofthefol-
lower.Thatis,iftheleaderisanorthmagneticpole,thefollowerwillbeasouth
magneticpole.
Thissunspotwasphoto-
graphedbytheNational
SolarObservatoryatSacra-
mentoPeak,Sunspot,New
Mexico.Notethesmallgran-
ulesandthelargersunspot
umbra,surroundedbythe
penumbra.
(ImagefromNSO)
Sunspotsareneverseenexactlyattheequatorornearthesolarpoles,andleadersand
followersinonehemisphereoftheSunarealmostalwaysoppositeinpolarityfrom
thoseacrosstheequator.Thatis,ifalltheleadersinthenorthernhemisphereare
southmagneticpoles,alltheleadersinthesouthernhemispherewillbenorthmag-
neticpoles.
Sunspotsarethoughttobeassociatedwithstronglocalmagneticfields.Butwhyare
thefieldsstrongincertainregionsofthephotosphere?
AmeteorologistfromNorway,VilhelmBjerknes(18621951),concludedin1926that
sunspotsaretheeruptingloopsofmagneticfieldlines,whicharedistortedbythe
Sunsdifferentialrotation.Inotherwords,likethegiantgasjovianworlds,theSun
doesntrotateasasingle,solidunitbutdoessodifferentially,withdifferentspeedsat
differentlatitudes.TheSunspinsfastestatitsequator,resultingindistortionofthe
solarmagneticfieldlines.Thefieldlinesaremostdistortedattheequator,sothat
thenorth-southmagneticfieldisturnedtoaneast-westorientation.Inplaceswhere
thefieldissufficientlydistorted,twistedlikeaknot,thefieldbecomeslocallyvery
strong,powerfulenoughtoescapetheSunsgravitationalpull.Wherethishappens,
Chapter 9: TheSun: Our Star 129
fieldlinespopoutofthephotosphere,loopingthroughthelowersolaratmosphere
andformingasunspotpairatthetwoplaceswherethefieldlinespassthroughthe
surfaceintothesolarinterior.
Sunspot Cycles
In1843,longbeforethemagneticnatureofsunspotswasperceived,astronomer
HeinrichSchwabeannouncedhisdiscoveryofasolarcycle,inwhichthenumber
ofspotsseenontheSunreachesamaximumevery11years(onaverage).In1922,
theBritishastronomerAnnieRusselMaunderchartedthelatitudedriftofsunspots
duringeachsolarcycle.Shefoundthateachcyclebeginswiththeappearanceof
smallspotsinthemiddlelatitudesoftheSun,whicharefollowedbyspotsappear-
ingprogressivelyclosertothesolarequatoruntilthecyclereachesitsmaximumlevel
ofactivity.Afterthispoint,thenumberofspotsbeginstodecline.Themostrecent
maximumoccurredinearly2001.
Actually,the11-yearperiodisonlyhalfofa22-yearcyclethatismorefundamental.
Theleadingspotsononehemisphereexhibitthesamepolarity,meaningtheyare
alleithernorthmagneticpolesorsouthandthefollowersaretheoppositeofthe
leaders.Attheendofthefirst11yearsofthecycle,polaritiesreverse.Iftheleaders
hadnorthpolesinthesouthernhemisphere,theybecome,asthesecondhalfofthe
cyclebegins,southpoles.
Coronal Eruptions
Mostfrequentlyatthepeakofthesunspotcycle,violenteruptionsofgasareejected
fromtheSunssurface.Theprominencesandflarescanrisesome60,000miles
(100,000km)abovethephotosphereandmightbevisibleforweeks.
Solarflaresaremoresuddenandviolenteventsthanprominences.Althoughtheyare
alsothoughttobetheresultofmagnetickinks,theydonotshowthearcingorloop-
ingpatterncharacteristicofprominences.Flaresareexplosionsofincrediblepower,
bringinglocaltemperaturesto100,000,000K.Whereasprominencesreleasetheir
energyoverdaysorweeks,flaresexplodeinaflashofenergyreleasethatlastsamat-
terofminutesor,perhaps,hours.
130 Part 3: To theStars
The Core of the Sun
TheSunisanuclearfusionreactor.Impressiveasitsperiodicoutburstsare,itssteady
productionofenergyshouldgenerateevenmorewonderandthought.TheSunhas
beenchurningoutenergyeverysecondofeverydayforthelastfourtofivebillion
years!
Fission Hole
OnDecember2,1942,EnricoFermi,anItalianphysicistwhohadfledhisfascist-
oppressednativelandfortheUnitedStates,withdrewacontrolrodfromanatomic
pileheandhiscolleagueshadbuiltinasquashcourtbeneaththestandsofthe
UniversityofChicagosStaggField.Thisactioninitiatedtheworldsfirstself-
sustainingatomicchainreaction.Inshort,Fermiandhisteamhadinventedthe
nuclearreactor,andtheworldhasntbeenthesamesince.
Nuclearfissionisanuclearreactioninwhichanatomicnucleussplitsintofragments,
therebyreleasingenergy.Inafissionreactor,likeFermis,theprocessoffissionis
controlledandself-sustaining,sothatthesplittingofoneatomleadstothesplitting
ofothers,eachfissionreactionliberatingmoreenergy.
Nuclearfissioniscapableofliberatingagreatdealofenergy,whetherintheformof
acontrolledsustainedchainreactionorinasinglegreatexplosion:anatomicbomb.
Yeteventhepowerfulfissionprocesscannotaccountforthetremendousamountof
energytheSungeneratessoconsistently.Wemustlooktoanotherprocesswhichis
callednuclearfusion.
Whereasnuclearfissionliberatesenergybysplittingatomicnuclei,nuclearfusion
producesenergybyjoiningthem,combininglightatomicnucleiintoheavierones.
Intheprocess,thecombinedmassoftwonucleiinathirdnucleusislessthanthe
totalmassoftheoriginaltwonuclei.Themassisnotsimplylostbutisconvertedinto
energy,alotofenergy.
Oneoftheby-productsofnuclearfusionreactionsisatinyneutralparticlecalled
theneutrino.Fermidubbedtheparticleaneutrino,Italianforlittleneutralone.
Thefusionreactionsthemselvesproducehigh-energygamma-rayradiation,buton
theSunthosephotonsareconvertedintomostlyvisiblelightbythetimetheirenergy
reachesthesurfaceoftheSun.Neutrinos,withnochargetoslowthemdown,come
streamingstraightoutoftheSunscore.
Chapter 9: TheSun: Our Star 131
Chain Reactions
TheSungeneratesenergybyconvertingthehydrogeninitscoretohelium.The
detailsarecomplex,sowepresentonlythebriefestoverview.Whentemperatures
andpressuresaresufficientlyhigh(temperaturesofabout10millionKarerequired),
4hydrogennuclei,whichareprotons,positivelychargedparticles,cancombineto
createthenucleusofaheliumatom,2protonsand2neutrons.
Themassoftheheliumnucleuscreatedisslightlylessthanthatofthefourprotons
(hydrogenatoms)neededtocreateit.Thatsmalldifferenceinmassisconvertedinto
energyinthefusionprocess.Oneofthesimplestfusionreactionsinvolvesthepro-
ductionofdeuterium(ahydrogenisotope)fromaprotonandaneutron.Whenthese
twoparticlescollidewithsufficientvelocity,theycreateadeuteriumnucleus(con-
sistingofaprotonandaneutron),andtheexcessenergyisgivenoffasagamma-ray
photon.IntheSun,thisprocessproceedsonamassivescale,liberatingtheenergy
thatlightsupourdaytimeskies.Thatsa410
26
wattlightbulbupthere,remember?
Your Standard Solar Model
BycombiningtheoreticalmodelingoftheSunsunobservableinteriorwithobserva-
tionsoftheenergythattheSunproduces,astronomershavecometoanagreement
onwhattheycallastandardsolarmodel,amathematicallybasedpictureoftheinterior
structureoftheSunanditsenergy-generatingmachinery.Themodelseeksto
explaintheobservablepropertiesoftheSunandalsotodescribepropertiesofits
unobservableinterior.
Onlywiththesolarmodelcanwebegintodescribesomeoftheinteriorregionsthat
arehiddenfromdirectobservationbeneaththephotosphere.Belowthephotosphere
istheconvectionzone,whichissome124,000miles(200,000km)thick.Belowthisis
theradiationzone,186,000miles(300,000km)thick,whichsurroundsacorewitha
radiusof124,000miles(200,000km).
TheSunscoreistremendouslydense(150,000kg/m
3
)andhot:some15,000,000K.
WecantstickathermometerintheSunscore,sohowdoweknowitsthathot?If
welookattheenergyemergingfromtheSunssurface,wecanworkbackwardto
theconditionsthatmustprevailattheSunscore.Atthisdensityandtemperature,
nuclearfusioniscontinuous,withparticlesalwaysinviolentmotion.TheSunscore
isagiantnuclearfusionreactor.
132 Part 3: To theStars
Attheveryhightemperaturesofthecore,allmatteriscompletelyionizedstripped
ofitsnegativelychargedelectrons.Asaresult,photons,packetsofelectromagnetic
energy,moveslowlyoutofthecoreintothenextlayeroftheSunsinterior,theradia-
tionzone.
Herethetemperatureislower,andphotonsemittedfromthecoreoftheSuninteract
continuouslywiththechargedparticleslocatedthere,beingabsorbedandreemitted.
Whilethephotonsremainintheradiationzone,heatingitandlosingenergy,some
oftheirenergyescapesintotheconvectionzone,whichboilslikewateronastovetop
sothathotgasesrisetothephotosphereandcoolgasessinkbackintotheconvec-
tionzone.Convectivecellsgetsmallerandsmaller,eventuallybecomingvisibleas
granulesatthesolarsurface.Thus,byconvection,hugeamountsofenergyreachthe
surfaceoftheSun.AtomsandmoleculesintheSunsphotosphereabsorbsomeofthe
Sunsemergingphotonsatparticularwavelengths,givingrisetotheSunsabsorption-
linespectrum.Mostoftheradiationfromastarthathasthesurfacetemperatureof
theSunisemittedinthevisiblepartofthespectrum.
The Solar Neutrino: Problem Solved
RememberthatneutrinosareproducedintheSunscoreasaproductofthenuclear
fusionreactionsoccurringthere,aprocesssometimescalledtheproton-protonchain.
Unlikephotons,whichscatterinthesolarinteriorformillionsofyearsbeforegetting
tothesolarsurface,neutrinosinteractonlyweaklywithothermatterand,therefore,
streamdirectlyoutofthesolarinterior.Neutrinos,then,giveusouronlyimmediate
viewofeventsgoingoninthecoreoftheSun.
Theoreticalmodelsofthefusionreactionsinthesolarcorepredicthowmanyneu-
trinosweshouldexpecttodetect,giventheSunsenergyproductionrate.However,
sincetheveryfirstexperimentswereruntodetectneutrinosfromtheSun,scientists
havebeenawareofaproblem.Noneoftheexperimentsdetectedthenumberofneu-
trinosexpectedbasedonthestandardsolarmodel.Therewerealwaystoofew.The
discrepancyvariedbyexperiment,butallcameupshortbyafactorofupto
1
3.
.
This
shortfall,calledtheSolarNeutrinoProblem(SNP),persistedfor30years.
Laterintheearly1990s,theGALLEX(GALLiumEXperiment)clarifiedthesitua-
tionsomewhatbydetectinglower-energyneutrinosthananyotherdetector.These
neutrinosresultedfromthemostcommonprotonfusionreaction,andtheresultsof
theexperimentmadeitclearthattheshortfallinneutrinoswasreal,notaproblem
withthedetectors.
Chapter 9: TheSun: Our Star 133
Sohow,then,doweexplaintheSolarNeutrinoProblem?Thereweretwomainideas.
First:thecoreoftheSunmightnotbeashotaswethought.Thiswouldreducethe
numberofneutrinosproducedinthecoreand,therefore,thenumberdetected.
Second:neutrinosmightchangeoroscillateontheirjourneyfromtheSunto
Earth.Thereare,infact,threedifferenttypesofneutrinos(electron,muon,andtau
neutrinos),likethreeflavorsoficecreaminarestaurant.
SomerecentobservationsattheSudburyNeutrinoObservatory(SNO),locatedabout
1mile(2km)belowthesurfaceofEarthinCanadahavesolvedtheproblem.The
detectorsitsunderallthatrocktoprotectitfromparticlesotherthanneutrinos.
Filledwithathousandtonsofheavywater(watercontainingheavyisotopesof
hydrogencalleddeuterium),thedetectorcanseeflashesoflightcalledCherenkov
radiationeachtimeaneutrinointeractswiththewater.Aswithotherneutrinodetec-
tors,thelightisdetectedbyphotomultipliertubes,whichsurroundthetank.
AjointprojectofCanada,theUnitedStates,andBritain,theSNOin2001directly
detectedsomeofthosechangedneutrinos,indicatingthattheoscillationsarereal.
A30-year-oldmysteryhasbeensolved.
The Least You Need to Know
u AsstaggeringastheSunsdimensionsandenergyoutputare,theSunisnomore
norlessthanaveryaveragestar.
u TheSunisacomplex,layeredobjectwithanaturalnuclearfusionreactoratits
core.
u ThegammaraysgeneratedbythefusionreactionsinthecoreoftheSunare
convertedtoopticalandinfraredradiationbythetimetheenergyemergesfrom
theSunsphotosphere.
u AlthoughtheSunhasbeenadependablesourceofenergyforthelastfourbillion
years,itsatmosphereisfrequentlyrockedbysuchdisturbancesassunspots,
prominences,andsolarflares,peakingevery11years.
u Thelong-standingSolarNeutrinoProblemhasbeenresolvedasscientistshave
discoveredthatneutrinoshaveatinyamountofmassandchangeoroscillate
duringtheirjourneyfromthecoreoftheSuntoEarth.
Gi f
ll ily
I i
u
u i l l i ll
u i i
u Cl i i i ll i l
iti
u ini
u ll i i
i i l l
il i i ic
fl i i i i
billi i l l i
i l i
i l i l i i ll i
l ll l i isi l i
10
Chapter
ants, Dwar s, and the
Ste ar Fam
n Th s Chapter
Nearestandfartheststars
Observ ngandca cu at ngste armovement
Measur ngthes zeofastar
ass fy ngstarsaccord ngtoste artemperaturesandchem ca
compos on
Determ ngthemassofastar
Ste arb ograph es
Inthegreatschemeofth ngs,ourownstar,theSun, sre ativelyaccessib e.
Wecanmakeoutdeta edfeatureson tssurfaceandtracktheper od
aresandprom nencesthat tem ts.ButourSun sonly1starofafew100
on nourGa axya one,andbeyondthatex ststarsmuchfartheraway,
partsofotherd stantga ax es.
Evend stantP uto sveryc ose ncompar sontoourste arne ghbors.
Onthego fba sca e,theneareststarwh ch ntheA phaCentaur
136 Part 3: To theStars
systemwouldbe50,000milesaway.Therestofthestarsinthenightskyareeven
farther.
Inthischapter,webegintoreachouttomyriadcousinsquiteliterallydistant
cousinsofourSun.
Sizing Them Up
Theplanetsofthesolarsystemappeartousasdisks.Whenweknowaplanetsdis-
tancefromus,itissimpletomeasurethediskandtranslatethatfigureintoareal
measurementoftheplanetssize.Buttrainyourtelescopeonanystar,andallyousee
isapointoflight,withnodisktomeasure.Popinahigher-powereyepiece,andguess
what?Itsstillapointoflight.
Onlyveryrecently,withtheadventoftheHubbleSpaceTelescope(HST),havewe
beenabletoresolvethedisksofanystars.In1996,theHSTtookapictureofthestar
Betelgeuse,whichwasthefirstresolvedimageofastarotherthantheSun.TheVery
LargeArray,groundbasedinNewMexico,hasalsobeenusedtoimageBetelgeuse.
Althoughfarawayat500light-years,Betelgeuseisaredgiant,andthatmeansithasa
verylargeradiusindeed.
TheVeryLargeArray
inSocorro,NewMexico,
recentlymadeanimageof
thenearbysupergiantstar,
Betelgeuse,thebrightred
starintheconstellation
Orion.LiketheSun,Betel-
geuseappearstosendplumes
ofgasfaraboveitsoptically
visibleatmosphere,asseenin
thisradio-frequencyimage.
(ImagefromNRAO)
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 137
Radius, Luminosity, Temperature: A Key Relationship
Justbecausewehaveveryfewdiskstomeasure,wedonthavetogiveupondeter-
miningthesizesofthestars.Wejusthavetobemorecleverandabitmoreindirect.
First,wedeterminethestarstemperatureandmassbystudyingitscolorandvisible
spectrum.Then,employingnumericalmodelsofhowstarsholdtogether,wederive
thequantityweareinterestedinradius,forexample.Thisindirectprocessisakin
tolookingoutoveraparkinglotandseeingaLexus.Youmightnotknowitssize,
butyouknow,byconsultinganInternetwebsite,thatthismodelofLexusis16.4feet
long.YoucanclearlyseethatitisindeedthisparticularmodelofLexus,soyouknow
itslength,eventhoughyoudidntactuallymeasureitwitharuler.
Astarsluminosity,itswattageortherateatwhichitemitsenergyintospace,is
highlydependentonitstemperature:proportionaltothefourthpowertothestars
surfacetemperature.Thereisanotherimportantrelationshipforstars.Astarslumi-
nosityisnotonlyrelatedtoitstemperaturebutalsotoitssurfacearea.Heatthehead
ofapinto400degreesFandalargemetalplatetothesametemperature.Whichwill
radiatemoreenergy?Obviously,theobjectwiththelargersurfaceareawill.Given
thesamesurfacetemperature,alargerbodywillalwaysradiatemoreenergythana
smallerone.
Wecanexpresstherelationshipbetweensurfaceareaandenergyradiatedinthisway:
astarsluminosityisproportionaltothesquareofitsradius(thatsthesurfacearea
term)timesitssurfacetemperaturetothefourthpower:luminosityr
2
T
4
.So,if
youknowastarsluminosityandtemperature,youcancalculateitsradius.
Letsbackupamoment.Howexactlydowemeasureastarsluminosityandtempera-
ture?Letssee.
The Paralla Principle
First,howdoweknowwhichofallthestarsinthenightskyarethenearesttous?
Forthatmatter,howdoweknowhowfarawayanystarsare?Youvecomealongway
inthisbook,andonthisjourneywehavespokenagooddealaboutdistancesby
earthlystandards,oftenextraordinarydistances.Indeed,thedistancesastronomers
measurearesovastthattheyuseasetofunitsuniquetoastronomy.Whenmeasur-
ingdistancesonEarth,metersandkilometersareconvenientunits,butinthevast
spacesbetweenstarsandgalaxies,suchunitsbecomeinadequateandveryclumsy.
Thewayastronomersmeasuredistancesandtheunitstheyusedependonhowfar
awaytheobjectsare.
138 Part 3: To theStars
WecanmeasuredistancesbetweenagivenpointonEarthandmanyobjectsinthe
solarsystemwithradar,whichcandetectandtrackdistantobjectsbytransmitting
radiowavesandthenreceivingthereturningwavestheobjectreflectsback.(Sonaris
asimilartechniqueusingsoundwaves,andLIDARuseslightwaves.)Ifyoumultiply
theround-triptraveltimeoftheoutgoingsignalanditsincomingechobythespeed
oflight(which,yourecall,isthespeedofallelectromagneticradiation,including
radiowaves),youobtainafigurethatistwicethedistancetothetargetobject.
Radarrangingworkswellwithobjectsthatreturn(bounceback)radiosignals,but
stars,includingtheSun,tendtoabsorbratherthanreturnelectromagneticradiation
transmittedtothem.
Moreover,evenifyoucouldbounceasignaloffthesurfaceofastar,moststarsareso
distantyouwouldhavetowaithundredsorthousandsofyearsforthesignaltomake
itsroundtripevenatthespeedoflight.Eventhenearby(relativelyspeaking)Alpha
Centaurisystemwouldtakeabouteightyearstodetectwithradarranging,wereit
evenpossible.
Soastronomersuseanothermethodtodeterminethedistanceofthestars,amethod
thatwasavailablelongbeforeradarwasdevelopedintheyearsleadinguptoWorld
WarII.Infact,themethodisatleastasoldastheGreekgeometerEuclid,wholived
inthethirdcenturyB.C.E.
Thistechniqueiscalledtriangulation,anditisanindirectmethodofmeasuringdis-
tancederivedbygeometryusingabaselineofknownsizeandtwoanglesfromthe
baselinetotheobject.Triangulationdoesnotrequirearighttriangle,buttheestab-
lishmentofone90-degreeangledoesmakethecalculationofdistanceabiteasier.
AstronomersNotebook
Itworkslikethis.Supposeyouareononerimofthe
GrandCanyonandwanttomeasurethedistance
Ifyouhaveastopwatch,youcan
fromwhereyouarestandingtoacampsitelocated
alsoclapyourhandsandsee
ontheotherrim.Youcantthrowatapemeasure
howlongittakesfortheecho acrosstheyawningchasm,soyoumustmeasure
toreturn.Usingthetechnique
thedistanceindirectly.Youpositionyourselfpre-
describedforradarranging,by
ciselyacrossfromthecampsite,markyourposition,
multiplyingtheround-triptimeby
thenturn90degreesfromthecanyonandcarefully
thespeedofsoundinairabout
340m/syougettwicethe
paceoffanotherpointacertaindistancefromyour
widthofthecanyoninmeters.
originalposition.Thedistancebetweenyourtwo
observationpointsiscalledyourbaseline.
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 139
Fromthissecondposition,yousighttothecampsite.Whereastheangleformedby
thebaselineandthelineofsightatyouroriginalpositionis90degrees(youarranged
ittobeso),theangleformedbythebaselineandthelineofsightatthesecondposi-
tionwillbesomewhatlessthan90degrees.IfyouconnectthecampsitewithPointA
(youroriginalviewpoint)andthecampsitewithPointB(thesecondviewpoint),both
ofwhicharejoinedbythebaseline,youwillhavearighttriangle.
Now,youcantakethisrighttriangleand,withalittlework,calculatethedistance
acrossthecanyon.Ifyousimplymakeadrawingofyoursetup,takingcaretodraw
theknownanglesandlengthstoscale,youcanmeasuretheunknowndistanceacross
thecanyonfromyourdrawing.Orifyouaregoodattrigonometry,youcanreadily
usethedifferencebetweentheanglesatPointsAandBandthelengthofthebaseline
toarriveatthedistancetotheremotecampsite.
How Far Are the Stars?
LikethecampsiteseparatedfromyoubytheGrandCanyon,thestarsarenotdirectly
accessibletomeasurement.However,ifyoucanestablishtwoviewpointsalonga
baseline,youcanusetriangulationtomeasurethedistancetoagivenstar.
Thereisjustoneproblem.Takeapieceofpaper.Drawaline1inchlong.Thisline
isthebaselineofyourtriangle.Measureupfromthatline1inch,andmakeapoint.
Nowconnecttheendsofyourbaselinetothatpoint.Youhaveanice,normal-looking
triangle.Butifyouplaceyourpointseveralfeetfromthebaseline,andthenconnect
theendsofthebaselinetoit,youwillhaveanextremelylongandskinnytriangle,
withanglesthatareverydifficulttomeasureaccuratelybecausetheywillbothbe
closeto90degrees.Ifyoumoveyourpointseveralmilesaway,andkeepa1-inchbase-
line,thedifferenceintheanglesatPointsAandBofyourbaselinewillbejustabout
impossibletomeasure.Theywillbothseemlikerightangles.
Forpracticalpurposes,a1-inchbaselineisjustnotlongenoughtomeasuredistances
ofafewmilesaway.NowrecallthatifourEarthisagolfball(about1inchindiam-
eter),theneareststar,toscale,wouldbe50,000milesaway.Sothebaselinecreated
by,say,therotationofEarthonitsaxiswhichwouldgivetwopoints1inchawayin
ourmodelisnotnearlylargeenoughtousetriangulationtomeasurethedistanceto
theneareststars.
WiththediameterofEarthafixedquantitythatisonlysowide,howcanweextend
thebaselinetoausefuldistance?
140 Part 3: To theStars
Thesolutionistousethefactthatourplanetnotonlyrotatesonitsaxisbutalso
orbitstheSun.Observationofthetargetstarismade,say,onFebruary1,andthen
ismadeagainonAugust1,whenEarthhasorbited180degreesfromitspositionsix
monthsearlier.Ineffect,thismotioncreatesabaselinethatis2A.U.longthatis,
twicethedistancefromEarthtotheSun.Observationsmadeatthesetwotimesand
placeswillshowthetargetstarapparentlyshiftedrelativetotheevenmore-distant
starsinthebackground.Thisshiftiscalledstellarparallax,andbymeasuringit,we
candeterminetheanglerelativetothebaselineandtherebyusetriangulationtocal-
culatethestarsdistance.
WecanuseEarthsorbit
aroundtheSuntoestablish
anenormousbaselineandto
measurethedistancestothe
neareststars.
(ImagefromNASA)
Togetahandleonparallax,holdyourindexfingerinfrontofyouwithyourarm
extended.Withoneeyeopen,lineupyourfingerwithsomeverticalfeature,saythe
edgeofawindow.Now,keepingyourfingerwhereitis,lookthroughtheothereye.
Thechangeinviewpointmakesyourfingerappeartomovewithrespecttoaback-
groundobject.(Warning:ifyoudothisonthesubway,peoplemaystarttomove
awayfromyou.)
Inourexampleofstellarparallax,youreyesarethetwopositionsofEarthseparated
bysixmonths,yourfingerisanearbystar,andthewindowedgeisadistantback-
groundstar.Thismethodworksaslongasthestar(yourfinger)isrelativelyclose;
youcanexperimenttoseethatthecloseryourfingeristoyourface,thelargerits
apparentmotionwillbe.Ifthestaristoofaraway,parallaxisnolongereffective.
Nearest and Farthest
OtherthantheSun,thestarclosesttousisAlphaCentauri,whichhasthelargest
knownstellarparallax,0.76arcseconds.Ingeneral,thedistancetoastarinparsecs
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 141
(abbreviatedpc)isequalto1dividedbythestellarparallaxinarcsecondsorcon-
versely,itsparallax(inarcseconds)willbeequalto1dividedbythedistancein
parsecs.Themeasuredparallax,inanycase,willbeaverysmallangle(lessthanan
arcsecond).
RecallthatthefullMoontakesupabout1,800"(orhalfadegree)onthesky,sothe
0.76"parallaxmeasuredforAlphaCentauriis
0.76
1,800 orlessthan
1
2,000 thediameter
ofthefullMoon!Usingthepreviousruletoconvertparallaxintodistance,wefind
thatAlphaCentauriis
1
0.76 =1.3pcor4.2light-yearsaway.Onaverage,starsinour
Galaxyareseparatedbyabout7light-years.SoAlphaCentauriisabitcloserthan
normal.Ifastarwere10pcaway,itwouldhaveaparallaxof
1
10 or0.1".
Thefartheststellardistancesthatwecanmeasureusingparallaxareabout100par-
secs(about330light-years).Starsatthisdistancehaveaparallaxof
1
100"or0.01".
Thatapparentmotionisthesmallestwecanmeasurewithourbesttelescopes.
WithinourownGalaxy,moststarsareevenfartherawaythanthis.(Wellseelater
thatweareabout25,000light-yearsfromthecenterofourownGalaxy.)Asthereso-
lutionofearthboundtelescopesimproveswiththeadditionofadaptiveoptics,this
distancelimitwillbepushedfartherout.
Stars in Motion
Theancientsthoughtthatthestarswereembeddedinadistantsphericalbowland
movedinunison,neverchangingtheirpositionsrelativetooneanother.Weknow
now,ofcourse,thatthedailymotionofthestarsisduetoEarthsrotation.Yetthe
starsmove,too.However,theirgreatdistancefromusmakesthatmovementdifficult
toperceive,exceptoververylongperiodsoftime.Ajethighinthesky,forexample,
canappeartobemovingratherslowly,yetweknowthatithastobemovingfastjust
tostayaloftanditsapparentslownessisaresultofitsdistance.Ajetasfarawayasa
starwouldnotappeartomoveatall.
Astronomersthinkofstellarmovementinthreedimensions:
u Thetransversecomponentofmotionisperpendiculartoourlineofsightthatis,
movementacrossthesky.Thismotioncanbemeasureddirectly.
u Theradialcomponentisstellarmovementtowardorawayfromus.Thismotion
mustbemeasuredfromtheDopplershiftapparentinastarsspectrum.
u Theactualmotionofastariscalculatedbycombiningthetransverseandradial
components,whichareperpendiculartoeachother.
142 Part 3: To theStars
Thetransversecomponentcanbemeasuredbycare-
fullycomparingphotographsofagivenpieceofthe
Wedeterminetheproper motion
skytakenatdifferenttimesandmeasuringtheangle
ofastarbymeasuringtheangu-
ofdisplacementofonestarrelativetobackground
lardisplacementofatargetstar
stars(inarcseconds).Thisstellarmovementiscalled
relativetomoredistantback-
groundstars.Measurementsare
propermotion.Astarsdistancecanbeusedtotrans-
takenoverlongperiodsoftime,
latetheangularpropermotionintoatransverse
andtheresultisanangularveloc-
velocityinkm/s.Inouranalogy:ifyouknewhowfar
ity(measured,forexample,in
awaythatairplaneintheskywas,youcouldturnits
arcseconds/year).Ifthedistance apparentlyslowmovementintoatruevelocity.
tothestarisknown,wecancon-
vertthisangulardisplacementinto
Determiningtheradialcomponentofastarsmotion
atransversevelocity.
involvesanentirelydifferentprocess.Bystudying
thespectrumofthetargetstar(whichshowsthe
lightemittedandabsorbedbyastaratparticular
frequencies),astronomerscancalculatethestarsapproachingorrecedingvelocity
relativetoEarth.Thisisthesametechniqueusedtodetectextrasolarplanets.
Certainelementsandmoleculesshowupinastarsspectrumasabsorptionlines.
Thefrequenciesofparticularabsorptionlinesareknownifthesourceisatrest,but
ifthestarismovingtowardorawayfromus,thelineswillgetshifted.Afast-moving
starslineswillbeshiftedmorethanaslow-movingones.Thisphenomenon,more
familiarwithsoundwaves,isknownastheDopplereffect.
CloseEncounter
WehaveallheardoftheDopplereffect.Itsthatchangeinpitchofalocomotive
hornwhenafast-movingtrainpassesby.Thehorndoesntactuallychangepitch,
butthesoundwavesoftheapproachingtrainaremadeshorterbytheapproachofthe
soundsource,whereasthewavesofthedepartingtrainaremadelongerbythereced-
ingofthesoundsource.
Electromagneticradiationbehavesinexactlythesameway.Anapproachingsourceof
radiationemitsshorterwavesrelativetotheobserverthanarecedingsource.Thusthe
electromagneticradiationofasourcemovingtowarduswillbeblueshifted;thatis,the
wavelengthreceivedwillbeshorterthanwhatisactuallyemitted.Fromasourcemoving
awayfromus,theradiationwillberedshifted;wewillreceivewavelengthslongerthan
thoseemitted.Bymeasuringthedegreeofablueshiftorredshift,astronomerscancalcu-
latetheoncomingorrecedingvelocity(theradialvelocity)ofastar.
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 143
Howfastdostarsmove?Andwhatisthe
fixedbackgroundagainstwhichwecan
measurethemovement?Foracar,itseasy
enoughtosaythatitsmovingat45miles
perhourrelativetotheroad.Butthereare
nofreewaysinspace.Stellarspeedscanbe
givenrelativetoEarth,relativetotheSun,
orrelativetothecenteroftheMilkyWay.
Astronomersalwayshavetospecifywhich
referenceframetheyareusingwhenthey
giveavelocity.Starsinthesolarneighbor-
hoodtypicallymoveattensofkilometers
persecondrelativetotheSun.
AstroByte
DoestheSunmove?Yes,the
Sunanditsplanetsareinorbit
aroundthecenteroftheMilky
Way.Thesolarsystemorbitsthe
Galaxyaboutonceevery250
millionyears.Thus,sincetheSun
formed,thesolarsystemhasgone
aroundthemerry-go-roundofour
Galaxy15to20times.
Thenearbystar
SO025300.5+165258has
ahightransverseangular
motionofabout5arcseconds
peryear.Barsindicatethe
changingpositionofthestar
withrespecttomoredistant
backgroundstars.
(ImagefromB.J.Teegarden/
NASA/NEAT)
How Bright Is Bright?
InordinaryEnglish,luminosityandbrightnesswouldbenearlysynonymous.Butthatis
notsoinastronomy.Youarestandingbesideaquietroad.Yourcompanion,acouple
144 Part 3: To theStars
feetawayfromyou,shinesaflashlightinyoureyes.Justthenacarroundsacurvea
quarter-mileaway.Whichismoreluminous,theflashlightortheheadlights?Which
isbrighter?
Absolutely and Apparently
Askanastronomerwhichismoreluminousandwhichisbrighter,theflashlight
ortheheadlights.Shewillrespondthattheflashlight,afewfeetfromyoureyes,
isapparentlybrighterthanthedistantheadlights,butthattheheadlightsaremore
luminous.Luminosityisthetotalenergyradiatedbyastareachsecond.Luminosity
isaqualityintrinsictothestar,whereasbrightnessmightormightnotbeintrinsic.
Absolutebrightnessisanothernameforluminosity,butapparentbrightnessisthe
fractionofenergyemittedbyastarthateventuallystrikessomesurfaceordetection
device(includingoureyes).Apparentbrightnessvarieswithdistance.Thefarther
awayanobjectis,theloweritsapparentbrightness.
Simplyput,averyluminousstarthatisveryfarawayfromEarthcanappearmuch
fainterthanalessluminousstarthatismuchclosertoEarth.Oradistant,high-
luminositystarmightlookbrighterinthenightskythanmyriadcloser,butless
luminousstars.Thus,althoughtheSunisthebrighteststarinthesky,itisbyno
meansthemostluminous.
Creating a Scale of Magnitude
Soastronomershavelearnedtobeverycarefulwhenclassifyingstarsaccordingto
apparentbrightness.Classifyingstarsaccordingtotheirmagnitude(orbrightness)
seemedlikeagoodideatoHipparchusinthesecondcenturyB.C.E. whenhecame
upwitha6-degreescale,rangingfrom1,thebrighteststars,to6,thosejustbarely
visible.
Unfortunately,thissomewhatcumbersomeandawkwardsystem(highernumbers
correspondtofainterstars,andthebrightestobjectslikeVenusandtheSunhave
negativemagnitudes)haspersistedtothisday,althoughithasbeenexpandedand
refinedovertheyears.Theintervalsbetweenmagnitudeshavebeenregularized,so
thatadifferenceof1inmagnitudecorrespondstoadifferenceofabout2.5inbright-
ness.Thus,amagnitude1staris2.52.52.52.52.5=100timesbrighterthan
amagnitude6star.Becausewearenolongerlimitedtoviewingtheskywithour
unaidedeyesandlargeraperturescollectmorelight,magnitudesgreaterthan(thatis,
fainterthan)6appearonthescale.Objectsbrighterthanthebrighteststarsmayalso
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 145
beincluded,theirmagnitudesexpressedasnegativenumbers.ThusthefullMoonhas
amagnitudeof12.5andtheSun,26.8.
Tomakemoreusefulcomparisonsbetweenstarsatvaryingdistances,astronomers
differentiatebetweenapparentmagnitudeandabsolutemagnitude,definingthelatter,
byconvention,asanobjectsapparentmagnitudewhenitisatadistanceof10parsecs
fromtheobserver.Thisconventioncancelsoutdistanceasafactorinbrightness,and
absolutemagnitudeis,therefore,anintrinsicpropertyofastar.
Somekeycomparativemagnitudesareas
follows:
AstroByte
u Sun:26.8
TheHubbleSpaceTelescope
u FullMoon:12.5
iscapableofimaginga
magnitude30star,whichhas
u Venus(atitsbrightest):4.4
beencomparedtodetectinga
u Vega:0
fireflyatadistanceequaltothe
diameterofEarth.
u Deneb:1.6
u Fainteststarsvisibletothenakedeye:6
How Hot Is Hot?
Astaristoodistanttostickathermometerunderitstongue,butyoucangetapretty
goodfeelforastarstemperaturesimplybylookingatitscolor.
Thetemperatureofadistantobjectisgenerallymeasuredbyevaluatingitsapparent
brightnessatseveralfrequenciesintermsofablack-bodycurve.Thewavelengthof
thepeakintensityoftheradiationemittedbytheobjectcanbeusedtomeasurethe
objectstemperature.Forexample,ahotstar(withasurfacetemperatureofabout
20,000K)willpeakneartheultravioletendofthespectrumandwillproduceablue
visiblelight.Atabout7,000K,astarwilllookyellowish-white.Astarwithasurface
temperatureofabout6,000KsuchasourSunappearsyellow.Attemperaturesas
lowas4,000K,orangepredominates,andat3,000K,red.
Sosimplylookingatastarscolorcantellusalotaboutitstemperature.Astarthat
looksblueorwhitehasamuchhighersurfacetemperaturethanonethatlooksredor
yellow.
146 Part 3: To theStars
Stellar Sorting
Wecanusethecolorofstarstoseparatethemintoroughclasses,butthecareful
classificationofstellartypesdidntgetunderwayuntilphotographicstudiesofmany
spectraweremadebeginningintheearlytwentiethcentury.
Preciseanalysisoftheabsorptionlinesinastarsspectrumgivesusinformationnot
onlyaboutthestarstemperaturebutalsoaboutitschemicalmakeup.Usingspectral
analysistogaugesurfacetemperatureswithprecision,astronomershavedevelopeda
systemofspectralclassification,basedonthesystemthatastronomersattheHarvard
CollegeObservatoryoriginallyworkedout.Thepresenceorabsenceofcertainspec-
trallinesistiedtothetemperaturesatwhichwewouldexpectthoselinestoexist.
Thestellarspectralclassesandtheroughtemperatureassociatedwiththeclassare
giveninthefollowingtable.
SpectralClass SurfaceTemperature
O(violet) >28,000K
B(blue) 10,00028,000K
A(blue) 7,00010,000K
F(blue/white) 6,0007,000K
G(yellow/white) 4,0006,000K
K(orange) 3,5004,000K
M(red) <3,500K
Starshavedistinctspectra,
whichresemblesupermarket
barcodesinthattheyencode
informationaboutthestars
fromwhichthespectracame.
Inthisfigure,thehotteststars
areatthetopandthecoolest
starsatthebottom.Notice
thestarnamesofteninclude
HDorHenry-Drapercatalog
designations,fromtheearly
workdoneatHarvardCollege
Observatory.
(ImagefromKPNO/NOAO/
NSF)
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 147
Themostmassivestarsarethehottest,soastronomersrefertothemostmassivestars
theystudyasOandBstars.Theleastmassivestarsarethecoolest.Theletter
classificationshavebeenfurtherrefinedby10subdivisions,with0(zero)thehottestin
therangeand9thecoolest.ThusaB5starishotterthanaB8,andbotharehotter
thananyvarietyofAstar.TheSunisaspectraltypeG2star.OurGalaxyandothers
arechockfulloftypeG2andlower-temperature(lessmassive)stars.
From Giants to Dwarfs: Sorting the Stars by Size
Wecandeterminetheradiusofastarfromtheluminosityofthestar(whichin
turncanbedeterminedifthedistanceisknown)anditssurfacetemperature(from
itsspectraltype).Starsfallintoseveraldistinctclasses.Insortingthestarsbysize,
astronomersuseavocabularythatsoundsasifitcamefromafairytale:
u Agiantisastarwitharadiusbetween10and100timesthatoftheSun.
u Asupergiantisastarwitharadiusmorethan100timesthatoftheSun.Starsof
upto1,000solarradiiareknown.
u AdwarfstarhasaradiussimilartoorsmallerthantheSun.
Making the Main Sequence
Workingindependently,twoastronomers,EjnarHertsprung(18731967)of
DenmarkandHenryNorrisRussell(18771957)oftheUnitedStates,studiedthe
relationshipbetweentheluminosityofstarsandtheirsurfacetemperatures.Their
work(Hertsprungbeganabout1911)wasbuiltontheclassificationschemedeveloped
byAntoniaMaury,awomanfromtheHarvardCollegeObservatory.Shefirstclassi-
fiedstarsbothbythelinesobservedandthewidthorshapeofthelines.Herscheme
wasanimportantsteptowardrealizingthatstarsofthesametemperaturecouldhave
differentluminosity.Plottingtherelationshipbetweentemperatureandluminosity
graphically,inwhatisnowknownasaHertzsprung-RusselldiagramorH-Rdiagram,
thesetwomendiscoveredthatmoststarsfallintoawell-definedregionofthegraph.
Thatis,thehotterstarstendtobethemostluminous,andthecoolerstarsarethe
leastluminous.
148 Part 3: To theStars
CloseEncounter
Attheturnofthecentury,careeropportunitiesforwomenwerelimited.However,
womenwithspecializedtraininginastronomywereabletofindemploymentatthe
nationsobservatories.TheHarvardCollegeObservatoryfirsthiredwomenin1875to
undertakethedauntingtaskoftheclassificationofstellartypes.Initiallyunderthedirec-
tionofEdwardPickering,theobservatoryemployed45womenoverthenext42years.
PhotographyandthetelescopesoftheHCOwerebeginningtogeneratevastamounts
ofastronomicaldatainparticular,photographicplatesfilledwithindividualstellarspec-
tra.Itwasmoreeconomicaltopaycollege-educatedwomentoporeoverthesedata
setsthantohirethesamenumberofmaleastronomers.
Theregionofthetemperature-luminosityplot
AstroByte
wheremoststarsreside(indicatingthattheyspend
Reddwarfsarethemost
themajorityoftheirlifetimethere)iscalledthemain
commonstars,probably sequence.Starsthatarenotonthemainsequenceare
accountingforabout80per-
calledgiantsordwarfs,andyouwillseein
centofthestellarpopulationin
comingchaptershowstarsleavethemainsequence
theuniverse.
andendupinthefarcornersofthistemperature-
luminositygraph.
ThisHertzsprung-Russell
diagram,orH-Rdiagram,is
aplotofastarstemperature
andintrinsicbrightnessand
showswhereinitslifespana
particularstaris.Thesolid
line(mainsequence)iswhere
starsspendthemajorityof
L
u
m
i
n
o
s
i
t
y

White
Supergiants
Giants
Dwarfs
Main Sequence
theirlifetimes.
Surface Temperature
H-R Diagram Schematic
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 149
Off the Beaten Track
Althoughsome90percentofstarsfallintotheregionplottedasthemainsequence,
about10percentlieoutsidethisrange.Theseincludewhitedwarfs,whicharefarless
luminousthanwemightexpectfromtheirhighsurfacetemperatures,andredgiants,
whicharefarmoreluminousthanwewouldexpectfromtheirrelativelylowsurface
temperatures.Incomingchapters,wedescribehowstarsleavethemainsequenceand
endupasredgiantsandwhitedwarfs.Briefly,thesestarshaveuseduptheirfueland
aredying.
Stellar Mass
Theoverallorderlinessofthemainsequencesuggeststhatthepropertiesofstarsare
notrandom.Infact,astarsexactpositiononthemainsequenceanditsevolutionare
functionsofonlytwoproperties:compositionandmass.
Wecanevaluatethecompositionifwehaveaspectrumofthestar,itsfingerprint.
Buthowcanwedeterminethemassofastar?
Fortunately,moststarsdonttravelsolo,butinpairsknownasbinaries.(OurSunisa
notableexceptiontothisrule.)Binarystarsorbitoneanother.
SomebinariesareclearlyvisiblefromEarthandarecalledvisualbinaries;othersare
sodistantthat,evenwithpowerfultelescopes,theycannotberesolvedintotwodis-
tinctvisualobjects.Nevertheless,wecanobservethesebynotingtheDopplershifts
intheirspectrallinesastheyorbitoneanother.Thesebinarysystemsarecalledspec-
troscopicbinaries.Rarely,wearepositionedsothattheorbitofonestarinthebinary
systemperiodicallybringsitinfrontofitspartner.Fromtheseeclipsingbinarieswe
canmonitorthevariationsoflightemittedfromthesystem,therebygatheringinfor-
mationaboutorbitalmotion,mass,andevenstellarradii.
Howeverweobservetheorbitalbehaviorofbinaries,thekeypiecesofinformation
soughtareorbitalperiod(howlongittakesonestartoorbittheother)andthesize
oftheorbit.Afterweknowthesefactors,wecanuseKeplersThirdLawtocalculate
thecombinedmassofthebinarysystem.
To the Ma
Themostmassivestarknownlocatedinthemassivestar-formingregionknownat
NGC3603hasamassofabout110timesthatoftheSun.Partofadense,young
150 Part 3: To theStars
starclusterlocatedawhopping20,000light-yearsfromEarth,A1isactuallypartofa
binarysystem.Itscompanionstarisalsoenormous,withamass84timesthatofthe
Sun.Thereisatheoreticalupperlimittohowlargeastarcanbe:about150timesthe
massoftheSun.Atthismassandabove,gravityisunabletopullthestartogether.
Whyismasssoimportant?Massdeterminesthefateofthestar,settingthestars
placealongthemainsequenceanddictatingitslifespan.
ThisHSTimageofthe
massivestar-formingregion
showstherecord-holdingmost
massivestarknown,NGC
3603A1.
(ImagefromNASA/HST)
The Life Epectancy of a Star
Astardieswhenitconsumesitsnuclearfuel,itshydrogen.Onemightbetemptedto
concludethatthegreaterthesupplyoffuel(themoremassivethestar),thelongerit
willlive;however,astarslifespanisalsodeterminedbyhowrapidlyitburnsitsfuel.
Themoreluminousastar,themorerapidtherateofconsumption.Thus,stellarlife-
timeisdirectlyproportionaltostellarmassandinverselyproportionaltostellar
luminosity(howfastitburns).Considerthisanalogy:acarwithalargefueltank(say
aHummerH2,whichgets13mpg)mighthaveamuchsmallerrangethanacarwith
asmallfueltank(aToyotaCelica,whichgets29to36mpg).Andwhatisthekey
difference?TheCelicagetsmuchbettermileageandthuscangofartherwiththe
limitedfuelithas.
Chapter 10: Giants, Dwarfs, and theStellar Family 151
Thus,whileO-andB-typegiantsare10to20timesmoremassivethanourG-type
Sun,theirluminosityisthousandsoftimesgreater.Therefore,thesemostmassive
starslivemuchbrieferlives(afewmillionyearsatbest)thanthosewithlessfuelbut
moremodestappetitesforit.
AB-typestarsuchasRigel,10timesmoremassivethantheSunand44,000times
moreluminous,willlive2010
6
yearsor20millionyears.(Forcomparison,65mil-
lionyearsago,dinosaursroamedEarth.)TheSun(aG2star)mightbeexpected
toburnfor10,00010
6
years(10billionyears).Ourreddwarfneighbor,Proxima
Centauri,anM-typestarthatis
1
10 themassoftheSun(and
1
100 thatofRigel),is
only0.00006timesasluminousastheSunandsowillconsumeitsmodestmassat
amuchslowerrateandmightbeexpectedtolivelongerthanthecurrentageofthe
universe.
The Least You Need to Know
u Thedistancetonearbystarscannotbemeasureddirectly(suchasbyradar
ranging),butitcanbedeterminedusingstellarparallax;greaterdistancescan
bedeterminedbymeasuringtheperiodofvariablestars.
u Stellarmotion,velocity,size,mass,temperature,andluminositycanallbe
measured.Wecanderivearoughmeasurementofastarstemperaturefromits
color;hotterstarsareblue,andcoolerstarsarered.
u Byplottingtherelationshipbetweentheluminosityandtemperatureoflarge
numbersofstars,astronomershavenoticedthatmoststarsfallalongabandin
theplotcalledthemainsequenceandspendmostoftheirlivesthere.
u Thelifetimeofastarisdeterminedprimarilybyitsmass;high-massstarshave
shortlives;low-massstarshavelonglives;andallstars,includingtheSun,will
eventuallydie.
i f
I i
u i i ll i
u i i
u i l la
u l
u i
u l
lvi l i l li
ll l i i ll i i
i ll i ini li is
l i i
li i i
i l inli i l i
il l i
i i i i ill i
i ll i , i li i
i i li i l i ( ).
initial i ill l i l l
11
Chapter
The L fe and Death o Stars
n Th s Chapter
Starb rthandthe nterste armed um
Redg antsandsuperg ants
Fromsuperg anttop anetarynebu
Thedeathofa ow-massstar
Thedeathofah gh-massstar
Supernovaeascreatorsofe ements
JohnCa n,theProtestanttheo og an,wou dhave kedthetheoryof
ste arevo ut onbecause tsa aboutpredest nat on.Eachandeverystar
appearspredest nedtofo owacerta npath ts fe,andthatpath
seton ybythemassofthestarat tsb rth.
However,thereareafewcomp cat ons.Ifstarshavenearbycompan ons,
theycanberev ved ate fe,andastronomershaventent re yf gured
outthedeta sofevo ut onforsometypesofstars.
Butthemassofastarat tsb rthdoesdeterm newhere tw res deon
what sca edthema nsequence theper odofastars fet medevoted
toconvert nghydrogen ntohe umv anuc earfus on seeChapter10
The massdeterm neswhetherastarw beare at ve ycoo M-type
154 Part 3: To theStars
dwarfstar,ahotandmassiveOorBstar,orsomethinginbetween,suchasourSun.
Whentheforceswithinastargravitypullinginwardandtheforceduetotheradia-
tionpressureoffusionpushingoutwardreachequilibrium,starsenterthemain
sequence,theirrelativelydullmiddleage.Butwhentheforcesgetoutofbalanceas
thestarscorestartstorunoutofitsprimaryfuel(hydrogen)andthenitssecondary
fuel(helium)andastarleavesthemainsequencetoenteritsdeaththroes,thereal
funbegins.Thefinalmomentsofastarcanbespectacular,asthischapterdescribes.
A Star Is Born
YouprobablyknowpeoplewithaTypeApersonality:theyarealwayskeyedup,
hyper,super-overachievers,andyoumightevencallthemworkaholics.Thesepeople
oftenmakeitbig,onlytoburnoutquickly.ThentherestheTypeBpersonality:the
kindofpersonwhomovesthroughlifecalmly,doingwhatsnecessary,butnomore.
Thesepeoplemightnotbeveryspectacular,butaswiththattortoiseinthefable,
slowandsteadycanwintherace.
Stellarcareersshowasimilarrangeofpersonalitiesthoughthelettersofthealpha-
betweusetolabelthemaredifferent.Themassive,hotOandBstarsareborn,
matureintothemainsequence,onlytothenburnout,theirhydrogenfuelexhausted,
afterafewmillionyears.Theyarethegas-guzzlersofthegalaxy.Incontrast,the
reddwarfs,starsoftypeM,lowinmassandlowinenergyoutput,mightnothaveas
muchfuel,buttheywillburnforhundredsofbillionsofyears.Low-massstarsare
theeconomycarsofthestellarworld.Theyarenotasflashyastheirmoremassive
cousins,butwedontseetheirsteaminghulksbythesideoftheroad,either.
On the Interstellar Median
Twobasiccomponents,gasanddust,fillthespacebetweenthestars.Thevastmajor-
ity(99percent)ofinterstellarmatteriswhatwecallgas,andthemajorityofthegas
consistsofthemostabundantelementintheuniverse,hydrogen.Theremainderof
thematerialwerefertoasdust,thoughsmokemightbeamoreaccuratedescrip-
tion.Infact,interstellardustputsupquiteasmokescreen,keepingusfromviewing
manyregionsinourownGalaxywithopticaltelescopes.
Andthestuffbetweenthestarsisnotevenlydistributed.Becausegasanddusthave
mass,thematerialpullstogetherintocloudsandclumpsviaitsowngravity.The
patchydistributionoftheinterstellarmediummeansthat,insomeregionsofthesky,
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 155
astronomerscanobserveobjectsthatareverydistant.Inotherregions,wherethe
interstellarmatterismoreconcentrated,ouropticalrangeofvisionismorelimited.
Thinkofthelasttimeyoulookedoutanairplanewindow.Ifthecloudswerepatchy,
insomedirectionsyoucouldseethegroundandinothersyoucouldnot.
Thelowest-densityinterstellarcloudsconsistmostlyofatomichydrogen(calledHI,
anHfollowedbyaRomannumeralIandpronouncedHone).Untiltheadvent
ofradioastronomy,thisatomicmaterialwasimpossibletodetect.Cooler,higher-
densitycloudscontaintwohydrogenatoms
stucktogether,calledmolecularhydrogen(H
2
).
Theseregionsarethefueltanksoftheuni-
Gasanddustarethinlydistrib-
verse,readytoproducenewstars.Theregions
utedthroughoutspaceandare
closesttoyoungstarsareionized,theirelec-
AstronomersNotebook
thematterfromwhichthestars
tronsstrippedaway.The10,000Kgasinthese
areformed.About5percentof
regions(calledHIIHtworegions)emits
ourGalaxysmassiscontained
stronglyintheopticalportionofthespectrum. initsgasanddust.Theremaining
95percentisinstars.
Butletslookmorecloselyatthesedifferent
typesofmatterbetweenthestars.
Blocking Light
HowcanmeredustblockouropticalviewoftheMilkyWay?Theanswerhastodo
withthesizeofthedustgrains.Thinkaboutthisforamoment.Asatellitedishneeds
notbesolidbutcanbemadeoutofawiremesh,perforatedbymanysmallholes.
Thisstructuredoesnotlettheradiowavesslipthrough,likewaterthroughasieve,
becauseradiowavesaretoobig.Theyaresobig,infact,thataslongastheholesare
smallenough,theradiowavesdontevenknowtheholesarethere.Theybehavelike
pebblestoolargetofallthroughagrate.
Theradiowavesreflectofftheperforatedsurfaceofthesatellitedishasifitwere
solid.Allelectromagneticradiation(lightincluded)worksthisway.Wavesinteract
onlywiththingsthatareaboutthesamesizeastheirwavelength.Asluckwouldhave
it,opticalwavelengthsareaboutthesamesizeasthediameterofatypicaldustgrain
andare,therefore,absorbedorscatteredbydusteventhoughlong-wavelengthradio
wavespassrightthroughit.
Thecombinedeffectofthescatteringandabsorptioncausedbythedustproduces
extinction.Thatis,thedustabsorbsbluelightmorethanredandalsoscattersblue
lightmorethanred.Asaresult,thevisiblelightthatmakesitthroughisreddened.
156 Part 3: To theStars
Interstellarreddeningisincreasedwhenobjectsarefartheraway,andastronomershave
totakethiseffectintoaccountwhendeterminingthetruecolorofastar.
ThisHubbleSpaceTelescope
imageofthenearbyemission
nebulaandstar-forming
regionNGC281wastaken
inOctober2005.Theregion
isabout9,500light-years
awayandlocatedinthe
directionoftheconstellation
Cassiopeia.Bokglobules
arewhatastronomerscallthe
clumpsofgasanddust,which
appeardarkintheimage.
(ImagefromNASA/HST)
Youmightpictureinterstellardustasakindoffog.Certainlyfog,whichconsists
ofwatermoleculesandoftenparticulatematter,interfereswiththetransmissionof
light,asanyonewhohasdriveninterroralongafoggymountainroadcanattest.
CloseEncounter
Ifacloudofdustisbetweenusandadistantstar,thelightfromthestarmustpass
throughthedustbeforeitcangettous.Dustallowsthelonger(redder)wavelengths
topass,buttheshorter(bluer)wavelengthsarescatteredandabsorbed.Asaresult,the
lightthatmakesitthroughisreddened.Forthisreason,thesettingSunlooksredderthan
theSunatnoon.Asthesunlightpassesthroughathickerslaboftheatmospherenear
thehorizon,itsbluefrequenciesareabsorbedandscatteredbytheatmospherewhileits
redfrequenciespassrightthrough.
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 157
Now,interstellardustissodiffusethatmanythousandsofmilesofitmightnot
obscureanything,butstackbillionsuponbillionsofmilesofmaterialbetweenusand
astar,anditwillcertainlyaffectwhatwesee.
Dusty Ingredients
Astronomershavebeenabletoanalyzethecontentofinterstellargasquiteaccurately
bystudyingspectralabsorptionlines,thefingerprintelementscreatebyallowing
somewavelengthstopasswhileabsorbingothers.Theprecisecompositionofthe
interstellardustislesswellunderstood;however,astronomershavesomeclues.
The1percentofinterstellargasthatisnthydrogenorheliumcontainsfarless
carbon,oxygen,silicon,magnesium,andironthanwewouldexpectbasedonthe
amountsoftheseelementsfoundinoursolarsystemorinthestarsthemselves.We
believetheinterstellardustformsoutoftheinterstellargas,intheprocessdrawing
offsomeoftheheavierelementsfromthegas.Sothedustprobablycontainssilicon,
carbon,andiron,aswellasiceconsistingmainlyofwaterwithtracesofammoniaand
methaneaswellasothercompounds.Thedustisrichinthesesubstances,whilethe
gasispoorinthem.
Flipping Out
Mostofthegasintheinterstellarmedium,some90percent,consistsofthesimplest
element,hydrogen.Helium,thesecond-simplestelement,accountsforanother9per-
cent.Theremaining1percentconsistsofotherelements.Andthegasismostlycold.
Recallthathydrogenconsistsofaprotonandanelectron.Ifthereisenoughambient
energy,theelectrongetsbumpeduptheenergyladderintoanexcitedstate;however,
mostofthesecloudsofhydrogenarefarfromenergysourcesstarsandemitno
detectablevisiblelight.Buttheydoemitradiowaves.
Inthe1940s,Dutchastronomerswerethefirsttoappreciatethatradiowaves
couldtravelunimpededthroughcloudsofdustandthathydrogenproducesaradio-
frequencyspectralline.Pictureboththeprotonandtheelectronasspinninglike
tops.Theyareeitherspinninginthesamedirectionorinoppositedirections.Ifthey
arespinninginthesamedirection,thehydrogenatomhasalittlemoreenergythan
iftheywerespinninginoppositedirections.Everysooften(ittakesafewmillion
years),anelectronwillspontaneouslygofromthehigh-energystatetothelow-
energystate.Thatis,itwillflipitsspin,andtheatomwillthengiveoffaphoton
withawavelengthof21centimeters.Thisphotontravelsunimpededthroughthe
Galaxytoourradiotelescopes.
158 Part 3: To theStars
Thisimageshowsanexpand-
ingshellofneutralhydrogen
intheouterGalaxy.This
largeshellhasadiameterof
360parsec(morethan1,000
light-years).
(ImagefromCanadianGalactic
PlaneSurvey)
Becausethe21cmline(theHIline)hasaparticularfrequency,ittellsusnotonly
wherethegasisbutalsohowitismoving.ThisHIlinehasbeeninvaluableinmap-
pingourownMilkyWaygalaxy.
Star Light, Star Bright
Bydefinition,thereisnothingfortheamateurastronomertoseewithanopticaltele-
scopeintheregionsoftheinterstellarmediumthatarecold.Thebestshecanhope
foristoseetheseregionsasdarkpatchesintheforegroundofbrightopticalemis-
sion.Closertostars,however,whereitshotter,theinterstellarmediumcanbelitup
tospectaculareffect.Regionsofgasilluminatedbyanearbymassivestarorstarsare
calledemissionnebulae.
MessierobjectsM8andM16(theLagoonNebulaandtheEagleNebula)aretwoof
themorefamoushotcloudsofinterstellarmatteroremissionnebulae.
Emissionnebulae(alsosometimescalledHIIregions)formaroundyoungtypeO
andtypeBstars.Recallthatthesestarsaretremendouslyhot,emittingmostof
theirenergyintheultravioletportionofthespectrum.Thisradiationionizesthe
gassurroundingthestar,causingittoglowwhentheliberatedelectronsreunite(or
recombine)withatomicnuclei.Astheelectronscascadedowntherungsoftheenergy
ladder,theygiveoffelectromagneticradiationatparticularwavelengths.Wecan
detectthespectrallinesthatresultfromradiofrequenciesthroughtheinfraredand
intotheopticalandultravioletrange.
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 159
Blocking Light
Iftherearelargeamountsofgasanddustbetweenusandanemissionnebula,orHII
region,wewontseeitoptically.Thedustgrainswillabsorborscattertheoptical
photonsfromtheionizedhydrogen,andwehavetoresorttohigh-resolutioninfrared
orradiotelescopes.TowardheavilyobscuredregionsoftheMilkyWay,suchasthe
galacticcenter,radioandinfraredobservationshavegivenusalmostalltheinforma-
tionwehave.
Regionsofionizedgasnearyoungstars(HIIregions)haveawidevarietyofsizes.
Diametersrangefromseveraltensofpcfortheso-calledgiantHIIregions,all
thewaydowntotinyHIIregions(calledcompactorultra-compactHIIregions)
withdiametersassmallas
1
100 ofapc.ThesmallestHIIregionsaredeeplyembed-
dedincloudsofgasanddust,andthusareonlyobservableatradioandinfrared
wavelengths.
RadioobservationswiththeVery
LargeArrayhaverevealedanenor-
mousamountofinformationabout
thehotgaslocatednearyoung,mas-
sivestars.Manyoftheseregionsare
invisibleopticallybutaccessiblewith
radioandinfraredwavelengthobser-
vations.Thisimageshowsthehotgas
intheregionthathasformedmany
massivestarscalledW49A.This
regionissimilartotheOrionNebula,
butlargerandmoredistant,though
stilllocatedinourGalaxy.
(ImagefromN.Homeier/C.DePree/
NRAO)
A Matter of Perspective
Whenweareabletoseepartoftheinterstellarmediumvisually,itisoftenbecausea
nearbystarhaslititup,butwealsohaveotherwaystosee.Insomedirections,acold
darkcloudofgasmightfallbetweenEarthandanemissionnebula.Insuchacase,we
wouldseethedarkcloudasablackpatchagainsttheemissionfromtheionizedgas.
Inotherdirections,wewouldseesmallpatchesoftheskywheretherearefeworno
stars.Itisunlikelythattherearetrulyfewstarsinthesedirections.Almostcertainly,
adensecloudofgasisinourlineofsight.
160 Part 3: To theStars
TheHubbleSpaceTelescope
imagedthesegaspillarsin
theEagleNebula,anemis-
sionnebula7,000light-years
fromEarth.Theyconsist
primarilyofdensemolecular
hydrogengasanddust.This
imageshowstheemission
fromionizedhydrogenatthe
surfaceofthepillarsaswell
astheabsorptioncausedby
thegasanddustcontainedin
thepillars.
(ImagefromJeffHesterand
PaulScowenofArizonaState
UniversityandNASA)
Butwedonthavetodependonluck.Evenifaninterstellarcloudofgasdoesnthap-
pentofallbetweenEarthandabackgroundsource,therearewaystodetectthe
source.Evenattherelativelycoldtemperaturesoftheseclouds(100Kascompared
tothenearly10,000Kinmostemissionnebulae),atomsandmoleculesareinmotion.
Asmoleculescollidewithoneanother,theyareoccasionallysetspinningabout.
Accordingtoquantummechanics,moleculescanspinonlyatveryparticularrates,
likethedifferentspeedsofanelectricfan,andwhenamoleculegoesfromspin-
ningatoneratetospinningatanother,iteithergivesofforabsorbsasmallamount
ofenergy.Wecandetectthatenergyintheformofelectromagneticradiation.For
manymolecules,thesephotonshavewavelengthsaboutamillimeterlong,whichwe
candetectbyspecialtelescopescalledmillimetertelescopesandmillimeterinter-
ferometers.Withtheadditionofmillimetertelescopestotheastronomicarsenal,
noportionoftheinterstellarmediumcanescapeournotice.Withradiotelescopes,
wecanimageneutral(cold)hydrogenatoms.Withoptical,infrared,andradio
telescopes,wegetpicturesofthehotgasnearyoungstars.Andwithmillimetertele-
scopes,wecanevenseekoutthecoldcloudsofgasthatcontainmolecularhydrogen
andothermolecules.
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 161
The Interstellar Medium: One Big Fuel Tank
Whysomuchfussovergasanddust?Because,asfaraswecantell,thisistheraw
materialfromwhichstarsareborn.Now,howdoesacloudofgasbecomeastar?
Tripping the Switch
Agiantmolecularcloudissubjecttoapairofopposingforces.Gravity,asitalways
does,tendstopullthematterofthecloudinward,causingittocollapseandcoalesce,
yetastheconstituentatomsofthecloudcometogether,theyheatup,andheattends
tocauseexpansion.Unlesssomeeventoccurstoupsetthebalance,thecloudwill
remaininequilibrium.
Werenotsurewhatcausesamolecular
cloudfinallytocollapseandformstars,but
thereareseverallikelypossibilities.The
Giant molecular clouds are
expandingshockwaveofanearbysupernova
hugecollectionsofcold(10K
explosionmightbesufficienttobringabout
to100K)gasthatcontainmostly
molecularhydrogen.These
collapse,orarippleinagalaxydiskcalled
adensitywavemightalsobethetrigger.
Someastronomershaveproposedthatafast-
movingstarpunchingthroughamolecular
cloudcouldpromptpartsofittocollapseto
formmorestars.
cloudsalsocontainothermol-
eculesthatwecanimagewith
radiotelescopes.Thecoresof
thesecloudsareoftenthesites
ofthemostrecentstarformation.
Whateverthecause,thefactthatstarsexistmakesitclearthatsomemolecularclouds
dobecomegravitationallyunstableandbegintocollapse.Asacloudcollapses,its
densityandtemperatureincrease,allowingsmallerpiecesofthecloud(withlessmass)
tocollapse.Whenacloudbeginstocollapse,itbreaksintomanyfragments,which
formscores,evenhundreds(dependingontheoriginalcloudsmass)ofstarsofvari-
ousmasses.Thesizeofeachfragmentdeterminesthemassofthestarthatforms.
Letting It All Out
Wenowjoinasinglefragmentinthecollapsingcloudthatwillbecomea1-solar-mass
star.Overaperiodofperhaps1millionyears,thecloudfragmentcontracts.Inthis
process,mostofthegravitationalenergyreleasedbythecontractionescapesinto
spacebecausethecontractingcloudisinsufficientlydensetoreabsorbtheradia-
tion.Atthecenterofthecoalescingcloudwheredensitiesarethehighestmore
162 Part 3: To theStars
oftheradiatedenergyistrappedandthetemperatureincreases.Asthecloudfrag-
mentcontinuestocontract,photonshaveaharderandhardertimegettingoutofthe
increasinglydensematerial,therebycausingthetemperatureatthecoretoriseeven
higher.
Iftheoriginalfragmenthadanyslightrotation,asundoubtedlyitdid,itwillbespin-
ningfasternow.Thisspinningcloudcontracts,likeaspinningskaterpullinginher
arms.Iftheoriginalgiantmolecularcloudwas10to100parsecsacross,thenthefirst
cloudfragmentswillstillhavebeenmuchlargerthanoursolarsystem.Dependingon
theeventualstellartype,acloudfragmentonthevergeofbecomingaprotostarmight
besomewhatsmallerthanoursolarsystem.Thisstageofstarformationistypically
accompaniedbydramaticjetsofout-flowingmaterial,calledHerbig-Haroobjects.
Herbig-Haroobjectsarejet-
likestructuresthatappear
toariseduringtheprocess
oflow-massstarformation.
High-massstarsmightexpe-
rienceverybrief,scaled-up
versionsoftheseimpressive
outflows.
(ImagefromNASA,Alan
Watson,UniversidadNacional
AutonomadeMexico,Mexico
etal.)
Not Quite a Star
Theevolutionofaprotostarischaracterizedbyadramaticincreaseintemperature,
especiallyatthecoreoftheprotostar.Stilltoocooltotriggernuclearfusionreac-
tions,itscorereachesatemperatureof1millionK.Theprotostarisalsostillvery
large,about100timeslargerthantheSun.Althoughitssurfacetemperatureatthis
stageisonlyhalfthatoftheSun,itsareaissomuchlargerthatitisabout1,000times
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 163
moreluminous.Atthisstage,ithastheluminosityandradiusofaredgiant.Asolar
massstarwillnotlookthisbigandbrightagainuntilitisonitsdeathbed,about10
billionyearsinthefuture.
Despitethetremendousheatproducedbyitscontinuingcollapse,whichexertsan
outward-directedforceontheprotostar,theinward-directedgravitationalforceis
stillgreater.
Throughthecourseofsome10millionyears,theprotostarscoretemperature
increasesfivefold,from1millionKto5millionK,whileitsdensitygreatlyincreases
anditsdiametershrinks,from100timesto10timesthatoftheSun.
Despitetheincreaseintemperature,theprotostarbecomeslessluminousbecause
itssurfaceareaisgettingmuchsmallernow.Contractioncontinuesbutslowsasthe
protostarapproachesequilibriumbetweentheinward-directedforceofgravityand
theoutward-directedforceofradiationpressure.Thestarnownearsthepartofits
lifecalledthemainsequence.
Whenitscoretemperaturereachesabout10millionK,thestarbeginstofuse
hydrogenintohelium.Theforceofgravityisbalancedbythepressureofthefusion-
producedheat.
A Collapsed Souffl
Notallcloudfragmentsbecomestars.Ifafragmentlackssufficientmass,itwillstill
contract,butitscoretemperaturewillneverrisesufficientlytoignitenuclearfusion.
Failedstarsareknownasbrowndwarfs.
In the Delivery Room
Analyzingtheprocessofhumangestationandbirthisrelativelyeasy.Littletheorizing
isrequiredbecausealloneneedsisaboutninemonthsoffreetimetomakesome
directobservations.
Thebirthofalow-massstar,however,mayconsume40to50millionyearsobviously
moretimethananyobservercanspare.High-massstars,aswehavesaid,haveshorter
livesandmorespectaculardeaths.Theyalsoappeartocollapseandfallontothemain
sequencemorerapidlythanlow-massstars.Infact,theylivetheirentirelivesinless
timethanittakesasinglelow-massstartoform.
164 Part 3: To theStars
See You on the Main Sequence
Aftertheyhavematuredandassumedtheirrightfulplacesonthemainsequence,
stars,regardlessoftheirmass,enjoyarelativelylong,stableperiodintheirlives.
Indeed,starsinthisphasedoonlyonethingintheirincrediblyhotcores:fusehydro-
genintohelium,producinggreatamountsofenergyexactlyaswedescribedforthe
SuninChapter9.Thiscorehydrogenburningkeepsastaraliveor,moreprecisely,it
maintainsastarsequilibrium,thebalancebetweentheradiationpressuresustained
byfusionpushingoutandtheforceofgravitypullingin.
Running on Empty
Fromourhumanperspective,themainsequencelifespanofanaverageG-typestar
suchastheSunseemslikeaneternity.Agood10billionyearsgoesbybeforethis
kindofstarentersthelatestagesofitslife,havingfusedasubstantialamountofthe
hydrogeninitscoreintohelium.
Atthispoint,thedelicateequilibriumbetweengravityandradiationpressureshifts,
andthestructureofthestarbeginstochange.Atthecoreofthestarisagrowing
amountofheliumash.Werefertoitasashamisnomer,reallybecauseitisthe
endproductoftheburningorfusionofhydrogen.Althoughhydrogenisfusing
inthecore,themoremassiveheliumthatsettlestothestarscentercannotreacha
sufficienttemperaturetofuseintoaheavierelement.Astheheliumashdilutesthe
supplyofhydrogeninthecore,theforceofgravitystartstowinoutoverthepressure
oftheslowingfusionreactions.Asaresult,thecorebeginstoshrink.
AstronomersNotebook
Whenamainsequencestarbecomesaredgiant,itswellsuptomanytimesitsorigi-
nalradiusandbecomesfarmoreluminous.WhentheSunswellsupasaredgiant,
itsluminositywillbeabout2,000timesgreaterthanatpresent,anditsradiuswillbe
about 150timesgreater.ThatmeansthattheSunsouterlayerswillreachouttoabout
0.7A.U.(abouttheorbitofVenus).Earthisat 1A.U.Whenthisphasehappens,Earths
oceansandatmospherewillevaporateaway,leavingonlytheplanetsoriginalrocky
surface.Butdontloseanysleepthoseendtimesaretwotofivebillionyearsaway.
The More Things Change
Thesechangesinthecorebegetotherchangesfartherout.Theprocessofshrink-
ingreleasesgravitationalenergythroughoutthestarsinterior.Thisenergyrelease
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 165
increasesthecoretemperature,allowinghydrogenlocatedoutsidethestarscoreto
beginfusingwhiletheheliumcorecontinuestocontractandheatup.Atthispoint,
thestarssituationisratherparadoxical.Itsouterlayersswellupandshinebrightly
(calledshellhydrogenburning),whileitscore,fillingwithhelium,continuestocol-
lapse.Itisashort-livedstate.
ThetransitionfromaG-typestar(example:ourSun)onthemainsequencetothe
nextstageofitscareer,aredgiant,consumesonly100millionyears.Thatsalotof
timeforahuman,butitsablinkofaneyerelativetothe10-billion-yearlifetime
ofaG-typestar:only1percentofitstotalmainsequencelifetime.
A Giant Is Born
Thehelium-enrichedcoreoftheagingstarshrinks.Asitdoes,thegravitational
energyreleasedraisesthetemperatureinthehydrogen-burningshell,increasing
thetempooffusion.Withthisincrease,moreandmoreenergydumpsintothe
outerlayersofthestar,increasingits
temperatureanditspressure.Sowhile
CloseEncounter
thecoreshrinks,theouterlayersofthe
starexpanddramatically,coolingasthey
do.Asthishappens,thestarbecomesmore
luminous(becauseitslarger)andcooler,
movingtotheupperright-handsideofthe
Thenightskyoffersmany
examplesofredgiants.
Twoofthemostimpressiveare
Aldebaran,thebrighteststarinthe
constellationTaurus,andArcturus,
H-Rdiagram.Theresultingstarisacalled
aredgiant.Forasolarmassmainsequence
star,aredgiantwillbeabout100times
largerthantheSun,withacorethatisless
than1percentofthesizeofthestar.
inBotes.Looktotheconstella-
tionOrionforanexampleofa
redsupergiant,Betelgeuse(pro-
nouncedBeetlejuice bysome).
A Flash in the Pan
Aredgiantcontinuesonitsunstablecareerforafewhundredmillionyears,out-
wardlyexpandingandinwardlyshrinking.Atsomepoint,however,theshrinkingof
thecoreraisesitstemperaturesufficientlytoignitetheheliumthathasbeenpatiently
accumulatingthere.Itslikethepistoninacarengineonthecompressionstroke.
Whenthetemperaturegetshighenough,thecombustionreactionistriggered.Only,
inastar,itsanuclearfusionreaction,notchemicalcombustion,anditsinitiation
requirestemperaturesinthemillionsofdegrees.Now,alongatimelinemeasuredin
tensofmillionsofyears,somethingverysuddenoccurs.Inaprocessthatconsumes
166 Part 3: To theStars
onlyafewhours,notmillionsorbillionsofyears,heliumstartstoburninanexplo-
sionofactivitycalledtheheliumflashtheexplosiveonsetofheliumburninginthe
coreofaredgiantstar.Theheliumnowfusesintocarbon,andthestarsettlesinto
another,muchshorter,equilibrium.
Aftertheheliumflash,theheliuminthecorerapidlyfusesintocarbonandoxygen.
Thestarsouterlayersshrink,buttheybecomehotter,sothestargetsbluerandless
luminous.Oncetheheliumisexhaustedinthestarscore,itsnearlytheendofthe
roadforalow-massstar.Suchstarsdonthaveenoughmasstoraisethecoretempera-
turesufficientlytofusecarbonintoheavierelements.
Red Giant Dj-Vu
Inastronomicalterms,theequilibriumthatresultsfromheliumcoreburningdoesnt
lastlong,onlysometensofmillionsofyears.Fusionproceedsrapidly,asthestargoes
aboutconvertingheliumintocarbonandsomeoxygen.Buttheresmuchlesshelium
thantherewashydrogeninthestar,sothisfuelrunsoutmuchsooner.
Nowsomethingverymuchliketheprocessthatcreatedthefirstredgiantphase
replays,onlywithheliumandcarboninsteadofhydrogenandhelium.Asheliumis
usedupinthecoreofthestar,thecarbonashsettlesandthecoreshrinksyetagain,
releasingheat.Thistriggershelium-burninginoneshell,which,inturn,isenveloped
byahydrogen-burningshell,whichisleftoverfromthelasttimethishappened.
Theheatgeneratedintheseburningshellscausesthestarsouterlayerstoswell,and
thestarbecomesaredgiantonceagain.Andwhenstarsreturntotheredgiantphase
asecondtime,theyaregenerallybiggerandmoreluminousthanthefirsttime.
Were Losing It
Astarmightlastinthissecondredgiantphaseforamere100,000yearsbeforeits
carboncoreshrinkstoanincrediblydenseinertmassabout
1
1,000 thecurrentradiusof
theSunoraboutthesizeofEarth.Thesurroundingshellscontinuetofusecarbon
andhelium,andtheoutermostlayersofthestarcontinuetoexpandandcool.
Theouterlayersofthestararenowsofarfromthecorethatthestarsgravitycan
nolongerholdthem,andtheyareabletoliftoffandmoveoutintointerstellar
space,ofteninseveraldistinctshells.Theseouterlayerssloughofffromthestarlike
sphericalsmokerings,leavingbehindthebare,hot,carbon-richcoreofthestar.The
cast-offouterlayersofthestar,whichcancontain10to20percentofthestarsmass,
aremisleadinglycalledplanetarynebulae.Theyaretheejectedgaseousenvelopesof
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 167
redgiantstars,shellsofgasthataresubsequentlyilluminatedbytheultravioletpho-
tonsescapedfromthehot,whitedwarfstarthatremains.Despitetheirname,they
havenothingwhatsoevertodowithplanets.
We Prefer to Be Called Little Stars
Thecarbon-richcoreoftheilluminatingstar,atthecenteroftheplanetarynebula,
continuestoglowwhitehot,withsurfacetemperaturesofabout100,000Kmuch
hotter,forexample,thantheSun.Nuclearfusioninthestarhasnowceased.Sowhat
keepsitfromcollapsingfurther?Whatisbalancinggravityinthesestars?
ThisHubbleSpaceTelescope
image(right)revealsapopu-
lationoffaintwhitedwarfs
(thecircledstars)inglobular
clusterM4(Messierobject
number4),inthedirection
ofScorpius.Thepanelonthe
leftisaviewofthisregionof
theskyfromaground-based
telescope.
(ImagefromHarveyRicher
oftheUniversityofBritish
ColumbiaandNASA)
Thewhite-hotcoreissodensethattheelectronsthemselves,whichusuallyhave
plentyofroomtomovearoundfreely,areclosetooccupyingthesamepositionwith
thesamevelocityatthesametime.Thelawsofnatureforbidelectronstoactually
dothis,sothegas,therefore,cancontractnofurther.Agasinthissituationiscalled
adegenerateelectrongas,andthepressureofdegenerateelectronsisallthatholds
thestarupagainstcollapseatthispoint.ThegreatastrophysicistSubrahmanyan
Chandrasekhar(forwhomtheChandraX-rayObservatoryisnamed)firstshowed
thatstarscouldsupportthemselvesfromfurthercollapseinthisway.Thiswhite-hot
core,aboutthesizeofEarthbutmuchmoremassiveabout50percentasmassiveas
theSuniscalledawhitedwarf.Oneteaspoonofitscarboncorewouldweighaton
onEarth.
Asthewhitedwarfcontinuestocool,radiatingitsstoredenergy,itchangescolor
fromwhitetoyellowtored.Astronomerstheorizethat,whenitultimatelyhasno
moreheattoradiate,itwillbecomeablackdwarf,adead,inertember,savedfrom
168 Part 3: To theStars
gravitationalcollapsebytheresistanceofelectronstobeingcompressedbeyonda
certainpoint.Someastronomershaveproposedthatthecarbonatomswilleventually
assumealatticestructure.Thestellarcorpsemightbecome,ineffect,anenormous
diamondwithhalfthemassoftheSun.
Whats Nova?
Nova,theLatinwordfornew,seemedtoearlyastronomersanappropriatetermfor
starsthatsuddenlyappearedinthesky.Obviously,theywerenewstars.Well,they
werenewinthattheyhadntbeenobservedbefore.But,infact,anovaisaphenom-
enonassociatedwithaveryoldstar.
Whenabinarypairofstarsforms,itisunlikelythetwowillhavethesamemass.And
becausethemassofastardeterminesitslifetime,thestarsinabinarypairwill(more
oftenthannot)beatdifferentpointsintheirevolution.Sometimes,whenawhite
dwarfispartofabinarysysteminwhichthecompanionstarisstillyouthful(onthe
mainsequenceorinaredgiantphase),thedwarfsgravitationalfieldwillpullhydro-
genandheliumfromtheouterlayersofitscompanion.Thisgasaccumulatesonthe
whitedwarf,becominghotteranddenseruntilitreachesatemperaturesufficientto
ignitethefusionofhydrogenintohelium.Theflare-upisbriefamatterofdays,
weeks,ormonthsbut,toEarthlyobservers,spectacular.
Giventherightcircumstances,awhitedwarfinabinarypaircangonovarepeatedly,
reignitingeachtimeenoughmaterialisstolenfromitscompanionstar.
The Life and Death of a High-Mass Star
Uptothispoint,weveconcentratedonthelifeofastarliketheSun.Intruth,most
ofwhatwehavedescribed,uptotheplanetarynebulaphase,alsoappliestoahigh-
massstar.StarsofsignificantlylowermassthanourSunenterthemainsequenceand
staythere,notformillionsorbillionsofyears,butmuchlonger.Starsofsignificantly
greatermassthantheSun(somewherebetween5and10solarmasses)haveavery
different,andmoredramatic,destiny.
Fusion Beyond Carbon
Astronomersgenerallythinkof5to10solarmassesasthedividinglinebetweenlow-
andhigh-massstars.Thatis,starsabout5to10timesmoremassivethantheSundie
inawayverydifferentfromstarsoflessermass.Themajordifferenceintheirevolu-
tionisthathigh-massstarsareabletofusenotonlyhydrogen,helium,carbon,and
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 169
oxygenbutalsoheavierelementsintheircores.Ascoreburningofoneelementfin-
ishes,itbeginsburninginashelloutsidethecore,resultinginanestedseriesofshells
bythetimeahigh-massstarreachestheendofitslife.
Last Stop: Iron
Hydrogenfusionproducesheliumashthatsettlestothestarscore.Thenhelium
fusionproducescarbonash,whichagainsettlestothestarscoreasifthestarwere
someenormouscentrifuge.
Asthefusionofeachheavierelementproceeds,thecorelayersprogressivelycontract,
producinghigherandhighertemperatures.Unlikelow-massstars,inahigh-massstar
thegravitationalforcesaresufficienttodrivecoretemperatureshighenoughtofuse
carbonintooxygen,oxygenintoneon,neonintomagnesium,andmagnesiuminto
silicon.Theendoftheroad,however,isiron.Whenamassivestarhasironbuilding
upinitscore,thegrandfinaleisnear.Thereasonisthatforeveryelementupuntil
iron,energywasreleasedwhennucleiwerefused.Buttofuseironintoheavierele-
mentsrequiresenergy.Intermsoffusion,therefore,ironisadeadend.Togetbeyond
iron,theuniverseneedsalargeinputofenergy.Becausetheperiodictableofthe
elementsdoesnotstopwithiron,youcanguessthathigh-massstarscansomehow
providetherequiredenergy.
Theevolutionofthehigh-massstarisrapid.Itshydrogenburnsfor1to10million
years,itsheliumforlessthan1millionyears,itscoreofcarbonamere1,000years,
oxygenfornomorethanayear,andthefusionofsiliconconsumesonlyaweek.
Anironcoregrowsasaresult,butforlessthanaday.Justbeforeitsspectacular
death,amassivestarconsistsofnestedshellsofheavierelementswithinlighterele-
ments,allthewaydowntoitsironcore.
Over the Edge
Atthispoint,thecoreofahigh-massstaris,ineffect,aniron-richwhitedwarfsup-
portedbyitsdegenerateelectrons.Butthereisaproblem.Themassofahigh-mass
stellarremnantissolargethatgravityoverwhelmseventheresistanceofelectrons
tohavingthesamepositionandvelocity.Amassof1.4solarmassesissufficientto
overwhelmthoseelectrons,whicharefusedwithprotonstocreateneutrons.The
temperaturesinthecoreofthestarbecomesohighthatalltheworkoffusionisrap-
idlyundone.Theironnucleiaresplitintotheircomponentprotonsandneutronsina
processcalledphotodisintegration.
170 Part 3: To theStars
Asthecoreofthestarcollapsesunderitsowngravity,theelectronscombinewith
protonstobecomeneutronsandneutrinos.Theneutrinos,largelyunimpeded,escape
intospace,theheraldsofimpendingdisaster.Theseneutrinoscan(andhave)been
detectedbythesameneutrinodetectorsusedtostudytheSun.
Thecoreofthestaronlystopsitscollapsewhentheentirestellarcorehasthedensity
ofanatomicnucleus.Thissuddenhaltinthecollapsecausesashockwavetomove
throughtheouterlayersofthestarandviolentlyblowoffitsouterlayers.
Supernova: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fusion
Violentlyisanunderstatement.Whereastheprocessofevolutionfromahydrogen-
burningstartoacollapsingcorehasconsumed1to10millionyears,thefinal
collapseofahigh-masscoretakeslessthanasecondandwillendinacore-collapse
supernova.
Core-collapse supernova istheextraordinarilyenergeticexplosionthatresultswhenthe
coreofahigh-massstarcollapsesunderitsowngravity.
You Know the Type
Werecognizetwotypesofsupernovae.TypeIsupernovaecontainlittlehydrogen,
whereasTypeIIarerichinthatelement.OnlyTypeIIsupernovaeareassociated
withthecorecollapseofhigh-massstars.TypeIsupernovaeareassociatedwithour
friendsthewhitedwarfs.
Supernovae as Engines of Creation
Asyoumightexpect,anexplosionastremendousasthatofasupernovacreatesa
greatdealofdebris.TheCrabNebula,intheconstellationTaurus,istheremnantof
asupernovathatappearedin1054C.E. Chineseastronomersleftrecordsofthatevent,
reportingastarsobrilliantthatitwasvisibleforamonthinbroaddaylight.The
brightradiosourceCassiopeiaAisalsoasupernovaremnant.
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 171
CloseEncounter
NosupernovahasappearedinourGalaxy,theMilkyWay,since1604.Theory
predictsasupernovaoccurrenceinourGalaxyevery100yearsorso.Weare,there-
fore,abitoverdueandmightbeinforaspectaculardisplayanydaynow.Thecosmic
raysandelectromagneticradiationthatwouldraindownonEarthifanearbyTypeII
supernovaweretogooff(saywithin30to50light-years)couldhaveresultsthatwould
makeamassiveasteroidimpactlooklikefun.Fortunately,nostarsthatclosetousare
massiveenoughtogenerateaTypeIIsupernova.
Amateurastronomershavebeencreditedwithmanysupernovadiscoveries.Foran
impressiveexampleofsupernovadiscoveriesbyPuckettObservatory,seewww.
astronomyatlanta.com/nova.html.
Butsupernovaecreatemorethanglowingremnants.Hydrogenandhelium,thetwo
mostbasicelementsintheuniverse,arealsothemostprimitive,havingexistedbefore
thecreationofthestars.Afewotherelements,carbon,oxygen,neon,silicon,and
sulfur,arecreatedbynuclearfusioninlow-andhigh-massstars,butmanyoftheele-
mentscriticaltolifeintheuniversearecreatedonlyinsupernovaexplosions.Onlyin
theseexplosionsisthereenoughenergytobringnucleitogetherwithsufficientforce
tocreateelementsheavierthaniron.
Theonlyelementsthatexistedatthebeginningoftheuniversewerehydrogenand
alittlebitofhelium,beryllium,andlithium.Starsgeneratedtherestoftheperiodic
table.Eachoneofus,therefore,containsthedebrisofasupernovaexplosion.
DiscoveryimageofaType
IISupernova2003J.Hori-
zontalbarsindicateposition
ofthesupernova.
(ImagefromT.PuckettandM.
Peoples)
Leftovers
Whatcouldpossiblysurviveasupernova?Asupernovaexplosionpushesthingsout,
awayfromthestarscore,but,dependingontheoriginalmassofthestar,something
willbeleftbehind:eitherabizarreobjectknownasaneutronstaror,evenstranger,
ablackhole.
172 Part 3: To theStars
And You Thought Your Roommate Was Dense
Althoughtheexplosiveshockwaveoriginatesinthecore,itdoesntstartatthecores
verycenter.Ifthecoresmasswasbetween1.4and3solarmasses,theremnantatthe
centerwillbeaballofneutronsknownasaneutronstar.
Insize,thisso-calledneutronstarissmallbyastronomicalstandardsandtiny,
comparedtothehigh-massstar(manytimestheradiusofourSun)ofwhichitwas
apart.Theneutronstarsdiameterwouldbesomethingover12miles(20km)and
itsdensityastaggering10
17
kg/m
3
.Allofhumanity(ifcompressedtothedensityofa
neutronstar)wouldbethesizeofapea.
Are the Stars Spinning?
Neutronstarsdontstandstill.Justlikethestarsofwhichtheyareremnants,they
rotate.Andbecausetheyhavecollapsedfromamuchlargersize,theyspinveryrap-
idly.Remember,thankstoconservationofangularmomentum,arotatingbodyspins
fasterasitshrinks,likeawhirlingskaterdrawinginherarms.Aneutronstarhas
shrunkfromabodyhundredsoftimeslargerthantheSuntoonethatissmallerthan
Earth.Earthtakes24hourstomakeonerevolution.Averymassivebutverysmall
neutronstarrotatesinafractionofasecond.
Therateofrotationisnttheonlypropertythatintensifiesintheneutronstar.Its
magneticfieldismanytimesstrongerthanthatoftheparentstarbecausethelinesof
themagneticfieldarecompressedalongwiththematterofthecoreitself.Thecombi-
nationofrapidrotationandapowerfulmagneticfieldservestoannouncethepresence
ofsomeneutronstarsintheuniverse.
Inthelate1960s,S.JocelynBellBurnellwasa
AstroByte
graduatestudentatCambridgeUniversityworking
Whenpulsarswerefirst
withAnthonyHewishlookingforinterestingsources
detectedinthelate1960s, ofradioemission.Theydetectedoneverystrange
theirsignalsweresoregular
signal:ashortburstofradioemissionfollowedbya
thatsomeastronomersthought
briefpauseandthenanotherpulse.Thepulsesand
theymightbeasignofextrater-
pausesalternatedwithgreatprecisionasitturns
restrialintelligence.However,the
out,withaprecisiongreaterthanthatofthemost
largenumberofpulsarsdetected
andtheneutronstartheoryofpul-
advancedandaccuratetimepiecesintheworld.
sarsprovidedanadequateand
Neutronstarsthatformfromverymassivestars
simplerexplanation.
(perhaps30to40solarmasses),cancreatemagnetars,
Chapter 11: The Lifeand Death of Stars 173
objectsthatgeneratethemostpowerfulmagneticfieldsweknow,thousandsoftimes
morepowerfulthanthosearoundanormalpulsar.MagnetarsflashX-raysand,occa-
sionally,gammaraysasaresultoftheirmorepowerfulmagneticfields.
In1974,HewishalonereceivedtheNobelPrizeinPhysicsforthediscoveryofthe
radiosignalsnowcalledpulsars.
A Stellar Lighthouse
Imaginethepulsarasastellarlighthouse.Atthemagneticpolesoftheneutronstar,
thoughnotnecessarilyalignedwiththestarsrotationalaxis,areregionsinwhich
chargedparticlesareacceleratedbythestarsmagneticfield.Theseregions,which
rotatewiththestar,radiateintenseenergy.Astheneutronstarrotates,abeamof
electromagneticradiation,especiallyintenseintheradioregime,sweepsapath
throughspace.IfEarthliesinthatpath,wedetectthepulsar.
Thus,allpulsarsareneutronstars,butnotallneutronstarswillnecessarilybepul-
sars,atleastnotfromourvantagepoint.Ifthebeamofaparticularneutronstar
doesntsweeppastEarth,wewillnotdetectitsradiopulsations.Pulsarperiodscan
rangeanywherefrommillisecondstoafewseconds.
Morbid Obesity
Inthenextchapter,weexplorethenatureofanevenstrangersupernovaleftover:
ablackhole.Ifthecoreofthestarismoremassivethanthreesolarmasses,noteven
neutrondegeneracypressurethefactthattheneutronscannotbecompressed
furthercansupportit.Inthiscase,thegravitationalcollapsecontinueswithnoth-
ingtohaltit,andablackholeisborn.
The Least You Need to Know
u Astarsmassistheprimarydeterminantofthecourseitslifewilltake:high-
massstarsareshort-lived(tensofmillionsofyears),whilelow-massstarsare
long-lived(tensofbillionsofyears).
u Whenastarofanymasshasfusedmostofthehydrogeninitscore,itsdaysare
numbered.
174 Part 3: To theStars
u Low-massstarsevolveintoredgiantsand,ultimately,intowhitedwarfsand
planetarynebulae;althoughsomewhitedwarfsinbinarysystemscanperi-
odicallyreigniteasnovae,whitedwarfsgraduallycool,finallybecoming
burned-outembersofcarbonandoxygen.
u High-massstars(starsgreaterthan5to10solarmasses)diespectacularlywhen
theircorescollapse,creatingasupernovawhoseremnantiseitheraneutronstar
orablackhole.
u Manyoftheelementsintheperiodictablethatareimportanttolifeonour
planetareproducedonlyinsupernovaexplosions.
Bl l : i
I i
u initi l le
u l ivi
u i l l
u l l i i
i l i l i
i ll lli
i i l i
i l i i i l illi
i i ll i
i li
mi l li i
l i iti j i i
i l l i
l l
12
Chapter
ack Ho es One-Way T ckets
to Nowhere
n Th s Chapter
Def onofab ackho
Re at tytheory
See ngb ackho es
Recentb ackho ed scover es
Astronomyrequ resustocontemp ated stancesca esandt mespansfar
beyondoureverydayexper ence.Canwerea yfathomourSunswe ng
uptothes zeoftheorb tofVenusorthepowerofasupernovaexp os on,
br ef ybr ghtenoughtooutsh ne tshostga axy?Oreventheb onsof
yearsforwh chourstar,theSun,hasbeenfa thfu ypump ngoutenergy?
Ifyouthoughtunderstand ngthe vesofstarsmadeyoustretchyour
nd,getreadyforevenmorestrenuousmenta ca sthen csbecausewe
havesavedsomeofthestrangest, east ntu veob ects ntheun versefor
th schapter.Sonow etsexp oreoneoftheendstatesofamass vestar:
ab ackho e.
176 Part 3: To theStars
Whentheironcoreofamassivestariscollapsing,itmightstopwhentheentirecore
ofthestarhasthedensityofanatomicnucleus,makingitaneutronstar.Ifthecore
ismassiveenoughmorethan3solarmassesthecollapsebecomesunstoppable,
andtheresultisablackhole.
Under Pressure
Inthecaseofordinarystars,equilibriumisreachedwhentheoutward-directedforces
ofradiationpressure,derivedfromfusionreactions,areinbalancewiththeinward-
directedforcesofgravity.Neutronstars,however,producenonewenergy;instead,
theyradiateawaytheheatthatisstoredinthem.Theyresistthecrushofgravitynot
withthecountervailingradiationpressurefromfusionbutwithneutronssodensely
packedtheysimplycannotbesqueezedanymore.Astronomerscallthesedegenerate
neutrons.TheyarelikepassengersinaTokyosubwaycar:jammedinbytruncheon-
totingsubwaymonitorsuntilthereisabsolutelynoroomformore.
Ifthisisthecase,theneutronstarisntsomuchinequilibriumasitisinstasis.A
stalemateexistsbetweentheirresistibleforceofgravityandimmovableobjectsinthe
formofasupremelydenseballofneutrons.
Butiftheforceofgravityislargeenough,thecollapseisapparentlyunstoppable,and
notevenneutrondegeneracycansavethestarscorpse.
The Livin End
Incrediblethoughitseems,ifastarismassiveenough,itwillcontinuetocollapseon
itself.
Forever.
ItsasifthoseTokyosubwaypassengersallsuddenlyfallintoapointinthecenterof
thecarandkeepfalling.Forever.
Rememberawhitedwarfevolvesfromalow-massparentstar(astarlessthan5to
10solarmasses)andtheresultingwhitedwarfcanbenomoremassivethan1.4solar
masses.Ifithasahighermass,gravitywilloverwhelmthetightlypackeddegenerate
electronpressure,andthecorewillcontinuetocollapse.Whenastarsmassis
greaterthan1.4solarmasses,itscorecollapsecontinues,anditwillblowoffitsouter
layersasasupernova.Ifthemassoftheremainingcoreisgreaterthan1.4butless
than3solarmasses,theremnantwillbeaneutronstar.However,thespecsfora
Chapter 12: Black Holes: One-Way Tickets toNowhere 177
neutronstaralsohaveanuppermasslimit.Astronomersbelieveaneutronstarcanbe
nomoremassivethanaboutthreetimesthemassoftheSun.Beyondthispoint,its
coreofneutronswillyieldtogravityspull.
Whatresultsfromthisapparentstalemate
betweentheforceofgravityandtheincom-
pressibilityofneutrons?Dowejustgetaneven
smalleranddenserneutronstar?
No,notatall.Wegetsomethingcompletely
different,anobjectfromwhichthereisliterally
noescape.
Whenanextremelymassivestarisripped
apartinasupernovaexplosion,itcanproduce
asupernovaremnantsomassivethatthesubse-
quentcorecollapsecannotbestopped.When
thishappens,nothingescapestheattractive
forcesnearthecorenotevenelectromagnetic
radiation,includingvisiblelightphotons.This
isablackhole,socalledbecausenotevenlight
cangetout.
AstronomersNotebook
Theparentstarofacollapsing
neutronstarcorethatismore
than3solarmasseswouldhave
tobe20to30timesmoremas-
sivethantheSun.Inotherwords,
onlymainsequencestarswith
massesupwardsof20solar
masseswillevercollapseinto
blackholes.Whichstarsare
they?Theyareasmallsubsetof
themassive,hotOandBstars
andarefarmorerarethanstars
liketheSun.
Thisx-rayimageisofthe
supernovaremnantin
Cassiopeia.Theexploded
remnantsofdyingmassive
starspersistforcenturies.
(ImagefromChandraX-Ray
Observatory)
No Escape
Althoughlightandthusinformationcannotescapefromablackhole,theblack
holehascertainlynotceasedtoexist.Itisstillaphysicalobjectwithmass.Thatisthe
178 Part 3: To theStars
reasonitcreatesagravitationalfield,justasEarthoranyotherobjectwithmassdoes.
Buthowdowetalkaboutthesizeofablackholewhenwehavejustdescribeditcol-
lapsingwithoutend?Isitinfinitelysmall?
Well,infact,itdoescollapsetoapointcalledasingularity;however,adimensionis
alsoassociatedwithblackholes.Wecantalkaboutthemassofablackholeaswellas
itsradius,butitsaverydifferentkindofradius,asyoullseeinamoment.First,lets
takeaquickdetour.
BuildingarocketcapableofescapingEarthsgravi-
tationalpullrequiresanenginecapableofdelivering
sufficientthrusttoachieveavelocityofabout7
Escape velocity isthevelocity
milespersecond(11km/s).Thisescapevelocity
necessaryforoneobjectto
dependsupontwofactors:themassoftheplanetand
escapethegravitationalpullof
another.Thelargerthemass(and
itsradius.Forafixed-massobject,thesmallerthe
smallerthedistance),thegreater
radius,thegreatertheescapevelocityrequiredtoget
therequiredescapevelocity.
freeofitsgravitationalfield.
Soasthecoreofastarcollapseswithitsmass
remainingconstanttheescapevelocityfromits
surfaceincreasesrapidly.Youmightnowwonder:Whathappenswhenastarhasno
moresurfacethatwecantalkabout?Whatisthesurfaceofablackhole?Andis
therealimittotheincreaseinthisescapevelocity?
Naturehasoneverystrictspeedlimit:thespeedoflight.Nothingintheuniverse,
notevenphotonscarryinginformationfromdistantreachesoftheuniverse,can
movefasterthanthespeedoflight:984,000,000feetpersecond(300,000,000m/s).
Thisistheupperlimittoescapevelocity.Whenabodyofagivenmassreachesa
certainverysmallsize,objectswouldhavetomovefasterthanthespeedoflight
toescape.Becausenaturedoesnotallowthis,escapeisnotanoption.
Whats That on the Horizon?
Buthowcanwetalkaboutthesurfaceofablackhole?Ablackholehascollapsedto
apointofinfinitedensity,andapoint,bydefinition,hasnosurface.
TheGermanastronomerKarlSchwarzschild(18731916)firstcalculatedwhatwe
nowcalltheSchwarzschildradiusofablackhole.Forastarofagivenmass,this
valueistheradiusatwhichescapevelocitywouldequalthespeedoflight(and,there-
fore,theradiuswithinwhichescapeisimpossible).ForEarth,theSchwarzschild
Chapter 12: Black Holes: One-Way Tickets toNowhere 179
radiusisthesizeofamarble,about0.4
inchesor1centimeter.Foraneutronstar
at3solarmasses,theSchwarzschildradius
is5.58miles(9km).Sothisradiusdoesnt
definealiteralsurfacesomuchasachar-
acteristicpropertyofablackhole.
AstroByte
HowbigwouldanEarth-
massblackholebe?Ifthe
Earthwerecompressedtothe
sizeofamarbleyetretainedits
Rememberthatthecollapseofablackhole
isinsomesenseinfinite.Ourtheoretical3-
or-moresolar-massstellarcorewillnotstop
shrinkingjustbecauseithasreachedthe
currentmassavelocitygreater
thanthespeedoflightwouldbe
requiredtoescapeitsmarble-
sizedsurface.Suchanobject
wouldbe,effectively,ablack
hole.Blackholesareblack
Schwarzschildradius.Itkeepscollapsing.
becausenothing,notevenlight,
WhenitissmallerthantheSchwarzschild
canescapetheirgravitationalpull.
radius,however,itwilleffectivelydisappear.
Itselectromagneticradiation(andtheinfor-
mationthatitcarries)isunabletoescape.
Wespokeearlieraboutelectromagneticradiationcarryingenergyandinforma-
tionoutintotheuniverse.Becausewecannotreceiveradiationfromwithinthe
Schwarzschildradius,wecannotgetanyinformationfromthere,either.Eventsthat
occurwithinthatradiusarehiddenfromourview.Forthisreason,theSchwarzschild
radiusisalsocalledtheeventhorizon.Aswithanyhorizon,wecannotseepastit.
Relativity
Afullunderstandingofblackholesandthephenomenaassociatedwiththemrequires
knowledgeofAlbertEinsteinstheoryofgeneralrelativity.Einsteinsmostfamous
worksarehistwotheoriesrelatingtimeandspace:specialrelativityandgeneral
relativity.Specialrelativitydealswiththeultimatespeedlimit,thespeedoflight,
whereasgeneralrelativityisatheoryofgravity.Generalrelativitygivesamore
completedescriptionofgravityseffectsthanIsaacNewtonseighteenth-century
description,anditcanexplainsomeanomaliesthatNewtonianmechanicscannot.
ItsnotthatNewtonianmechanicsiswrong,butsinceEinstein,itsjustconsidered
aspecialcaseofthemoreall-encompassinggeneralrelativity.Newtonianmechanics
appliesaslongasthemassesandvelocitiesarenotextraordinary.Butintheenviron-
mentofblackholes,thingsbecomeextraordinaryindeed.
180 Part 3: To theStars
Curved Space Ahead
WhereasNewtonintroducedtheconceptofgravitationalforceasapropertyofall
matterpossessingmass,Einsteinproposedthatmatterdoesnotmerelyattractmatter,
butratheritwarpsthespacearoundit.ForNewton,thetrajectoryofanorbiting
planetiscurvedbecauseitissubjecttothegravitationalinfluenceof,forexample,
theSun.ForEinstein,theplanetstrajectoryiscurvedbecausespaceitselfhasbeen
curvedbythepresenceofthemassiveSun.Thischangeinviewrepresentsafunda-
mentalshiftinthewaywethinkabouttheuniverse.Onemajordifferencebetween
NewtonsandEinsteinstheoriesofgravitationisthatifmassdistortsspace,then
masslessphotonsoflightshouldfeeltheeffectofgravity,justasmatterdoes.
Likeanygoodtheory,Einsteinsideasaddressedquestionsthathadgoneunanswered
andmadetestablepredictions.Intwoparticularexamples,histheoryexplainedsome
tinybutpersistentpeculiaritiesintheorbitofMercuryandsuccessfullypredicted
thattheSunsmasswassufficienttobendlightrayspassingveryclosetoit.
Alberts Dimple
OnewaytoimaginespaceinEinsteinsviewisasavastrubbersheetwithaheavy
bowlingballcreatingabigdimpleinit.Themassofthebowlingballdistortsthe
sheet,whichisatwo-dimensionalrepresentationofspace.Inthismodel,amassive
objectdistortsspaceitself.
Now,thesheetistwo-dimensional.Butspaceisthree-dimensional.Wecantpicture
thatdistortionappliedtoourthree-dimensionaluniverse,butEinsteincalledthat
distortiongravity.
Imaginethatinsteadofmakingadimpleinthesheet(asthebowlingballdoes),an
objectweretomakeaninfinitelydeepsinkhole.Thatregionofspacewouldbea
blackhole.
In the Neighborhood
WehavestatedthatnoradiationcanescapefromwithintheSchwarzschildradius.
Butwhatoftheregionjustoutsideit?Itturnsoutthatmaterialneartheblackhole
doesproduceobservableradiation.Matterthatstrayscloseenoughtotheevent
horizontobedrawnintoitdoesnotremainintact,butisstretchedandtornapart
byenormoustidalforcesthesameforcesthatcausethetidesonEarth,butmuch
stronger.Intheprocess,energycanbereleasedintheformofx-rays.Brightx-ray
sourcesarebeaconsthatmightpointthewaytoblackholesnearby.
Chapter 12: Black Holes: One-Way Tickets toNowhere 181
Heres a Thought (Eperiment)
Noonecouldevervisitablackholeandlivetotellaboutit.Aspaceship,letalone
ahumanbeing,wouldbetorntopiecesbytidalforcesasitapproachedtheevent
horizon.
Facedwithsituationsimpracticalorimpossibletoobservedirectlyortotestphysi-
cally,scientiststypicallyconstructthoughtexperiments,methodicalexercisesofthe
imaginationbasedonwhateverdataareavailable.
Postcards from the Edge
Soheresathoughtexperiment:supposeitwerepossibletosendanindestructible
probetotheeventhorizonofablackhole.
Next,supposeweequippedtheprobewithatransmitterbroadcastingelectromag-
neticradiationofaknownfrequency.Astheprobenearedtheeventhorizon,we
wouldbegintodetectlongerandlongerwavelengths.Thisshiftinginwavelengthis
knownasagravitationalredshift,anditoccursbecausethephotonsemittedbyour
transmitterlosesomeenergyintheirescapefromthestronggravitationalfieldnear
theeventhorizon.Thereducedenergywouldresultinareductioninfrequency(and,
therefore,awavelengthincrease)ofthebroadcastsignalsthatis,aredshift.
Thecloserourprobecametotheeventhorizon,thegreatertheredshift.Atthe
eventhorizonitself,thebroadcastwavelengthwouldlengthentoinfinity,eachphoton
havingusedallofitsenergyinavainattempttoclimbovertheeventhorizon.
Supposewealsoequippedtheprobewithalargedigitalclockthattickedawaythe
secondsandwassomehowalsovisibletous.(Remember,thisisathoughtexperi-
ment.)ThroughaphenomenonfirstdescribedinEinsteinsspecialrelativitycalled
timedilation,theclockwouldappear(fromourperspective)toslowuntilitactually
reachedtheeventhorizon,whereuponitandtimeitselfwouldappeartoslowtoa
crawlandstop.Eternitywouldseemtoexistattheeventhorizon,andtheprocessof
fallingintotheblackholewouldappeartotakeforever.
Asthewavelengthofthebroadcastisstretchedtoinfinitelengths,sothetime
betweenpassingwavecrestsbecomesinfinitelylong.Realize,however,thatifyou
couldsomehowsurviveaboardthespaceprobeandwereobservingfrominside
ratherthanfromadistance,youwouldperceivenochangesinthewavelengthof
electromagneticradiationorinthepassageoftime.Relativetoyou,nothingstrange
wouldbehappening.Moreover,aslongasthephysicalsurvivalofyourcraftinthe
182 Part 3: To theStars
enormoustidalforcesoftheblackholewasnotanissue,youwouldhavenotrouble
passingbeyondtheeventhorizon.Buttoremoteobservers,youwouldhavestalled
outattheedgeofeternity.Itsallamatterofpointofview.
Into the Abyss
Whatsinsideablackhole?Wehavenoidea.Notbecausewerenotcurious,mind
you,butbecausewecanliterallygetnoinformationfrombeyondtheeventhorizon.
Theoreticiansrefertotheinfinitelydenseresultoflimitlesscollapseasasingularity.
Wedonotyethaveadescriptionofwhathappenstomatterundertheextremecondi-
tionsinsideablackhole.NewtonandEinsteinmovedourknowledgeoftheuniverse
aheadintwogreatleaps.Anunderstandingofthesestrangeobjectsmightbethenext
greatleapforwardinourcomprehensionoftheuniverse.
The Latest Evidence
Canweactuallydetectablackhole?Canweseeablackholeatall?
Notdirectly,butwecancertainlyseeoneseffects.Ablackholeislikesomehorror
moviemonster.Wemightneverseethemonsteritself,butevidenceofitsexistence
iseverywhere:itsfootprints,clawmarksonthetrees,andthemuddytrailthatleads
backtotheswamp.Sowhatarethelatestmuddytrailsthatleadustoblackholes?
Wouldnt X-Rays Kill a Swan?
InourownGalaxy,abrightsourceofx-raysisfoundintheconstellationCygnus
(theSwan)knownasCygnusX-1,locatedatadistanceofsome8,000light-years.It
isthebinarycompanionofaBstar,andthex-raysfromitflareupandfadequickly,
indicatingthatitisverysmallinradius.Rememberwementionedthatx-raysare
oftenemittedintheneighborhoodofastellar-remnantblackhole.Inaddition,the
x-raysourcehasnovisibleradiationandamass(inferredfromtheorbitofitscom-
panion)ofabout10solarmasses.Inthiscasecircumstantialevidencemightbe
enoughtoconvict.
Black Holes in Our Own Backyard
Theuniverseisabigplace,sohavingablackholeinourownGalaxymeansthatitis,
relativelyspeaking,quiteclose.Infact,astronomershavedetectedablackholeandan
Chapter 12: Black Holes: One-Way Tickets toNowhere 183
oldstarthatareorbitingoneanotheronly5,000light-yearsawayfromus.Poetically
namedGROJ1655-40,theblackholeisanobjectreferredtoasamicroquasara
blackholethathasthemassofastarandactslikeasmallversionoftheblackholes
thatcanhavemorethanamilliontimesthemassandareatthecoresofactivegalax-
iescalledquasars.
Theblackholeisapparentlytheremnantofasupernovaexplosionthatthecompanion
starsurvived,andthecompanionorbitstheblackholeevery2.6days.Whatisperhaps
mostinterestingaboutthispairofstarsisthattheyaretearingthroughtheGalaxy
athighvelocityaboutfourtimesthevelocitythatisnormalforastarinthispartof
theGalaxy.
Now Thats a Black Hole
TheblackholeinCygnusiswhatwecallastellarremnantblackhole.Intheory,black
holescanhavemuchhighermassesmassesfargreaterthanastellarcore.Theseare
calledsupermassiveblackholesandarefoundinthecoresofgalaxies.TheHubble
SpaceTelescopeimageshownonthenextpageisaboutascloseaswehavegottento
asupermassiveblackhole.ReleasedonMay25,1994,theimageshowsawhirlpoolof
hot(10,000K)gasswirlingatthecenterofanellipticalgalaxy(seeChapter14)known
asM87,50millionlight-yearsfromusinthedirectionoftheconstellationVirgo.
UsingtheHubblesFaintObjectSpectrograph,astronomersHollandFordand
RichardHarmswereabletomeasurehowlightfromthegasisredshiftedandblue-
shiftedasonesideofthe60-light-year-radiusdiskofgasspinstowardusandthe
otherawayfromus.Theradiusatwhichgasisspinningandthevelocityofitsrota-
tiontellushowmuchmattermustbewithinthatradius.Withthehighresolutionof
theHubbleSpaceTelescopeandground-basedradiotelescopesliketheVeryLong
BaselineArray(VLBA),astronomerscantracetherotationofgastosmallerand
smallerdistancesfromthecenter.Doingso,theyfindthatevenatverysmallradii,
thegasisrotatingatvelocitiesthatindicatesomethingverymassivestilllieswithin
thatradius.
Blackholesarealmostcertainlyresponsibleforanotherobservedgalacticphenom-
enon.Radioastronomershaveidentifiedwhattheycallradiogalaxies,whichmake
themselvesknownbyenormousradiojetsthatcanextendfromthemforhundreds
ofthousandsoflight-years.Thesourcesofthesejetsareblackholes.Now,when
twogalaxiescollideandtheblackholesmerge,thedirectionofthejetemittedcan
abruptlychange,creatingwhatisknownasanX-typeradiosource.Thus,itappears
thatXmarksthespotatleastforsomeblackholes.
184 Part 3: To theStars
Finally,recentobservationshavealsosuggestedthat,whengalaxiescollide,theblack
holespresentatthecentersofthetwogalaxiesmergeaswell,creatingthemotherof
allmergersandacquisitions.
Thisimageshowstheradio
jetsofthesourceNGC326as
imagedwiththeVLA.Inset
istheHubbleSpaceTelescope
imageofthesamegalaxy.
(ImagefromNRAO/AUI,
STScI)
The Least You Need to Know
u Aneutronstarisonepossibleremnantofamassivestarthathasexplodedasa
supernova.
u Blackholesaretheotherpossibleremnantofcollapsedmassivestarcores;ifthe
corehasamassgreaterthanthreesolarmasses,thecollapsecannotstopanda
blackholeisborn.
u Ifyoudontgettooclosetoablackhole,itseffects(intermsofgravity)are
nodifferentthanastarofthesamemass;theyarenotgiantgalacticvacuum
cleaners.
u Accordingtogeneralrelativity,blackholes,stars,andanythingwithmass
distortsthespacearoundit,andthisdistortioncaninfluencethepathofboth
particlesandlight.
4 f i ld
i ivi l ll
l i i l i i i
il i
j l i l lli i l i l
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i l
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i l i i l l j
l i i l i ll
l i i i l i
i i i l i
( ).
Part
Way Out o Th s Wor
Nowweturnfrom nd dua starsandste arphenomenatosomeofthe
argeststructures ntheun verse:thega ax es.Webeg nathome,w tha
chapteronourGalaxy,theM kyWay.Thenwemoveontoanexplanat on
ofthethreema orga axytypessp ra ,e pt ca ,and rregu arand
exp nhowga ax es,themselvesvast,areoftengrouped ntoeven arger
ga axyc usters,wh ch, nturn,maybemembersofsuperc usters.Here
cosm cstructureonthegreatestsca e.
Inadd ontonorma ga ax es,wel scussanotherga axytype,the
act vega axy,wh chem ts argeamountsofenergy.Weexp oreob ects
suchasSeyfertga ax esandrad oga ax es,aswe asoneofthemostspec-
tacu arcosm cdynamos ntheun verse,quasars.Wea socons derthe
natureofaphenomenonthatappearstobeoccurr ng nd stantga ax es:
gammaraybursters GRB
il :
l
I i
u il i l i i i
u l i il
u il
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u
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13
Chapter
The M ky Way
Our Very Own Ga ay
n Th s Chapter
TheM kyWaysb rth,evo ut on,s ze,andmot on
Ourp ace ntheM kyWay
ThestructureoftheM kyWay
Avar etyofvar ab estars
Themysteryofdarkmatter
Thega act ccenter:ab ackho e?
Anc entsoc et eswerewe awareoftheM kyWay,afuzzy,w spy,wh sh
bandthatarcedacrossthesky however,theyhadno deathatthe rwor
wasat nypartofth sveryarc.Wthoutthea dofate escope,onecant
seethatth sbandactua ycons stsofb onsof nd dua stars.Forth
reason,anc entcu turesdescr bedtheM kyWayvar ously:asabr dge
acrossthesky,asar ver,assp edcornmea fromasackdraggedbya
dog,orasthebackboneoftheheavens.So mag neGa eosshockwhen
hef rst ookedthroughh ste escopeattheM kyWayandthefuzz ness
reso ved ntoanenormousnumberof nd dua stars.Why,hemusthave
188 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
asked,werethosestarsallarrayedacrossabridgeonthesky?Severalcenturieswould
passbeforewedeterminedourplaceinthatgrandarc.
Withmanyofuslivinginlight-pollutedcitiesandsuburbs,theMilkyWaycanbe
difficultorimpossibletosee.Underthebestviewingconditions,however,itisa
stunningsight,amajesticbandoflightsometimesextendinghighabovethehorizon,
dependingonyourlocationandthetimeofyear.
Whenwelookatit,whatweseeisourownGalaxyfromtheinside.FortheMilky
Wayisourhome,soletstakeacloserlookatourplaceintheMilkyWayandhowit
mighthavecometobe.
Where Is the Center and Where Are We?
Galileoandotherastronomerssoonrealizedthatthestarsarounduswerenotran-
domlydistributed,butinadistinctway,confinedtoanarrowbandofthesky.Inthe
lateeighteenthcentury,WilliamHerschelproposedthefirstmodelofourGalaxy,
suggestingthatitwasdisk-shapedandthatthesolarsystem(centeredontheSun)
laynearthecenterofthisdisk.Thismodelheldsomepsychologicalcomfort(Earth
havingbeensorecentlyelbowedfromthecenteroftheuniversebyCopernicusand
Galileo),butthemodelalsohadaproblem.Herschelfailedtoaccountforwhatwe
nowknowasinterstellarextinctionbecauseheassumedthatspacewasessentially
transparent.ButthediskofourGalaxyisfoggywithgasanddust,andwecansee
onlysofarintothefog.
Asaresult,weonlyappeartobeatthecenterofthediskasdeterminedfromstar
countsinvariousdirections.Actuallywearenotinthecenterbecausethedustin
ourGalaxyabsorbsvisiblelightsothatwecanonlyseeoutintothediskforalimited
distancethesamelimiteddistanceinalldirectionsalongthearc.Weclearlyrun
outofstarsintwodirectionswhenwelookupanddownoutofthediskofour
Galaxy.
Notuntilearlyinthetwentiethcenturydidastronomersrealizewewerenot,infact,
atthecenterofourownGalaxy,butatitsoutersuburbs.
Home Sweet Galay
Theuniverseisnotevenlypopulatedwithstarsandotherobjects.Justaslargedis-
tancesexistbetweenindividualstars,therearelargedistancesbetweenthecollections
ofstarscalledgalaxies.Galaxies(ofwhichtheMilkyWayisone)areenormouscol-
lectionsofstars,gas,anddust.
Chapter 13: TheMilky Way: Our Very OwnGalaxy 189
ThisimageshowstheMilky
WayGalaxyasimagedata
varietyofwavelengths.The
centeroftheGalaxyisinthe
centerofeachimage.The
opticalimage(labeled)isthe
mostfamiliarview,butother
wavelengthsgiveusaunique
viewofourhomeGalaxy.
(ImagefromNASA)
Typicalgalaxiescontainseveralhundredbillionstars.About100timesasmanystars
existinourGalaxyastherearepeopleonEarth.Astronomersoftenrefertoour
ownGalaxywithacapitalGtodistinguishitfromalloftheothergalaxiesinthe
universe.
A Thumbnail Sketch
BecausewelivewithintheMilkyWay,weseeitinprofile.TheMilkyWay,viewedat
thisangle,isshapedratherlikeaflyingsaucerthatis,itresemblesadiskthatbulges
towarditscenterandthinsoutatitsperiphery.Thethickestpartwecallthebulge,
andthethinpart,thedisk.(Astronomersarentalwaysinlovewithobtusejargon!)
Lateryouwillseehowwefiguredthisall
out,butweknownowthatthecenterofour
ownGalaxyisintheGalacticbulge,inthe
directionoftheconstellationSagittarius.
TheGalactic bulge ornuclear
bulgeisaswellingatthecenter
Oursolarsystemissituatedinpartofthe
ofourGalaxy.Thebulgeconsists
thinned-outarea,theso-calledGalactic ofoldstarsandextendsouta
disk.OurlocationintheGalaxyexplains
fewthousandlight-yearsfromthe
whatweseewhenwelookattheMilkyWay
Galacticcenter.
onaclearcountrysummernight,farfrom
190 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
citylightsandsmog.Thewispybandoflightarcingacrosstheskyisourviewinto
thisdisk.Thebandoflightisthemergedglowofthestarscloseenoughforustosee
opticallysomanythat,totheunaidedeye,theyarenotdifferentiatedasseparate
pointsoflight.Adarkbandofobscurationrunsthelengthofthearc.Thepresence
oflargeamountsofdustinthediskblocksthislight.
Whenwelookawayfromthearcinthesky,wedontseemuchoftheMilkyWay
becausewearelookingoutofthedisk.Lookingintothediskislikelookingatthe
horizononEarth:lotsofthingsblockourview,includinghouses,trees,andcars.
Butifwelookstraightupintothesky,wecanseemuchfartherwemightevensee
aplaneflyingoverhead.Whenwelookmoreorlessperpendiculartothediskofthe
Galaxy,wecanseemuchfarther;thisisthedirectioninwhichtolookforothergal-
axies,forexample.
Whilelookinginthisdirectionupintheair,asitwereastronomersdiscovered
anothercomponentoftheGalaxy,theglobularclusters.Thesearecollectionsofsev-
eralhundredthousandmostlyolderstars,heldtogetherbytheirmutualgravitational
attraction.TheyaregenerallyfoundwellaboveandbelowthediskoftheGalaxy.
Reasoningthatglobularclustersshouldgatheraroundthegravitationalcenterofthe
Galaxy,HarlowShapleyintheearlytwentiethcenturyusedthedistancesandposi-
tionsofthesecollectionsofstarstodeterminewhereintheGalaxywearelocated.
Thissimplediagramofour Milky Way Galaxy
viewoftheMilkyWayshows
Seen edge-on
theprincipalparts.Studies
haveshownthattheMilky
Wayisanordinaryspiral
galaxy.
Center
Bulge
Thin disk
Extreme disk
Sun
Halo
Thick disk
Chapter 13: TheMilky Way: Our Very OwnGalaxy 191
Compare and Contrast
Noneofuswilllivelongenoughtowatchasinglestarevolve.Atourradius,theMilky
Waytakesabout225millionyearstorotatejustonce!Sotoovercomethelimitation
ofthehumanlifespanwechartthedevelopmentofacertainmassstarbyobserving
manysimilarstarsinvariousstagesofdevelopment.Thesameistrueforgalaxies.We
cansometimeslookforgalaxiessimilartoourowninordertogainthenecessaryper-
spectiveandmakegeneralizationsabouttheMilkyWay.
TheAndromedagalaxy(MessierObject31)isover2millionlight-yearsfromusand
istheonlyobjectoutsideourGalaxythatisvisibletothenakedeye.LiketheMilky
Way,Andromedaiswhatwecallaspiralgalaxy,withdistinct,bright,curvedstruc-
turescalledspiralarms,whichrevealwheretheyoung,massivestarsinthegalaxyare
forming.Theuniversecontainsmanyspiralgalaxiesthatastronomerscanobserveto
studyaspectsoftheMilkyWaythatarehiddenbyourlocationinit.
Lets Take a Picture
WhilewecanseeAndromedawithoureyesoramodestamateurtelescopeasafuzzy
patchoflight,werequirephotographicequipmentoranelectronicCCDcamerato
makeoutthekindofdetailinagalaxythatweareusedtoseeinginglossyastronomy
magazinepictures.Toseesweepingarmsanddarkbandsofdustinothergalaxies,we
needtocollectmorelight,eitherbyusingalargeraperture(abigtelescope)orwait-
inglonger(takingasufficientlyexposedconventionalorelectronicphotograph).
Measuring the Milky Way
OnewaytogaugethesizeoftheMilkyWayistolookatother,similargalaxies,such
asAndromeda.Ifweknowhowfarawaysuchagalaxyisandcanmeasureitsangular
sizeonthesky,wecancalculatehowbigitis.
ButdeterminingthedistanceofAndromedaandothergalaxiescanbeaseriouschal-
lenge.Parallaxasadistanceindicatorisoutbecauseweknowthattheapparent
angularshiftisequalto1dividedbythedistanceinparsecs.Starsfartherthan100pc
aretoodistanttousetheparallaxmethod,andthosestarsarestillinourownGalaxy.
Wewouldrequirehalfamicroarcsecondresolution(0.0000005")toseeparallax
ofeventhenearestgalaxy,Andromeda,andnoexistingtelescopeshaveresolution
approachingthat.
192 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
Sowhatarewetodo?In1908,HenriettaSwanLeavitt,workingatthetimeunder
thedirectionofEdwardPickeringattheHarvardCollegeObservatory,discovered
oneverygooddistanceindicator.
Overcenturiesofstargazing,astronomershad
notedmanystarswhoseluminositywasvariable
sometimesbrighter,sometimesfainter.Thesevariable
Avariable star isastarthatperi-
odicallychangesinbrightness.
starsfallintooneoftwobroadtypes:cataclysmicvari-
Acataclysmic variable isastar,
ablesandintrinsicvariables.Wehavealreadydiscussed
suchasanova,thatchanges
onetypeofcataclysmicvariablestar,thenovae,
inbrightnesssuddenlyanddra-
whicharestarsthatperiodicallychangeinluminos-
maticallyasaresultofinteraction ity(rateofenergyoutput)suddenlyanddramatically
withabinarycompanionstar.
whentheyaccretematerialfromabinarycompanion.
Anintrinsic variable changes
brightnessbecauseofrapid
Anothertypeofvariablestarisanintrinsicvariable,
changesinitsdiameter.Pulsating
whosevariabilityiscausednotbyinteractionwith
variables areintrinsicvariables abinarycompanionbutbyfactorsinternaltothe
thatvaryinbrightnessinafixed
star.Thesubsetofintrinsicvariablestarsimportant
periodorspanoftime.
indistancecalculationsarepulsatingvariablestars.
CepheidvariablestarsandRRLyraestarsareboth
pulsatingvariablestars.
Thepulsatingvariablesvaryinluminositybecauseofregularchangesintheirdiam-
eter.Whydoesthisrelationshipexist?Starsarealittlelikeringingbells.Weknow
whenstruck,largebellsvibratemoreslowly,producinglowertones.Tinybellsvibrate
rapidly,producinghighertones.Inthesameway,moremassivestarsvibrateslowly,
andsmallerstarsvibratemorerapidly.
Apulsatingvariablestarisinalateevolutionarystageandhasbecomeunstable,its
radiusfirstshrinkinganditssurfaceheating.Thenitsradiusexpandsanditssurface
cools.Thesechangesproducemeasurablevariationsinthestarsluminositybecause
luminositydependsonsurfacearea,andthestarisshrinkingandexpanding.
AstronomersNotebook
Thenamesoftheclassofvariablestars,RRLyraeandCepheid,derivefromthenames
ofthefirststarsofthesetypestobediscovered.RRLyraisavariablestar(labeledRR)
intheconstellationLyra.TheCepheidclassisnamedafterDeltaCepheus,thefourth-
brighteststar,andavariablestarintheconstellationCepheus.Cepheidvariableshave
longerperiodsofbrightnessvariation(asaclass)andaremoreluminousthanRRLyrae
stars.RRLyraestarshaveperiodsoflessthanaday.Cepheidperiodsrangeupwardof
50days.
Chapter 13: TheMilky Way: Our Very OwnGalaxy 193
Scientistsnamedthetwotypesofpulsatingvariablesafterthefirstknownstarin
eachgroup.TheRRLyraestarsallhavethesimilaraverageluminosityofabout100
timesthatoftheSun.Cepheidluminositiesrangefrom1,000to10,000timesthe
luminosityoftheSun.Becauseastronomerscanrecognizebothpulsatingvariables
bytheirpulsationpatternandaverageluminosity,theymakeconvenientmarkersfor
determiningdistance.Cepheidvariablestarsareintrinsicallymoreluminous,and
HenriettaSwannLeavittproposedthattheywouldbeusefulformeasuringgreater
distances.
LeavittwasatalentedastronomerattheHarvardCollegeObservatorywhofirst
observedarelationshipbetweenthepulsationperiodandtheintrinsicbrightness
ofastar.Armedwithherperiod-luminosityrelation,AmericanastronomerHarlow
Shapley(18851972)usedtheperiodofRRLyraevariablestarsinalmost100globular
clustersintheGalaxytodeterminetheirdistances.Withthisdistanceinformation,
Shapleycouldseethattheglobularclusterswereallcenteredonaregioninthedirec-
tionofSagittarius,about25,000light-yearsfromEarth.Heconcludedfromhisstudy
ofglobularclustersthattheGalaxywasperhaps30,000parsecs(100,000light-years)
acrossfarlargerthananyonehadeverbeforeimagined.
CloseEncounter
HenriettaSwanLeavittwasoneofanumberoftalentedastronomersonthestaff
oftheHarvardCollegeObservatory.Shewasthefirsttopropose,in1908,thatthe
periodofacertaintypeofintrinsicvariablestar(aCepheidvariable)wasdirectlypro-
portionaltoitsluminosity.
SheobservedalargenumberofvariablestarsintheMagellanicclouds(companions
toourownGalaxy),discoveringover1,700ofthemherself.Theadvantageofstudying
thesecloudsisthatbyfiguringtheirdistancefromEarth,weareabletoestimatethe
distancefromEarthtothosestarswithinthem.WhatLeavittnoticedwasthatthebrightest
CepheidvariablestarsintheMagellaniccloudsalwayshadthelongestperiods,and
thefaintestalwayshadtheshortestperiods.
Whatherdiscoverymeantwashugethatastronomerscouldsimplymeasuretheperiod
ofaCepheidvariablestaranditsapparentbrightnesstoderiveitsdistancedirectly.
WhatLeavittaccomplishedwastogreatlyextendtheastronomersrulerfromafewhun-
dredlight-years(usingtheparallaxmethod)totensofmillionsoflight-years.
Inaneerietwentieth-centuryreplayofthedaysofCopernicusandGalileo,Shapley
haddemonstratedthatthehuboftheGalaxy,theGalacticcenter,wascertainlynot
wherewearebutlay8,000parsecs(25,000light-years)fromtheSun.Ourstarand
oursolarsystemarefarfromthecenterofitall.
194 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
EachoftheearlierdefinedpartsoftheMilkyWaythenuclearbulge,thedisk,
andthehalohasacharacteristicsize.Studiesinthetwentiethcenturyhaveshown
thatthedifferentpartsoftheMilkyWayarealsocharacterizedbydistinctstellar
populations.
Ifyoulookatatrue-colorpictureoftheMilkyWayorasimilargalaxy,suchas
Andromeda,thebulgeappearsmoreyellow,andthediskappearsmoreblueorwhite-
blue.Thecolorofaregiontellsustheaveragecolorofmostofthestarsthatreside
there.Globularclusters,thebulge,andthehaloappeartocontainmostlycooler
(yellow)stars.Theyoung(hot)starsintheglobularclustersandthehaloaregone,
andnewonesarenttakingtheirplacesinthoselocations.
TheDiffuseInfrared
BackgroundExperiment
(DIRBE) ontheCos-
micBackgroundExplorer
(COBE) probemadethis
imageoftheMilkyWay
fromanedge-onperspective.
Thebasicdisk-bulgearchi-
tectureoftheMilkyWay
isapparentinthisinfrared
imagethathighlightsthe
locationoflow-massstars
anddust.
(ImagefromNASA)
Thepresenceoflargenumbersoftheyoungest,hotteststarsoftypeOandBmakes
theGalacticdiskappearblue.BecauseOandBstarshavesuchshortlifetimes(1
to10millionyears),theirpresenceinthedisktellsusthattheymustbecurrently
formingthere.Rememberthat,atourradius,theMilkyWayrotatesonceevery225
millionyears,andthatmeansthattensofgenerationsofmassiveOandBstarsform
andexplodeeverytimethediskoftheGalaxyrotates.CoolerandsmallerG,K,and
Mstarsarealsopresentinthedisk,butthegiantbluestars,farmoreluminous,out-
shinethem,impartingtotheentirediskregionitscharacteristicblue-whitecolor.
Whyaretheyoungeststarsinthediskandtheoldestinthehalo?
Chapter 13: TheMilky Way: Our Very OwnGalaxy 195
TheGalacticdiskiswheretheinterstellargascloudsreside,theso-calledgiant
molecularclouds(GMCs).Withrawmaterialsplentiful,starproductionisveryactive
here;therefore,youngstarsareabundant.Incontrast,thehaloregionhasverylittle
nonstellarmaterial,sononewstarsarebeingcreatedthere.IntheGalacticbulge,
thereisanabundanceofinterstellarmatteraswellasoldandnewstars.
Milky Way Portrait
ThedifferentpartsoftheMilkyWayarenotstaticbutareinconstantmotion.The
diskrotatesabouttheGalacticcenter,andatlargeradii,therateofrotationdoes
nottrailoffbutremainsfairlyconstant.Thisrotationisincontrasttowhatwesee
inaplanetarysystem,whereplanetsrotate
moreandmoreslowlythefarthertheyare
AstroByte
fromthecenter.Theconstantrotationrate
atlargedistancesfromtheGalacticcenter
OurpartoftheGalacticdisk
orbitstheGalacticcenterat
betraysthepresenceofmaterialwecannot
over136milespersecond
detectwithnormalobservations.
(220km/s),takingabout225
Thestarsinthehalomoveverydifferently,
millionyearsforourregionto
plungingthroughtheGalacticdiskinran-
completeoneorbitaroundthe
Galacticcenter.Oursolarsys-
domlyorientedellipticalorbits,whichare
temhasorbitedtheGalactic
notconfinedtotheGalacticdiskandin
centersome15to20times
somewaysseemunawareofit.Allofthese
sinceitformed.Onequarterof
orbitsarecenteredonwhatwecallthe
aGalacticorbitago,dinosaurs
Galacticcenterregionandgivecluesasto
roamedEarth.
howtheGalaxyformed.
The Birth of the Milky Way
Thestructure,composition,andmotionoftheMilkyWayholdthekeystoitsorigin.
Thoughthetheoryofgalaxyformationisfarfromcomplete,wehaveafairlygood
pictureofhowourGalaxymighthaveformed.
Tentofifteenbillionyearsago,anenormouscloudofgasbegantocollapseunderits
owngravity.Thecloud,likemostoftheuniverse,wouldhavebeenmainlyhydrogen.
ItwouldhavehadamassequaltothatofallthestarsandgasintheMilkyWay
severalhundredbillionsolarmasses.
196 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
Thestarsthatformedfirstasthegreatcloudcollapsedassumedrandomlyoriented
ellipticalorbitswithnopreferredplane.Today,theoldeststarsinourGalaxy,which
arethoseintheGalactichaloandGalacticbulge,ringwiththeechoesoftheearly
days.TheyaretheasteroidsofourGalaxy,andtheGalactichaloisavestige,asou-
veniroftheGalaxysbirth.Indeed,theglobularclustersinthehalomayevenhave
formedpriortothecloudscollapse.
Inagravitationalcollapseprocessverysimilartothatwhichcreatedthesolarsystem,
thegreatcloudbeganrotatingfasteraroundagrowingmassatthecenterofthe
Galaxy.TherotationandcollapsecausedthecloudsofgastoflattenintotheGalactic
disk,leavingonlythoseearlystarsinthehalo.
BecausetheGalacticdiskistherepositoryofrawmaterials,itistheregionofnew
starformationintheGalaxy.TheGalactichaloisoutoffuelandconsistsonly
ofolder(cool)redderstars.TheorderlyrotationofstarsandgasintheGalactic
diskstandsincontrasttotherandomlyorientedorbitsofstarsinthehaloandthe
Galacticbulge.
Dark Matters
Whatyouseeiswhatyouget,thepopularsayinggoes.However,suchisnotalways
thecaseinastronomicalaffairs.
UsingKeplersThirdLaw,wecancalculatethemassoftheGalaxy.Thismass
(expressedinsolarmasses)canbederivedbydividingthecubeoftheorbitsize
(expressedinastronomicalunits,orA.U.)bythesquareoftheorbitalperiod(expressed
inyears).AndIsaacNewtontoldusthatatagivenradius,allofthemasscausingthe
rotationcanbeconsideredtobeconcentratedatapointatthecenterofrotation.Fora
systeminKeplerianrotation(likeaplanetarysystem),wewouldexpectthevelocities
ofrotationtodecreaseaswelookedfartherandfartherout.Jupiter,forinstance,orbits
moreslowlythanMercury.Takingthisapproach,wefindthatthemassoftheMilky
Waywithin15,000parsecsoftheGalacticcenterthatis,theradiusofthevisible
Galaxy(diameter~30,000parsecs)is210
11
solarmassesorabout200billionsolar
massstars.
CommonsensesuggeststhatthemassoftheGalaxydropsoffprecipitouslyaswerun
outofmattermovingtowardthevisibleouteredgeoftheGalaxy.Yetthepuzzling
factisthatmoremassiscontainedbeyondthisboundarythanwithinit.Somuchfor
commonsense!Whatcouldbegoingon?
Chapter 13: TheMilky Way: Our Very OwnGalaxy 197
Withinaradiusof40,000parsecsfromtheGalacticcenter,themassoftheMilky
Wayiscalculatedtobeabout610
11
solarmasses:600billionsolarmasses.This
meansthatasmuch,ifnotmore,oftheMilkyWayisunseenasisseen.Spiralgalaxies,
suchastheMilkyWay,havemass-to-lightratiosrangingupto10,eveninthevisible
partoftheirdisks.Thatis,luminousmatteronverylargescalesaccountsforonly10
percentofthematterthatwecanseeviagravity.
Sowhatisallthisotherstuffwecannotseedirectly?Whateveritsmakeup,itappar-
entlyemitsnoradiationofanykindnovisiblelight,nox-rays,nogammaradiation.
Butitcannothidecompletely.Weseeitbecauseithasmassanditsmassaffectsthe
wayinwhichthestarsandgasoftheMilkyWayorbit.
Astronomerscalltheregioncontainingthismassthedarkhalo,andtheMilky
Wayisnotaloneinpossessingsucharegion.Many,ifnotall,galaxieshavethesame
signatureintherotationoftheirstarsandgas.Presumably,thedarkhalocontains
whatelse?darkmatter,acatchalltermthatweusetodescribeavarietyofcandidate
objects.Thetruthis,werenotsurewhatdarkmatteris,butwedoknowitsthere
becauseweclearlycanseeitsgravitationaleffects.
Thenatureofdarkmatterisoneofthegreatestmysteriesofscience.Someastrono-
mershavesuggestedthatdifficult-to-detectlow-massstars(browndwarfsorfaintred
dwarfs)mightberesponsibleforthemassinthisregionalthoughrecentHubble
SpaceTelescopeobservationshavesuggestedaninsufficientquantityofsuchobjects
toaccountforsomuchmass.Ithasrecentlybeenestablishedthatneutrinosdohave
nonzeromass,sotheirpresencemightcontributetodarkmatter.Yetotherspropose
thatdarkmatterconsistsofhithertounknownsubatomicparticles,whichpervadethe
universe.Naturehasyettorevealthisparticularmystery.
In the Arms of the Galay
WehavereferredtoourownGalaxyasaspiralgalaxy,butwhatarethespiralarms
that,observedfromafar,appeartobearcsofbrightemission,curvingoutfromthe
centeroftheGalaxy?Theyareamongthemostbeautifulsightsintheuniverse.
Somespiralgalaxieshavetwoarms,othersmore,andsomearmsarelooselywound,
otherstightly.
HowdoweknowthattheMilkyWayconsistsofspiralarms?Usingthe21cm
hydrogenline,astronomershaveplottedthedistributionofneutralhydrogen(byfar
themostabundantelementintheGalacticdiskoranywhereelse).Bothpositionand
198 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
velocityofthehydrogencloudsarerequiredtomakethisplotbecauseitshowsa
dimensionthatisnotonthesky,namelydepth.Theseradioimagesconfirmthe
spiralstructureoftheMilkyWay.
RadiostudiesalsoconfirmthatwearefarfromtheGalacticcenter,locatedunosten-
tatiouslyonacuspbetweentwospiralarms.Spiralarmsthemselvesarenotthathard
toaccountfor,buttheirlongevityis.Inthenextchapter,wediscusshowspiralarms
mightarise,andhowtheycouldpossiblypersist.
Adetailoftheplaneofour
Galaxyasseeninneutral
hydrogen(HI)comesfrom
oneoftheprojectsmapping
ourGalaxy,theCanadian
GalacticPlaneSurvey
(CGPS).Thisimageisofa
star-formingregioninthe
directionoftheconstellation
Cygnus.
(ImagefromJ.English,A.R.
Taylor/CGPS)
Is There a Monster in the Closet?
ThecentralpartofourGalaxy(firstidentifiedbyHarlowShapley)isquiteliterally
invisible.Wecannotobserveitatoptical(visible)frequencies,butradioandinfra-
redfrequencyobservationshavetoldusmuchaboutthishiddenrealm.
Recentradio-frequencyobservationshaveidentifiedaringofmolecularmaterial
orbitingtheGalacticcenteratadistanceofperhaps8orsoparsecs:25light-years.
Therotationalvelocityofthisringtellsusthatthereareseveralmillionsolarmasses
ofmateriallocatedwithinitsradius.Otherradioobservations(sensitivetohotgas)
Chapter 13: TheMilky Way: Our Very OwnGalaxy 199
showthattheringitselfcontainsonlyasmallamountofionizedmaterial,nowhere
nearafewmillionsolarmasses.
Butwehavemoreclues:radioastronomershavepickedupstrongemissionsfroma
sourceintheGalacticcenterregioncalledSagittariusA*(pronouncedA-star)that
appearstobetinyonly1A.U.across,thesizeoftheorbitofEartharoundtheSun!
Thissourceappearstobethelocationofablackholeofseveralmillionsolarmasses
andisthesamesourcethathasbeenimagedwiththeneworbitingChandraX-ray
Observatory.Thex-rayemissionsfromtheGalacticcentershowthepresenceofhot
gasandajet,bothofwhichareoftenassociatedwiththepresenceofablackhole.
Finally,recentinfraredobservationsshowthattheGalacticcenterregioncontainsa
greatmanystars,closelypackedtogether.Thestarscannotaccountfortherequired
mass,buttheirhigh-velocityorbitstellussomethingelseaboutthetinySagittarius
A*source.Itcontainsallthatmass!
Thisx-rayimageofthe
Galacticcentertakenwith
theChandraX-rayObserva-
toryshowsthepresenceof
twolobesofhotgas(labeled)
perpendiculartotheGalactic
plane.Thesetypesoffeatures
areoftenassociatedwiththe
presenceofablackhole.
(ImagefromChandra/NASA)
CarefultrackingoftheorbitsofstarsintheinfraredaroundSagittariusA*have
shownthattheremustbeaverymassive,verycompactobjectlocatedthere.Stellar
orbitstellusthatthemassthestarsareorbitingis2.610
6
timesthemassofthe
sun.Thesehighvelocities,andthetinysizeofSagittariusA*,suggeststhatthestars
areorbitingasupermassiveblackhole:amonsterinourcloset.
200 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
Thisimageshowstheorbits
ofstarsnearthecenterof
ourownGalaxy,theMilky
Way.Thesizesoftheorbits
indicatethatthestarsare
orbitingsomethingvery
massiveandverycompact.
Theseorbitsaresomeofthe
strongestevidencetodatefor
ablackhole.
The Least You Need to Know
u OurhomeGalaxyistheMilkyWay,whichwecanseefromwithinasanarcof
fuzzyemissionacrossthesky.
u ThemaincomponentsoftheGalaxyarethedisk,thestellarhalo(containing
theglobularclusters),thenuclearbulge,andthedarkhalo.
u OursolarsystemisintheGalacticdiskoftheMilkyWay,25,000light-years
fromtheGalacticcenter.
u WecanonlyaccountforafractionofourGalaxysmasswithnormalmatter;
mostoftheGalaxysmassmustbecontainedinahaloofmaterial,consistingof
darkmatter.
u AstronomershavebuiltamapofthegasinthediskofourGalaxyusingradio
telescopes.
u AlargeamountofevidencesuggeststhatthecenterofourGalaxyharborsa
massiveblackhole.
l f l i
I i
u l l ifi i l i l lli i l i l
u i l i
u ini i l i
u l i l l
u l l i l i l i l
u ( )
u l
Vi i i
i i l i
l l i i l
i i i i ll i
ol l j i ifi i i i
i ll i l l i
l l i
i i i
i i i ini
l ( )
14
Chapter
A Ga ay o Ga a es
n Th s Chapter
Hubb esc ass cat onofga axytypes:sp ra ,e pt ca ,and rregu ar
Sp ra dens tywaves
Determ ngthed stanceofga ax es
Ga act cc ustersandsuperc usters
Ca cu at ngthemassofga ax esandga act cc usters
ThenatureofGammaRayBursts GRBs
Hubb esLaw
ewedw ththenakedeye,somestarsappearfuzz erthanothers.After
the nvent onofthete escope,weunderstoodwhyth swasso.Through
ate escope,someapparentstarsarereso ved ntothed sksofp anets,
some ntoreg onswherestarsareform ng,andothers ntoco ect onsof
dstars.Onec assofob ects dent ed nthee ghteenthandn neteenth
centur es,ca edsp ra nebu ae,causedgreatd sagreementamongastrono-
mers.C ear y,thesewerenotstars,andyettherewasnowaytof gureout
howb gtheywerew thoutknow nghowfarawaytheywere.
Th stypeofd sagreementhasoccurredaga nandaga nastronomy.
Morerecent y,thenatureofGammaRayBursts GRBs hasbeen
202 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
debated,buttheissueisthesame.AreGRBslower-energy,relativelynearbyphenom-
ena,oraretheyincrediblyenergetic,moredistantphenomena?Laterinthischapter,
weexplaintheyare,infact,thefinalmomentsofstarsindistantgalaxies.
BeforeEdwinHubbleextendedourconceptionofthesizeoftheuniverseinthe
1920s,weclassifiedallthesefuzzyobjectsasnebulaebecausetheywere,well,
nebulousandtheyweregenerallythoughttoliewithintheMilkyWay,which,in
turn,webelievedtobesynonymouswiththeentireuniverse.Wenowknowthatour
Galaxyisbutoneofmanyandthatthespiralnebulaeareentireothergalaxies,some
smallerandsomebiggerthanourown,allcontaininghundredsofbillionsofstars.
Andweseegalaxiesnomatterwherewelookinthesky.Whenwelookdeepenough,
theyarethere.SomearesoclosetheyarepartofourLocalGroup;othersareso
distanttheirlighthashadbarelyenoughtimetoreachussincetheuniversebegan.
Inthischapter,wetalkaboutgalaxiesotherthanourown.Astronomershavetwo
majorgoalsintheexplorationofothergalaxies.Thefirstistounderstandthemand
howtheyhaveevolvedwithtime.Thesecondistousethemasmodelstotellusmore
abouttheMilkyWay,ourowngalactichome.
Sorting Out the Galaies
Eachgalaxycontainsseveralhundredbillionstars,typicallyabout100timesasmany
starsastherearepeopleonourplanet.
Andmanygalaxiesareoutthere.
Fortunately,despitetheirmind-numbingnumbers,galaxiesarenotallcompletelydif-
ferentfromoneanother,buttheyfallintobroadgroupsthatwecanclassify,justlike
treesorbeetlesorclams.Buttheycouldntbeclassifieduntilwephotographedlarge
numbersofthem,startinginthemid-tolatenineteenthcentury,aftertheadventand
developmentofastronomicallyusefulphotographictechniques.
ThegreatAmericanastronomerEdwinHubble(18891953)cametotheMount
WilsonObservatoryinCaliforniain1922touseitsnew100-inch(2.5-meter)tele-
scopetostudynebulae.Afundamentalquestionremainedunansweredbackthen.
WerethesespiralnebulaeasbigasourGalaxyandincrediblydistant,asfirstsug-
gestedbyImmanuelKantinhisbookUniversalNaturalHistoryandTheoryofthe
Heavensintheeighteenthcentury?Orweretheymoremundane,relativelynearby
objects?Thehugesurfaceareaandhighresolutionofthe100-inchtelescopeallowed
Hubbletoseethatthesenebulae,likeourownMilkyWay,resolvedintoindividual,
faintstars.
Chapter 14: A Galaxy of Galaxies 203
Afterintrinsicvariablestarswereidentifiedinsomeofthesenebulae,astronomers
couldusetherelationshipbetweenperiodandluminositytodeterminetheirdistance.
CalculatingdistancesfromCepheidvariablestars,Hubblestunninglyconcludedin
1924thatmanyofthenebulaewerenotpartoftheMilkyWayatallbutweregalaxies
intheirownright.HethoughtAndromeda,forexample,wasalmost1millionlight-
yearsaway,faroutsidethelimitsofourownGalaxy;thisdistancehassincebeen
revisedupwardto2.5millionlight-years.Shortlyaftermakinghisdiscovery,Hubble,
amannoteasilyoverwhelmed,setaboutclassifyingthegalaxieshesaw.
Likemanyfirstimpressions,Hubblebasedhisclassificationsonappearance.He
establishedthreebroadcategories:spiral,elliptical,andirregular.Itwasntuntillater
thattheexplanationforthedifferentclasseswasunderstood.
Spirals: Catch a Density Wave
Intheprecedingchapter,wetookalonglookatoneexampleofaspiralgalaxy,the
MilkyWay.HubblelabeledallspiralgalaxieswiththeletterSandaddedana,
b,orc,dependingonthesizeofthegalacticbulge.Sagalaxieshavelargebulges,
Sbmedium-sizedbulges,andScthesmallestbulges.Veryclearlydefined,tightly
wrappedspiralarmsarealsoassociatedwithSagalaxies,whereasSbgalaxiesexhibit
morediffusearms,andScgalaxieshaveevenmorelooselywrapped,lessclearly
definedspiralarms.
AregioninNGC1365,
thisbarred-spiralgalaxyis
locatedinaclusterofgalax-
iescalledFornax.Thecentral
imagewasphotographed
throughaground-basedtele-
scope.Theimagestotheleft
andrightshowthecentral
bulgeasseenatopticaland
infraredwavelengthswith
theHubbleSpaceTelescope.
(ImagefromNASAand
M.Carollo)
204 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
Anotherspiralsubtypeisthebarred-spiralgalaxy,whichexhibitsalinearbarofstars
runningthroughthegalacticdiskandwhichbulgeouttosomeradius.Inbarred-
spiralgalaxies,thespiralarmstructuretypicallybeginsattheendsofthebar.The
barred-spiralsubgroup,designatedSB,alsoincludesthea,b,andcclassifications,
basedonthesizeofthegalacticbulgeandthewindingofthearms.TheMilkyWay
Galaxyappearstohaveabarstructurenearitscenter.
Ellipticals: Stellar Footballs
Ellipticalgalaxiespresentastrikinglydifferentappearancefromthespirals.When
viewedthroughatelescope,theylookabitdullcomparedtotheirflashyspiralcous-
ins.Theyhavenospiralarmsnoranydiscernablebulgeordiskstructure.Typically,
thesegalaxiesappearasnothingmorethanroundorfootball-shapedcollections
ofstars,withthemostintenselightconcentratedtowardthecenterandbecoming
fainterandwispiertowardtheedges.
Ofcourse,theorientationofanellipticalgalaxyinfluencestheshapeweseeinthe
sky;thatis,theapparentshapeofagivengalaxymightnotbeitstrue(intrinsic)
shape.Considerafootball.Viewedfromtheside,ithasasortofovalshape,butwhen
viewedend-on,itlookslikeacircle.Regardlessoftrueshapes,Hubbledifferentiated
withinthisclassificationbyusingapparentshape.E0(E-zero)galaxiesarealmost
circular,andE7galaxiesareveryelongated,orelliptical.TherestE1throughE6
rangebetweenthesetwoextremes.Astronomerscanuseobservationsofthemotions
ofstarsinellipticalgalaxies,combinedwithcomputermodeling,todeterminethe
trueshapeofaparticularellipticalgalaxy.
Anellipticalgalaxyhasnosuchthingasatypicalsize.Theirdiametersrangefroma
thousandparsecs(thesedwarfellipticalsaremuchsmallerthantheMilkyWay)toa
fewhundredthousandparsecs(giantellipticals).Thegiantellipticals,oftenlocatedin
thecenterofgalaxyclusters,aremanytimeslargerthanourGalaxy.
Likeanyclassificationscheme,Hubbleshasitsshareofduck-billedplatypuses,
objectsthatdontquitefitin.Someelliptical-shapedgalaxiesexhibitmorestructure
thanothers,showingevidenceofadiskandagalacticbulge.Theystilllackspiral
arms,andliketheotherellipticals,theydontcontainstar-forminggas.Thistypeof
galaxy(sinceitdoeshaveadiskandabulge)isdesignatedS0(pronouncedS-zero).
SomeofthesegalaxiesevencontainabarandaredesignatedSB0.
Chapter 14: A Galaxy of Galaxies 205
HicksonCompactGroup
(HCG)87consistsoffour
galaxies.Theedge-onspiral
atthebottomoftheimage
andtheellipticaltotheright
arebothknowntohave
activenuclei,mostlikely
relatedtothepresenceofa
blackhole.
(ImagefromAURA/STScl/
NASA)
Are These on Sale? Theyre Marked Irregular
Finallycomesthemiscellaneouscategoryofirregulargalaxies,whichlackanyregular
structure.Galaxiesinthisclasstypicallylookasiftheyarecomingapartattheseams
orarejustplainmessy.Unliketheellipticals,irregularsarerichininterstellarmate-
rialandareoftensitesofactivestarformation.
CloseEncounter
ThoseofusconfinedtoEarthsnorthernhemispheredontgettoseethemostspec-
tacularoftheirregulargalaxies,theSmallandLargeMagellanicClouds.Namedfor
thesixteenth-centuryexplorerFerdinandMagellan,whosemenbroughtwordofthem
toEuropeattheconclusionoftheirglobalvoyage,theMagellanicCloudsarerichin
hydrogengas.Theclouds,likemoons,arebelievedtoorbitthemuchlargerMilkyWay.
Likeanyobjectwithmassintheuniverse,galaxiesfeeltheirresistibletugofgravityand
arepulledintogroupingsbyitseffects.
206 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
Twoofthemostfamousirregulargalaxiesareveryclosetous:theLargeandSmall
MagellanicClouds.UsuallycalledtheLMCandtheSMCbyacronym-happyastron-
omers,theyarevisiblefromthesouthernhemisphere.TheseMilkyWaycompanions
(10timesclosertousthantheclosestspiralgalaxy)interactwitheachotherand
ourGalaxyviagravity,andbothcontainactivestar-formationregions.TheSmall
MagellanicCloudisstretchedintoanelongatedshapeduetothetidalforcesexerted
onitbyourGalaxy.
Galactic Embrace
IntheconstellationCanesVenaticiisMessierobject51(M51),theWhirlpoolgalaxy.
Itsdistinctshaperesemblesanoverheadviewofahurricaneor,lessdramatically,a
pinwheel.Brightcurvedarmsgrowoutofitshublikegalacticbulgeandwrappartway
aroundthegalacticdisk.ItiseasytoseethespiralpatternintheWhirlpoolgalaxy
becauseitfacesusatananglethatgivesusaspectacularoverheadviewratherthan
asideview,butwhatexactlyarethosecharacteristicspiralarms?
ThespiralWhirlpoolgalaxy
M51isseenwiththeVery
LargeArray(VLA)andthe
Effelsberg100-mat6cm.
Theshortlinesintheimage
totherightshowtheorienta-
tionsofthemagneticfields
embeddedinmaterialinthe
spiralarms.
(ImagefromNRAO/AUI)
Infact,theveryexistenceofthearmsdoespresentapuzzle.Weknowthestarsand
othermatterinthegalacticdiskorbitdifferentiallyfastertowardthecenter,some-
whatslowertowardtheperiphery.Thisrotationalpatternsoonstretchesanylarge
clumpofstarsorgasinthediskofaspiralgalaxyintoaspiralstructure.Itdoesthis
soquicklythatifdifferentialrotationweretoaccountforspiralarms,thearmswould
rapidlygetwrappeduparoundagalaxysbulgeanddisappear.Somehow,theMilky
Wayandotherspiralgalaxiesretaintheirspiralarmstructureforlongperiodsof
time,longenoughthattheyareplentifulintheuniverse.
Mostastronomersarenowconvincedthatthearmsofspiralgalaxiesaretheresult
ofcompressions,calledspiraldensitywaves,movingthroughagalaxysdisk.These
ripplesinagalaxysdiskmovearoundthegalacticcenter,compressingcloudsofgas
Chapter 14: A Galaxy of Galaxies 207
untiltheycollapseandformstars.Theionizedgassurroundinghot,youngstars,
formedbythepassageofadensitywave,iswhatweseeasspiralarmsintheoptical
partofthespectrum.
Thetheoryofspiraldensitywavesneatlyresolvestheproblemoftheeffectofdif-
ferentialrotation.Awaveisadisturbancethatmovesthroughmatter,likearipplein
apond.Thus,spiraldensitywavesmovethroughthematterofagalacticdiskandare
notcaughtupindifferentialrotation.Thestarstheyformmightgetstretchedoutby
thisdifferentialrotation,butthewaveskeeponmoving.
Acloseencounterbetweentwogalaxiesisonewaytotriggeradensitywave.
Computersimulationsclearlyshowfeaturelessdisksdevelopingspiralstructuresas
twogalaxiesapproachoneanother.Galaxycollisionsareslow-motiontrainwrecks,
takinghundredsofmillionsofyearstooccur,butweseeevidenceoftheiroccurrence
litteringtheuniverse.
How to Weigh a Galay
Inthesamewaywecannotdirectlymeasurethetemperatureofstars,wecannot
directlymeasuretheirmass.WemeasurethemassoftheSun,forinstance,byusing
KeplersThirdLaw.IfweknowthedistancetotheSunandtheperiodofEarths
orbit,wecancalculatetheSunsmass.Wecancalculategalaxymassesinthesame
way,onlytheobjectsorbitingarestarsandgasinsteadofplanets.
A Big Job
Plottingtherotationcurveofanindividualspiralgalaxythevelocityofdiskmaterial
versusthedistanceofthatmaterialfromthegalacticcentercanyieldthemassof
thegalaxythatlieswithinthatradius.Thismethodgivesagoodestimateaslongas
mostofagalaxysmassiscontainednearitscenter.Inthesolarsystem,forexample,
theouterplanetsrotatemuchmoreslowlythantheinnerplanets,inaccordancewith
KeplersThirdLawbecausethemassofthesolarsystem(99.9percentofit,anyway)
iscontainedintheSun.
Butastronomerssoonnoticedaproblemwithgalaxies.Objectsintheouterreaches
ofspiralgalaxies(cloudsofgasinparticular,cloudsofneutralhydrogencalledHI
clouds)orbitinawaythatindicatestheyseemoremassouttherethanwedohere
attheradiusoftheSun.Thatis,theyorbitfasterthantheyshould.Usingthe21cm
radiolineofhydrogentoseetheHI,astronomershavetracedtherotationcurveof
manygalaxiesfarbeyondtheoutermoststars.Thesecurvesseemtoindicatethat
208 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
thereismorematteratlargeradiiinthesegalaxies.Whateverhasthismass,though,is
somethingwecantseebecauseitisnotshiningatanywavelength.Therotationof
galaxiesindicatesthepresenceofthatmysteriousstuffastronomersdubdarkmatter.
AstronomersNotebook
Mostspiralgalaxiescontainfrom10
11
to10
12
solarmassesofmatter,muchofitlocated
farbeyondthevisibleradiusofthegalaxy.Largeellipticalgalaxiescontainaboutthe
samemass(butcanbeevenmoremassive),whereasdwarfellipticalsandirregulargal-
axiestypicallycontainbetween10
6
and10
7
solarmassesofmaterial.
Onthescaleofclustersofgalaxies,themass-to-lightratio,whichisabout10ingal-
axies,canbe100ormore.Thatis,luminousmatteronverylargescalesaccountsfor
only1percentofthematterthatweseeviagravity.
Its Dark Out Here
Becausedarkmatteraccountsforagreatdealofthemassofagalaxyupto10times
morethanthemassofvisiblemattertheshockingconclusionmustbethat90per-
centoftheuniverseisdarkmatter,utterlyinvisibleinthemostprofoundsenseofthe
word.Darkmatterneitherproducesnorreflectsanyelectromagneticradiationofany
sortatanywavelength.
Youcanthinkofitasanembarrassingtruthorasanexcitingunansweredquestion.
Thefactremains:werenotquitesurewhat90percentofthematterintheuniverse
ismadeof.
More Evidence, Please
OnegalacticcollisioninaregionofspacecalledtheBulletCluster(galaxycluster
1E0657-56)hasprovidedadditionalevidenceforthepresenceofdarkmatter.In
thisgalactictrainwreck,observedwithboththeHubbleSpaceTelescopeandthe
ChandraX-rayObservatory,thestarsanddarkmatterhavetornpastoneanother,
andthegaseshavemixedtogether.Theresultisapatchofmixedgasesinthemiddle
andtwopatchesofstarsoneitherside.
Mixedinwiththestarsismoremassthanthestarsthemselvescontain,andbecause
thegashasbeenstrippedawaybythecollision,theonlyexplanationforthemassis
darkmatter.Theseobservationsstilldonttelluswhatdarkmatteris;theyjustpro-
videmoreevidencethatitisthereandthatitismixedinwiththestars.
Chapter 14: A Galaxy of Galaxies 209
Lets Get Organized
Humanbeingsareinveteratepatternmakers.Menandwomenhavelookedatthesky
forcenturiesandhavesuperimposeduponthestarspatternsfromtheirownimagina-
tions.Althoughthemythologicalheritageofconstellationsisstillwithus,scientists
longagorealizedthatthetrueconnectionsamongtheplanetsandamongthestars
aremattersofmassandgravitationalforce,notlikenessesofmythologicalbeings.
Soaretheregravitationallydeterminedpatternstothedistributionofgalaxies
throughouttheuniverse?
Measuring Very Great Distances
Byradarranging,wecanaccuratelymeasurethedistancefromEarthtotheplanets,
butmeasuringthedistancetofartherobjects,namelythenearerstars,requiresmea-
suringstellarparallax.However,beyondabout100parsecs,parallaxdoesntworkwell
becausetheapparentangulardisplacementbecomessmallerthantheangularresolu-
tionofourbesttelescopes.
WecanusegasvelocitiesandamodeloftherotationoftheMilkyWaytomeasure
distanceswithinourownGalaxyouttoabout30,000light-years.Beyondthis,andout
to10to20millionparsecs(30to60millionlight-years),wecanidentifyandobserve
variablestars(theRRLyraeandCepheidvariables)inordertodeterminedistance.
ThetroubleisthatCepheidvariablestarsfartherthan15millionparsecsaredifficult
toresolveand,formosttelescopes,toofainttobedetected.Andmany,manygalaxies
arewellbeyond15millionparsecsaway.
Togetaroundthis,astronomershaveusedtwomethodstoestimateintergalactic
distancesgreaterthan15millionparsecs.OnetooliscalledtheTully-Fisherrelation,
whichusesanobservedrelationshipbetweentherotationalvelocityofaspiralgalaxy
anditsluminosity.Bymeasuringhowfastagalaxyrotates(astronomersusethe21-cm
hydrogenline),onecancalculateitsluminositywithremarkableaccuracy.Oncewe
knowtheluminosityofagalaxy,wecanmeasureitsapparentbrightnessandeasily
calculateitsdistanceouttoseveralhundredmillionparsecs.
Theothertoolismoregeneralandinvolvesidentifyingvariousobjectswhoselumi-
nosityweknow.Suchobjectsarereferredtoasstandardcandles.Ifwetrulyknowthe
brightnessofasource,wecanmeasureitsapparentbrightnessanddeterminehow
distantitis.A100-wattlightbulbisanexampleofastandardcandle.Itwilllook
210 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
fainterandfainterasitrecedesfromus,gettingdimmerasdistancesquared,andin
fact,wecandeterminehowfaritisbymeasuringitsapparentbrightnessversusits
known100-wattluminosity.
Astandard candle isanyobjectwhoseluminosityiswell-known.Wecanthenuseits
measuredbrightnesstodeterminehowfarawaytheobjectis.Thebrighteststandard
candlescanbeseenfromthegreatestdistances.
Gamma Ray Bursts as Candles
GammaRayBursts(GRBs) havebeenobservedfordecades,butonlyrecentlyhave
astronomerscometoaconsensusastowhattheymightbe.Observationally,theyare
pointsourcesofgammarayemissionthatappeartobelocatedatverygreatdistances.
SoifwecanunderstandthephysicsofGRBs,wehaveahopeofextendingour
distanceladderveryfarindeedoutfartherthanthehighestredshiftobjectsyet
observed.Theycanbeamilliontoabilliontimesbrighterthansupernovae.
Theburstsofgammaraysarenowthoughttobeassociatedwiththedeathofamas-
sivestarandthesubsequentbirthofablackhole.GRBsshouldallowustoseefarther
backintime,closertothetimeoftheBigBangthaneverbefore.
10
OneveryinterestingstandardcandleisaTypeIasupernova.Itisinteresting
becauseitspeakluminosityisveryregular,nottomentionenormous:10billionor
10
solarluminosities.WehavediscussedtheTypeIIsupernovae,thecorecollapse
ofamassivestar.TypeIasupernovaeoccurwhenawhitedwarfaccumulatesenough
materialfromitsbinaryredgiantcompaniontoexceed1.4solarmasses.Whenthis
happens,thewhitedwarfbeginstocollapse,andthecoreignitesinaviolentburstof
fusion.Theenergiesaresufficienttoblowthestarapart,producinganeventsolumi-
nouswecanseeitbillionsoflight-yearsaway.
The Local Group and Other Galay Clusters
Armednowwiththeabilitytomeasureverygreatdistances,wecanbeginlookingat
therelationshipsamonggalaxies.
Within1millionparsecs(3millionlight-years)oftheMilkyWaylieabout20galax-
ies,themostprominentofwhichisAndromeda(M31).Thisgalacticgrouping,called
theLocalGroup,isboundtogetherbygravitationalforces.
Chapter 14: A Galaxy of Galaxies 211
ThegenericnameforourLocalGroupisagalaxycluster,ofwhichthousandshave
beenidentified.Someclusterscontainfewerthanthe20orsogalaxiesoftheLocal
Group,andsomecontainmanymore.TheVirgoCluster,anexampleofarich
cluster,isabout15millionparsecsfromtheMilkyWayandcontainsthousandsof
galaxies,allboundbytheirmutualgravitationalattraction.Giantellipticalgalaxies
areoftenfoundatthecentersofrichclusterswherethereareveryfewspirals.
Thegalaxyclustercalled
Abell2218isabout2billion
light-yearsfromEarth.
Whenthesephotonsleftthe
cluster,lifeonEarthwas
verysimpleindeed.The
effectoftheunseenmass
inthisclustercanbeseenas
thearcsoflightthataredis-
tortedlightfrombackground
sources.Thisdistortion,much
likeviewingaroomthrough
awineglass,issometimes
referredtoaslensing.
(ImagefromNASA,
A.Fruchter,andtheEROteam)
Fromthevelocitiesandpositionsofgalaxiesinclusters,onethingisveryclear.We
cannotdirectlyobserveatleast90(perhapsasmuchas99)percentofthemassthat
mustbethere.Galaxyclusters,liketheouterreachesofspiralgalaxies,contain
mostlydarkmatter.
Superclusters
Galaxyclustersthemselvesaregroupedtogetherintowhatwecallsuperclusters.The
LocalSupercluster,whichincludestheLocalGroup,theVirgoCluster,andother
galaxyclusters,encompassessome100millionparsecs.
Ontheverylargestscaleswecanmeasure(hundredsofmillionsoflight-yearsacross),
theuniversehasanalmostbubbledorspongyappearance,withsuperclustersconcen-
tratedontheedgesoflargeemptyregionsorvoids.Inthefinalchaptersofthisbook,
weexplorethepossibleexplanationsforthislarge-scalestructure.
212 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
Where Does It All Go?
Thegalaxieswithinaclusterdontmoveinanorderlymanner.Likethestarsinthe
galactichalothatenvelopsaspiralgalaxy,thegalaxiesappeartoorbitthecluster
centerinrandomlyorientedtrajectories.Butonlargerscales,beyondtheconfines
ofasinglecluster,theredoesappeartobeorderlymotion,whichistheechoofacata-
clysmicevent:theeventthatbroughttheuniverseintobeing.
Hubbles Law and Hubbles Constant
Wehaveknownsincetheearlytwentiethcenturythatevery(sufficientlydistant)
spiralgalaxyobservedexhibitsaredshiftedspectrum,indicatingthatallofthesegal-
axiesaremovingawayfromus.RecalltheDopplereffect:wavelengthsgrowlonger
(theyredshift)asanobjectrecedesfromtheviewer.Theconclusionisinescapable:
allgalaxiespartakeinauniversalrecession.Thisistheapparentgeneralmovementof
allgalaxiesawayfromus.Thisobservationdoesntmeanweareatthecenterofthe
expansion.Anyobserverlocatedanywhereintheuniverseseesthesameredshift,per-
ceivingthatthegalaxiesareallmovingawayfromhisorherpointofview.
In1929,EdwinHubbleandMiltonHumasonfirstplottedthedistanceofagiven
galaxyagainstthevelocityatwhichitreceded.Theresultingplotwasdramatic.The
rateatwhichagalaxyisobservedtorecedeisdirectlyproportionaltoitsdistance
fromus;thatis,thefartherawayagalaxyisfromus,thefasterittravelsawayfrom
us.ThisrelationshipiscalledHubblesLaw.Itrelatesthevelocityofgalacticrecession
toitsdistancefromus.Simplystated,HubblesLawsaysthattherecessionalvelocity
isdirectlyproportionaltoitsdistancefromtheobserver.
ThisplotisHubblesoriginal
figurefromhis1929paper,
showingtheradialveloci-
tiesinkm/seconthex-axis
andhisestimatesoftheir
distances(inparsecs)onthe
y-axis.
(ImagecreditE.Hubble)
Chapter 14: A Galaxy of Galaxies 213
Toimaginewhatthisexpansiondescribes,pictureabunchofdotsonthesurface
ofatoyballoon.OurGalaxyisoneofthedots,andalloftheothergalaxiesinthe
universearetheotherdots.Asyouinflatetheballoon,thesurfaceoftheballoon
stretches,and,fromthepointofviewofanydot(galaxy),alltheotherdots(galaxies)
aremovingaway.Thefartherawaythedot,themoreballoonthereistostretch,so
thefasterthedotwillappeartorecede.
OnebenefitofHubblesLawisthatwecanuseittoextendourcosmicdistancescale
toextraordinarydistances.AlthoughtheTully-Fishertechniquewillgetusoutto
about200millionparsecs,andTypeIasupernovaetoafewbillionparsecs,Hubbles
Lawgoesfarther.Infact,HubblesLawgivesusthedistancetoanygalaxyforwhich
wecanmeasureaspectrum(inordertogettheDopplershift).Withthevelocity
fromthatspectrumandthecorrectvalueofHubblesconstant,wearrivequitesimply
atthedistance.
Butthereisatwist.Wehaveassumedthat
theuniversalexpansionhappensatacon-
stantrate.Isthisagoodassumption? Hubbles Law turnsonHubbles
constant (H
0
),theconstantof
Recentobservationssuggestthatitisnot.
proportionalitybetweenthe
Asfaraswecannowtell,theuniversehas
velocityofrecessionandthe
notalwaysbeenexpandingatthesamerate.
distancefromus.Thevalueof
Twomagnificentforcesareinopposition. H
0
isexpressedinkilometers
Thereistheexpansionoftheuniverse(aswe
persecondpermegaparsec
(amegaparsec[Mpc]is1mil-
willsee,setintoplaybytheBigBang),and
thereistheforceofgravity,pullingevery
lionparsecs)andisfoundtobe
twoparticleswithmasstogether,diminished
about65km/s/Mpc,meaning
thattheuniversehasanageof
bydistancesquared.Ifnothingwaspush-
about 14billionyears.
ingthingsapart,theuniversewould,due
togravity,collapsetoapoint.Thiswould
beaproblem,andEinsteinrecognizeditassuch.Whenhewasworkingongeneral
relativity,heneededtoaddatermhecalleditthecosmologicalconstanttohis
equationsinordertobalancetheforceofgravity,tokeeptheuniversepuffedup.
Thistermwasneededtokeeptheuniversestatic,asEinsteinandeveryoneelsethen
thoughtittobe.
Einsteins Blunder
ButthenEdwinHubblecamealongandshowedthattheuniversewashardlystatic;
infact,everythingwasrushingawayfromeverythingelse,andalthoughgravity
214 Part 4: Way Out of ThisWorld
mighteventuallywinout,theuniversewasntgoingtocollapsetoapointanytime
soon.Einsteinlatercalledtheintroductionofthecosmologicalconstantintohis
equationshisgreatestblunder.
Asitturnsout,however,Einsteinsblundermightnothavebeenamistakeatall.
Thecosmologicalconstantmightactuallybeneeded.Recentobservationsmadeby
scientistsofverydistant(high-redshift,inastronomerparlance)TypeIasupernovae
showsomethingverysurprising.Thesestandardcandlescanbeseenoutto7billion
light-years,andthedistancestothegalaxiesthattheyareinshowthattheuniverse
appearstohavebeenexpandingmoreslowlyinthepastthannow.Sonotonlyis
everythingrushingawayfromeverythingelse,but,thesedays,itsalsorushingaway
morequickly.Inotherwords,theexpansionoftheuniverseisaccelerating.
Andwhatiscausingittoaccelerate?Well,itmightbethevacuumenergythat
Einsteinthoughtheneededtosupporttheuniversefromcollapsingonitself.
Interestingly,thisforceincreaseswithdistanceasopposedtogravity,whichweak-
enswithdistance.Scientistshavedubbedthisnewenergyrequiredtopoweran
acceleratingexpansiondarkenergy,implyingthat,aswithdarkmatter,weknowit
isthere,butwedontknowwhatitis.
The Big Picture
Expansionimpliesabeginningintime.Inthecomingchapters,weexplorewhere
andhowtheexpansionmighthavebegunandthedetailsoftheexpansionitself.But
beforewemoveontosomeofthesebigquestions,letsturnourattentiontosome
ofthemostenergeticandunusualmembersofthegalacticfamily:thequasars,black
holes,andgalacticjets,allofwhichkeeptheuniversequiteactive,thankyouvery
much.
The Least You Need to Know
u EdwinHubblefirstclassifiedgalaxiesintothreebroadtypes:spiral,elliptical,
andirregular.
u Themajorityofthemass(90percent)ofmostgalaxiesandclusters(99percent)
ismadeofdarkmatter,materialwecannotobservebutonlyseebyitsgravita-
tionaleffect.
u Althoughseverallinesofevidenceexistthatconfirmdarkmatterisveryreal,we
arestillunsureofwhatitmightbe.
Chapter 14: A Galaxy of Galaxies 215
u Manygalaxiesaregroupedingalacticclusters,which,inturn,aregroupedinto
superclustersthatarefoundtogetherontheedgesofhugevoids.
u EdwinHubblefirstobservedthatgalaxiesrecedefromusatarateproportional
totheirdistancefromEarth;theconstantofproportionality,calledHubbles
constant,tellsustheageoftheuniverse.
u Theexpansionoftheuniverseappearstobeaccelerating,poweredbyanasyet
unexplaineddarkenergy.
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15
Chapter
Strange Ga a es
n Th s Chapter
stantga ax es,strangega ax es
Act vega ax es:Seyfertandrad oga ax es
Thedr ngforceofanact vega axy
Ga act ets
Compos onofaquasar
Dur ngtheDepress on,GroteReber,anout-of-workrad otechn an,
dec dedtok mebybu ngh sownrad ote escope nh sWheaton,
no s,backyard.Heassemb edh nstrument n1936,andbythe
1940s,Reberhadd scoveredthethreebr ghtestrad osources nthesky.
Hed dntknow tatthet me,buttwoofthemtheGa act ccenter,
Sag ttar usA andtheshrapne ofasupernovaexp os on,Cass ope aA
aresources nourownGa axy.However,theth rdrad osource,ca ed
CygnusA,turnedouttobemuch,muchfartherawayandfarstranger.
In1951,thep oneer ngGerman-Amer canrad oastronomersWa ter
BaadeandRudo phM nkowsk ocatedad mopt ca sourceatthepos on
ofCygnusAand,from tsspectrum,measuredaredsh ft or tsrecess ona
ve oc ty ofsome12,400m espersecond most20,000km .Whatever
twas,CygnusAwasmov ngawayfromusfast Forawh e,astronomers
220 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
triedtofigureouthowanobjectinourGalaxycouldbemovingsoswiftly.Itturned
outCygnusAwasntinourGalaxyatallbutveryfaraway.Later,astronomersdis-
coveredthatthiswassomethingneverbeforeseen:adistantinfernochurningoutthe
energyof100normalgalaxies.
Inthischapter,weexamineobjectslikeCygnusAandtheotherbehemothsthat
hidedeepintheheartsofdistantgalaxies.Theyaresomeofthemostenergeticand
bizarreobjectsintheuniverse.
A Long Time Ago in a Galay Far, Far Away
Becauseoftheirgreatdistanceshundredsofmillionsofparsecsawaythefarthest
normalgalaxiesareveryfaint.Atsuchextremedistances,itbecomesdifficulteven
toseesuchgalaxies,muchlessstudytheirshapesorhowtheyaredistributedinspace.
Butasfaraswecansee,littledifferenceexistsbetweennormaldistantgalaxiesand
normalgalaxiesclosertohome.
Theoperativewordhereisnormal.Outinthefarthestreachesofspace,weseesome
objectsthatarenotnormalatleasttheyarenotwhatwereaccustomedtoseeingin
ourcosmicneighborhood.
Whatdoesthistellus?Remember,theuniversehasaspeedlimit,thespeedoflight,
andinformationcantravelnofasterthanthisspeed.Thusthefartherawayacertain
starorgalaxymightbe,thelongerittakesitslight,andtheinformationitcontains,
toreachus.Thusnotonlyareweseeingfarintospace,weareseeingbackintotime.
Thestrangeobjectsthatlurkinthedistantuniverseexistedinitsearliesttimes.To
studytheseobjectsquasarsistopeerintotheoriginofgalaxies,includingperhaps
theoriginofourownMilkyWay.
Quasars: Looks Can Be Deceiving
Afterseeingthedetailed,high-resolutionopticalimagesofemissionnebulaeand
galaxiessuchasAndromeda,aquasarcanmakeadisappointingfirstimpression.
Althoughwecanseetheopticalcounterpartsofthebrightestofthemwithanama-
teurtelescopeonadarknight,theyareundistinguishedsourcesofvisiblelight.In
fact,theylooksomuchlikestarsthatastronomersatfirstthoughttheyweresimply
peculiarstars,andsodubbedthemquasi-stellarobjects.
Chapter 15: StrangeGalaxies 221
Butkeepinmindhowincrediblydistanttheseobjectsare.Theclosestquasarsaresome
700millionlight-yearsaway.Thoughtheirapparentbrightnessmightbesmall,their
luminositiestheamountsofenergythattheyputouteachsecondareastounding.
Quasarsappearopticallyfaintfortworeasons:theyemitmuchoftheirenergyinto
thenonvisiblepartofthespectrum,andtheyareverydistantobjects.
Thegreatdistancetoquasarsbecametrulyapparentinthe1960s.Thefirstquasars
werediscoveredatradiofrequencies,andopticalsearchesattheselocationsshowed
objectsthatlookedlikestars.Butthespectraofthesestarstoldadifferentstory.
Intheearly1960s,theastronomerMaartenSchmidtmadeastunningproposal.The
fourbrightspectrallinesthatdistinguishhydrogenfromtherestoftheelements
intheuniversewereseentobeshiftingtolongerwavelengthsmuchlongerwave-
lengths.Theseredshiftedlines,alongwithHubblesLaw,indicatedthatquasarswere
verydistantbillionsoflight-yearsaway,infact.
CloseEncounter
Inordertoseeobjectsthatareverydistant,suchasquasars,astronomers
needlarge-diametertelescopes,whichcollectmorelightandhavemoreresolution
thansmallerones.Aprojectunderway,calledOWLfortheOverWhelminglyLarge
Telescope,isnowgarneringfundingforconstructioninthecomingdecade.
Thistelescopewillbetrulystaggering,havingadiameterfrom60to100meters,which
presentsaformidabletechnicalchallenge,sincethisopticaltelescopewillbeaslarge
asthelargestradiotelescope.Justconsiderthatopticalwavelengthsaretinycompared
toradiowavelengths,andthesurfacesofthemirrormustbeperfect.Theplanistobuild
themirrorin3,048segments,each1.6macrossalmostasbigastheHubbleSpace
Telescopemirror!Intheplan,thesecondarymirrorwillbeovertwicethesizeoftheKeck
telescope,andtheactivemirror,whichcorrectsfortheEarthsturbulentatmosphere,will
bealmostaslargeasKeck.Astronomershopetohaveitoperationalby2020.
Quasar3C273(the3CstandsfortheThirdCambridgeCatalogue)hasitsspectral
linesredshiftedinvelocityby16percentofthespeedoflight.Asweknow,lightfroma
sourceisredshiftedwhentheobjectismovingawayfromus.InthecontextofHubbles
Law,suchdramaticredshiftsmeanthatquasarsarerecedingattremendousspeedsand
areveryfaraway.Thequasar3C273travelsatsome30,000milespersecond(48,000
km/s)andissome2billionlight-years(640millionparsecs)distantfromus.
222 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
ThisimagefromtheVery
LargeArrayshowsthe
detailedstructureofCygnus
A,locatedintheconstellation
Cygnus,theSwan.Oneof
thebrightestradiosourcesin
thesky,CygnusAisoneofa
largenumberofradiogalax-
iesthathavebeendiscovered
withjetsthatarisefrom
theregionaroundacentral
blackhole.
(ImagefromNRAO)
Itisanawe-inspiringthingtocontemplateanobjectsopowerfulandsodistant.
Quasarsaredistantandbrightbutalsosmall.Howdoweknowtheyaresmall?Many
quasarsflickerrapidlyvaryinginbrightnessonscalesofdays.Weknowthatlight
AstronomersNotebook
mustbeabletotravelacrossthesizeofanobjectfor
ustoseeitvaryinbrightness.Why?Becausefora
regiontoappeartobrighten,wemustdetectphotons
Quasars,amongthemostlumi-
fromthefarsideaswellasfromthenearsideofthe
nousobjectsintheuniverse,have
luminositiesintherangeof 10
38
objectthatisbrightening.Ifanobjectis1light-year
wattsto10
42
watts.Thesenum-
across,thebrighterphotonsfromthefarsideof
bersaverageouttotheequivalent
thesourcewillnotreachusuntilayearafterthe
of 1,000MilkyWayGalaxies. photonsonthenearside.Sothissourcecouldonly
flickeronscalesofayear.
Anyobjectthatflickersonscalesofmeredaysmustbesmalllight-daysacross,to
beexact.Thischaracteristicflickeringrevealsthatthesourceofenergyisperhaps
thesizeofoursolarsystempresumablyagaseousaccretiondisk,acollectionof
interstellarmaterial,caughtinthegravitationalfieldofasupermassiveblackholeand
spiralingtowardit.
Ifasupermassiveblackholeisthesourceofaquasarspower,thenabout10Sunlike
starsperyearfallingintotheblackholecouldproduceitsenormousluminosity.
Chapter 15: StrangeGalaxies 223
Quasars as Galactic Babies
Quasarsmightbemorethanstrange,distantpowerhousesoftheearlyuniverse.
Infact,theymightbepartofthefamilytreeofeverygalaxy,includingourown.
Perhapsallgalaxies,astheyform,startoutasquasars,whichbecomelessluminous,
lessenergetic,astheearlyfuelsupplyofthegalaxyisexhausted.Certainly,quasars
cannotburnfuelforeverattheprodigiousratesthattheydo.
Butwhatcouldfuelaquasar?Agenerationofstarsthatformsnearthecenterofthe
galaxyearlyinitslifecould,throughthenaturalmasslossthatoccursasstarsage,
providetheneededmass.Anotherpossibilityisagalactictrainwreck.Iftwogalaxies
collide,onecouldprovidefuelfortheothersdormantblackhole.Asthefuelarrives,
theblackholeonceagainlightsup.Bingo!Wehaveaquasar.
Whengalaxiescollide,star
formationisoftentheresult,
asseeninthelargeringof
starformationthatsur-
roundsthegalaxytotheleft
ofthetwosmallergalaxies.
ThisHubbleSpaceTelescope
imageshowsthefamous
cartwheelgalaxyand
theescapingculpritfrom
ahit-and-run.Oneofthe
twosmallgalaxiesnearthe
ringistheguiltyparty.The
brightringsurroundingthe
cartwheelgalaxyisteeming
withyoungmassivestars.
(ImagefromNASA)
A Piece of the Action
Fromwhatwehaveseensofarofgalaxies,therearentmanyslackers.Theyallseem
togetalotdoneinanaverageday.Thatis,theyallseemquiteactive.
Butactivegalaxyhasaspecificmeaningtoanastronomer.Indeed,whatastronomers
callactivegalaxiesmightwellbeanintermediateevolutionarystagebetweenquasars
andnormal(orperhapsweshouldsaymature?)galaxies.
224 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Betweenthegreatdistancestoquasarsandthemore
moderatedistancestoourlocalgalacticneighbors
Active galaxies aregalaxiesthat
areavastnumberofnormalgalaxiesandafewgalax-
havemoreluminouscentersthan
iesthataremoreluminousthanaverage,particularly
normalgalaxies.
intheircentralornuclearregion.Itistheselatter
objectsthatastronomerscallactivegalaxies.
Theexcessluminositytendstobeconcentratedinthenucleusofthegalaxy,andwe
refertothecentersofthesegalaxiesasactivegalacticnuclei.Asaclass,activegalax-
ieshavebrightemissionlinesimplyingthattheircentersarehotthatarevariable
onshorttimescales.Someofthemalsohavejetsofradioemissionsemanatingfrom
theircenters,stretchinghundredsofthousandsoflight-yearsintointergalacticspace.
The Violent Galaies of Seyfert
In1944,CarlK.Seyfert,anAmericanastronomer,firstdescribedasubsetofspiral
galaxiescharacterizedbyabrightcentralregioncontainingstrong,broademission
lines.Thesegalaxies,nowcalledSeyfertgalaxies,haveluminositiesthatvary,and
someshowevidenceofviolentactivityintheircores.
Seyfertgalaxieshaveseveraldistinguishingcharacteristics:
u SpectraemittedbySeyfertnucleihavebroademissionlines,whichindicatethe
presenceofveryhotgasorgasesthatarerotatingatextremevelocities.
u TheradiationemittedfromSeyfertgalaxiesismostintenseatinfraredand
radiowavelengthsandmustbe,therefore,nonstellarinorigin.
u TheenergyemittedbySeyfertgalaxiesfluctuatessignificantlyoverrathershort
periodsoftime.
AstroByte
AttheheartofallSeyfertgalaxiesissomethingrela-
Only1percentofallspiralgal-
tivelysmallbutextremelymassivemassiveenough
axiesareclassifiedasSeyfert
to(periodically)createthetremendousactivity
galaxies.Heresanotherway
evidentattheSeyfertgalaxynucleus.Onelikely
tothinkaboutthis:perhapsall
possibility?ThecoreofaSeyfertgalaxy,likethe
spiralgalaxiesexhibitSeyfert centerofourownGalaxy,mightcontainamassive
properties1percentofthetime.
blackhole.
Chapter 15: StrangeGalaxies 225
Cores, Jets, and Lobes: A Radio Galay Anatomy Lesson
Anotherkindofactivegalaxyiscalledaradiogalaxy.AlthoughSeyfertsareanactive
subclassofspiralgalaxies,radiogalaxiesareanactivesubclassofellipticalgalaxies.
Radiogalaxiescomeinmanytypes,oftenclassifiedbytheirshapes.Someradio
sourceshaveemissionsonlyintheirnucleus.Inothers,twonarrowstreams,orjets,
ofoppositelydirectedradioemissionsemergefromthegalaxynucleus.Thejetsin
theseso-calleddoubleradiosourcesoftenendinwispy,complexpuffsofradioemis-
sionsmuchlargerthanthecentralellipticalgalaxy,whicharecalledradiolobes.In
someradiogalaxieslobeemissionsdominate,andinothersjetemissionsdominate.
Oneremarkableaspectofthejetsofradioemissionsisthattheyareobservedover
suchahugerangeofscales.Thejetsinsomegalaxiesarelinearforhundredsofthou-
sandsoflight-years,andyetareobservabledowntothesmallestscalesthatwecan
seeafewlight-years.Astronomersthinkradiojetsarebeamsofionizedmaterial
ejectedfromnearthegalacticcenter.Thejetseventuallybecomeunstableanddis-
perseintolobes.
Theradiogalaxy3C31isshown
superimposedonanoptical
imageofthesameregion.In
theinsettotheright,theVery
LargeArrayimage( jets)is
superimposedonaHubbleSpace
Telescopeimageoftheregion.
Whenworld-classtelescopeslike
theVeryLargeArrayandthe
HubbleSpaceTelescopeimprove
theirresolutionsincoordination,
usefuloverlaysliketheseare
possible.
(ImagefromNRAO/NASA)
Materialinradiojetsisbeingacceleratedtoenormousvelocity.Insomeradiojets,
brightblobsofradioemissionsappeartobemovingfasterthanlight.Butholdyour
horses.Thatsnotallowed!Whatsgoingon?
Theapparentsuperluminalmotion(speedfasterthanlight)resultsfromjetsthatare
movingtowardus,givingtheillusionofimpossiblyhighvelocity.Theydonotdefy
anylawsofphysics.
226 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
CloseEncounter
Manydifferencesinastronomycomedowntoaquestionofperspective.Astrono-
mersarenotentirelycertainthatcore-haloradiogalaxies(withabrightcenteranda
diffuseenvelopeofemissions)andloberadiogalaxies(withadistinctbrightcenterand
diffuselobes)areuniqueobjects.Thatis,acore-halogalaxymightbenothingmorethan
aforeshortenedviewofaloberadiogalaxy.Ifthegalaxyhappenstobeorientedso
thatweviewitthroughtheendofoneofitslobes,itwilllooklikeacore-halogalaxy.
Ifwehappentoseethegalaxyfromitsside,wewilldetecttwowidelyspacedradio
lobesoneithersideofacentralcore.
Whatisthismysteriousradioemissionwehavebeendiscussing?Well,radioemis-
sionscomeintwobasicflavors.Oneisratherblandandtheotherabitmorespicy.
Theblandradioemissionisthermalemission,whicharisesmostcommonlyinregions
ofhot,ionizedgasliketheHII(Htwo)regionsaroundyoung,massivestars.This
typeofradioemissioncomesfromfreeelectronszippingaroundinthehotgas.
Thespicyvarietyissynchrotronemission,sometimescallednonthermalemission.This
typeofradiationarisesfromchargedparticlesbeingacceleratedbystrongmagnetic
fields.(Thenineteenth-centuryBritishphysicistJamesClerkMaxwellfirstdiscussed
theeffectsofmagneticfieldsonchargedparticles.)Theintensityofsynchrotronradi-
ationisnottiedtothetemperatureofthesourcebuttothestrengthofthemagnetic
fieldsthatarethere.Radiojets,filledwithchargedparticlesandlacedwithstrong
magneticfields,areintensesourcesofsynchrotronradiation.
Where It All Starts
Quasarsandactivegalaxiesaresourcesoftremendousenergy.Weknowthatstars
cannotaccountfortheirenergyoutputandthatmostoftheirenergyarisesfroma
smallregionatthecenterofthegalaxy.Sohowcanweaccountfortheknownprop-
ertiesofactivegalaxiesandquasars,includingtheirstaggeringluminosities?
Wealsoknowtherotationcurvesofmanygalaxiesshowevidenceoflargemassaccu-
mulationsinthecentralregions.Infact,themassescontainedaresolargeandin
suchasmallvolumethatastronomershaveinmanycasesconcludedthatablackhole
mustbepresentatthegalaxyscenter.
Ifablackholewerepresentinthecenterofactivegalaxies,alongwiththequasars
thattheymighthaveevolvedfrom,manyoftheobservedpropertiesofthesestrange
Chapter 15: StrangeGalaxies 227
galaxytypescouldbeexplained.Tobeginwith,thetremendousnonstellarenergy
outputoriginatinginacompactareapointstothegravitationalfieldandaccretion
diskofablackhole.
Butnotjustanyblackhole.
AstronomersNotebook
Theseblackholesdwarfstellar-massblack
Rememberthefluctuationsin
holesthatarisefromthedeathofamassivestar.
brightnessseeninSeyfertgalaxies
Theseblackholesaresupermassiveblackholes.
andquasars?Thesefluctuations
ThecenterofourownGalaxy,theMilkyWay,
mightbeexplainedbybrightness
fluctuationsintheaccretiondisk
appearstocontainablackholewithmorethan
theswirlingdiskofgasspiraling
1millionsolarmasses.Toaccountforthemuch
towardtheblackhole.
greaterluminosityofanactivegalaxy,themass
mustbemuchhigherperhaps1billionsolar
masses.
Ifblackholesareactivegalaxyandquasarengines,wecanexplaintheluminosityof
theseobjectsastheresultofgasthatspiralstowardtheblackholeatgreatvelocity,
becomingheatedintheprocessandproducingenergyintheformofelectromagnetic
radiation.X-rayphotonsareoftenproducedbythisprocess,andtheseareinfactvis-
iblewiththenewChandraX-rayObservatory.
Intheblackholemodel,theradiojetariseswhenthehotgasstreamsawayfromthe
accretiondiskinthedirectionofleastresistanceperpendiculartotheaccretion
disk.Thesejets,then,canstreamawayfromthediskintwodirections,givingriseto
theoppositelydirectedjets.
Thisimageshowsthejetassociated
withthequasar3C273.Onthe
leftistheopticalimage( from
theHubbleSpaceTelescope).In
themiddleistheChandraX-ray
Observatoryimage,andonthe
rightistheradioimageofthejetas
seenbytheMulti-ElementRadio
LinkedInterferometerNetwork
(MERLIN).Noticethatthe
differentwavelengthsemphasize
differentpartsofthejet.
(ImagefromNASA,Chandra,and
Merlin)
228 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Ifblackholesexistatthecentersofallormostgalaxies,thenthedifferencesbetween
quasars,radiogalaxies,Seyfertgalaxies,andnormalgalaxiesisnottheenginebut
thefuel.Whenfuelisplentiful(asitwasearlyintheuniverse),thecoresofallgalax-
iesmightburnbrightasaquasar.Later,theywouldmovethroughaquieter,yetstill
activephaseasSeyfertorradiogalaxies.Laterstill,atourepochintheuniverse,with
fuellessplentiful,mostblackholesliedormant.Modelsofgalaxyevolutioncontinue
tobehotlydebated(atleastbyastronomers),buttheexistenceofcentralblackholes
mightanswermanyquestions.
Heresaclosingthought,then.Letssayyoutakethetroubletofindthequasar3C
273foryourself.Youseeaquasarbutthelightthatyouseeleftthegalaxysome
2billionyearsago.Thequasaryouseemightnow(nowasitisexperiencedatthe
distantlocationofthe3C273)beamorematuregalaxy,notunliketheMilkyWay.
Perhapsonsomeplanetorbitinganaveragestarsomewhereinthedistantuniverse,
anamateurastronomerispointingatelescopeatourMilkyWay,whichappearsto
himorheroritasafaint,bluishbloboflight:aquasar.
The Least You Need to Know
u Quasarswerefirstdiscoveredatradiowavelengthsandaresomeofthemostdis-
tantastronomicalobjectsvisible.
u Quasarsmightbetheancestorsofallgalaxies,theviolentbeginningsofusall.
u Activegalaxiesareanygalaxiesthataremoreluminousthanwhatwecallnor-
malgalaxies,withbrightstarlikecoresandbroad,strongemissionlines.
u Seyfertgalaxiesaretheactivesubsetofspiralgalaxies,andradiogalaxiesarethe
activesubsetofellipticalgalaxies.
u Radiojetsoriginateatthecoresofactiveellipticalgalaxiesandterminatein
wispypatchesofemissionscalledlobes.
u Supermassiveblackholesarethemostlikelysourceofenergyforquasarsand
activegalaxies.
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16
Chapter
Cosmo ogy and Cosmo og es
n Th s Chapter
The obdescr pt onofa censedcosmo og st nt: tdoesnt nvo ve
makeup
Understand ngthecosmo og ca pr nc
abouttheB gBang
Cr ca dens tyandtheexpand ngun verse
Matterfromenergyandenergyfrommatter
Cosmo ogy.Thewordhasanarcha cr ngto t.Andthatsnowonder
becausecosmo ogyhasbeenpartoftheEng sh anguages nceat eastthe
1600sanddescr besthestudyofsomeoftheo destandmostprofound
ssueshumank ndhaseveraddressed:thenature,structure,or n,and
fateoftheun verse.Thosearesomeb gquest ons
At tsroot sthewordtheGreekph osopherPythagorasusedtodescr be
theun verse,kosmos,andforcentur es,cosmo ogywastheprov nceof
ph osophersandpr ests.Inth schapter,we ookatwhathappenedwhen
astronomerstack edthesub ect nthetwent ethandtwenty-f rstcentur es.
230 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
The Work of the Cosmologist
Manyofusgrewupthinkingthattheuniversewasbothinfiniteinsizeandeternal
intime.Theplanetsmightmoveinthesky,and,fartheraway,starsmightorbitthe
centersofgalaxies,butonthelargestscales,certainlytheuniversemustbechange-
less.Ithasalwaysbeenanditwillalwaysbe.How,afterall,coulditbeotherwise?
Thiswasjustonepossibilitytoconsiderasmoderncosmologistsbegantostudythe
universe.Perhapsitneverhadabeginning,butofcourse,virtuallyeveryculture,
mythology,andreligionhasthoughtotherwise.Civilizationaboundswithcreation
storiesmythologicalandreligiousnarrativesthatexplainedtheoriginoftheuni-
verse.IntheJudeo-Christiantradition,forexample,Godsaid,Lettherebelight.
Andthereitwas.Muslimsbelievethat,inthetimebeforetime,therewasonlyGod,
who,whenHewantedtocreatesomething,neededonlypronouncetheverbbe.Soit
wasthattheworldandtheheavenscameintobeing.InHinduismtherearediverse
beliefsabouttheoriginoftheuniverse,butmanybelievetheuniversecyclically
recreatesitselfonceallkarmaisextinguished.SomeBuddhistsbelievetheworldrec-
reatesitselfeverytinyfractionofasecond.
AstronomersNotebook
Thehumanmindnaturallylooksfororigins,begin-
nings,andgrandopenings,andinthetwentieth
Fordecades,astronomershadto
century,scientificcosmologistsstumbledacross
strugglewithcosmologicalques-
twoimportantbitsofevidenceofthebiggestgrand
tionsbasedonabareminimum openingever,evidencethattherehad,infact,beena
ofobservationalevidence.The
beginning.
pasttwodecadeshaveprovided
observersandtheoristswitha
Moderncosmologistshaveputtogetheracreation
wealthofnewinformationabout
storyoftheirown.Itistheresultofoveracentury
whattheuniverselookedlikein ofobservation,modeling,andtesting.Themodelis
itsinfancy.Theseobservational
sowellestablishedthatitisgenerallyreferredtoas
clueshavetriggeredanexplosion
thestandardmodel.AsStevenWeinbergpointsout
inourunderstandingoftheorigin
inhisaccountofthestartofitall,TheFirstThree
oftheuniverse.
Minutes(BasicBooks,1993),thestudyoftheori-
ginsoftheuniversewasnotalwaysascientifically
respectablepursuit.Onlyinrelativelyrecentscientifichistoryhavewehadobserva-
tionaltoolsrigorousenoughtotesttheoriesofhowtheuniversebegan.
Chapter 16: Cosmology and Cosmologies 231
Two New Clues
Thetwentiethcenturythrewsomemajorcurveballsatthehumanpsyche,from
thecarnageoftwoworldwarstotheinventionofthehydrogenbomb,capableof
releasingthefuryofastellarinterioronthesurfaceofourplanet.Andalthoughthe
seventeenthcenturysawEarthpushedfromthecenteroftheknownuniverse,itwas
earlytwentieth-centuryastronomerswhotoldusthatwewerelocatedinthesuburbs
ofanaveragegalaxy,hurtlingawayfromalltheothergalaxiesthatwecansee.
Whyareweallflyingawayfromoneanother?Becausetheuniverseexplodedinto
beingabout14billionyearsago!
Redshifting Away
FromourstudyofHubblesLawandHubblesconstant,weknowbyobservingthe
redshiftinthespectrallinesofgalaxiesthatallthegalaxiesintheuniversearemov-
ingawayfromusandthosefarthestawayaremovingthefastest.Wealsoknowwe
arenotinaspeciallocationandanyobserverinanygalaxywouldseeexactlywhat
wedo.
ArmedwithHubblesLawandavaluefortheHubbleconstant,wecaneasilycalcu-
latehowlongithastakenanygivengalaxytoreachitspresentdistancefromus.In
auniversethatisexpandingataconstantrate,wesimplydividethedistancebythe
velocity.Theanswerforallthegalaxiesweseeisabout14billionyears.
Soifwewereabletorewindtheexpandinguniversetoseehowlongitwouldtakefor
allthegalaxiesthatareflyingaparttocometogether,theanswerwouldbecloseto
14billionyears.
Pigeon Droppings and the Big Bang
TheRussian-bornAmericannuclearphysicistandcosmologistGeorgeGamow
(19041968)wasthefirsttopropose,inthe1940s,thattherecessionofgalaxies,
whichweveknownaboutsincethe1920s,impliedthattheuniversebeganinaspec-
tacularexplosion.Thiswasnotanexplosioninspacebutanexplosionofallspace.
Theexplosionthatstartedtheuniversefilledtheentireuniverse;thatis,atthe
instantofcreation,theuniversewasanexplosion.
Later,BritishmathematicianandastronomerSirFredHoyle(19152001)coinedthe
termBigBangforthisevent.Andhedidnotintenditasacompliment.Ifthephrase
232 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
soundssillyandtrivial,itsbecauseHoylethoughttheideaofaprimordialexplosion
wassomethinglikethat,sillyandtrivial.Therefore,withastronomersHermanBondi
andThomasGold,Hoyleproposedanalternative,whathecalledthesteadystate
theoryoftheuniverse,whichholdsthattheuniverseiseternal,withoutbeginningand
withoutend.
DespiteHoylesderisiveintentions,thenameBigBangstuck,andquitesoonafter
Gamowputforththetheory,othertheoristsrealizedthatiftherewereanoriginas
proposed,theearlyuniversemusthavebeenincrediblyhotandtheelectromagnetic
echoesofthiscolossalexplosionshouldthereforebedetectableaslong-wavelength
radiationthatwouldfillallspace.Thisradiationwascalledthecosmicmicrowaveback-
ground.Inshort,thiswasonecreationmyththattheycouldtest.
Thescienceofradioastronomywastheaccidentalby-productofatelephoneengi-
neerssearchforsourcesofannoyingradiointerference.Anotherradio-frequency
accidentresultedinanevenmoreprofounddiscovery.From1964to1965,twoBell
TelephoneLaboratoriesscientists,ArnoPenziasandRobertWilson,wereworking
onapioneeringprojecttorelaytelephonecallsviasatellites.Wherevertheydirected
theirantennaonthesky,however,theydetectedthesamefaintbackgroundnoise.
Thenoisewasnotassociatedwithanyparticularpointontheskybutwasthesame
everywhere.Inanefforttoremoveallpossiblesourcesofinterference,theywentso
farastoscrapeoffthepigeondroppingstheyfoundontheantennabecausethese
wereapotentialsourceofheatenergy,whichcouldbeasourceofradiointerference.
Butevenwhentheirantennawascleanasawhistle,thenoisepersisted.
Thenoisetheyhadstumbledacrosswastheverycosmicmicrowavebackground
thathadbeenpredicted,thehighlyredshiftedphotonsleftbehindbytheBigBang.
Thetheorygoeslikethis:immediatelyaftertheBigBang,theenergyliberated
wasmostintenseintheshortest,highest-energy
AstroByte
wavelengthsgammarays.Astheuniverseexpanded
andcooledovermillions,thenbillionsofyears,the
AstronomersJohnC.Mather
wavesexpandedaswell,reachingustodayaslong-
andGeorgeSmootwonthe
wavelengthphotonsinthemicrowavepartofthe
NobelPrizeinPhysicsin2006
fortheirworkonthecosmicback-
electromagneticspectrum.
groundradiation.Forthefirsttime,
Thismicrowaveradiationcarriesinformationfrom
thedatamappedtinyripplesin
theearlymomentsofouruniverse.Itistherem-
thebackgroundradiationthat
nantechooftheBigBangpermeatingtheuniverse,
existedonlyafewhundredthou-
sandyearsaftertheBigBang.
evidencethatinpasttimestheuniversewasamuch
hotterplacethanitisnow.Tostudythisechoin
detail,scientistslaunchedtheCosmicMicrowave
Chapter 16: Cosmology and Cosmologies 233
BackgroundExplorer(COBE)satelliteinNovember1989.Inthefirstfewminutesof
operation,itmeasuredthetemperatureofthebackgroundradiationtobe2.735K.
TheCOBEDifferential
MicrowaveRadiometer(DMR)
foundvariationsinthecosmic
microwavebackground(shown
hereasbrightnessvariations)
aboveandbelowatemperature
of2.73K.Thevariationsare
tinyatthelevelofafewparts
inamillion.
(ImagefromNASA/COBE)
Thedatafromthissatelliteenabledscientiststomakegreatimprovementsonthe
early,crudemappingsofthecosmicmicrowavebackground.Inaddition,wehavealso
learnedfromCOBEthatthesolarsystemhasasmallmotionrelativetothecosmic
microwavebackground.Finally,in1992,COBEdatarevealedyetanotherexciting
fact:therearetinyfluctuationsontheskyinthisbackgroundradiation;itisnot
exactlyhomogeneousorsmooth.Thesetemperaturedifferencesaretheresultofden-
sityfluctuationsintheearlyuniverse,whichappeartohaveseededtheuniversefor
theeventualformationofgalaxies.
Same Old Same Old
EdwinHubblealsomadetwoveryimportantdiscoveriesinhisstudiesofgalaxy
typesanddistributions.Hefoundthattheuniverseappearedtobebothisotropic(the
sameinalldirections)andhomogeneous(onevolumeofspaceismuchlikeanyother
volumeofspace).
Hisconclusionwastheresultofpainstakingstudyofthedistributionandtypeofa
largenumberofgalaxiesatvariousredshiftsordistancesfromEarth.
Together,thehomogeneityandisotropyoftheuniversemakeupthecosmological
principle,oneofthecornerstoneassumptionsofmoderncosmology.Ifwecouldnot
makethisassumptionwhichisbasedonobservationthenourcosmologymight
onlyapplytoaverylocalpartoftheuniverse,butthecosmologicalprincipleenables
ustoextrapolateconclusionsdrawnfromourlocalviewpointtothewholeuniverse.
234 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Considertheseimportantimplications:ahomoge-
neousuniversecanhavenoborderoredgebecause
Thecosmological principle isa
itisthesameinanyvolume,norcanithaveacenter
cornerstoneassumption(based
becauseitshouldlookthesameinalldirectionsfrom
onobservation)aboutthenature
anyviewpoint.
oftheuniverse.Itholdsthatthe
universeexhibitstwokeyproper- Earlier,weintroducedthemostfamiliarmodelof
ties:homogeneity(samenessof
theexpandinguniverse:atoyballoon,onwhichwe
structureonthelargestscales)
randomlydrewsomedotswithamagicmarkerto
andisotropy(itlooksthesamein
representgalaxies.
alldirections).
Ifyou,asatwo-dimensionalbeing,lookoutinto
yourtwo-dimensionaluniversethatis,outintothe
balloonssurfaceyouseenocenterandnoedge,andiftheballoonisinflated,the
dotsmoveawayfromoneanother.Regardlessoftheirpointofview,allthedotssee
alltheothersasmovingaway.
Ofcourse,theballoonmodelhasitslimitations.Iftheuniverseisrepresentedbythe
surfaceofaballoon,thenwearetalkingstrictlyaboutatwo-dimensionaluniverse.
Ifyoucandrawonlyonthesurface,thereiseffectivelynoinsideoftheballoon.
Nevertheless,atwo-dimensionalmodelofourthree-dimensionaluniversehelpsus
picturetheexpansion.Anotherpointtorememberisthattheballoonmodelrep-
resentsacloseduniverse,whichwediscussinthenextchapter.Inaninfiniteand
flatuniverse,werepresentedtheuniversewithaninfinitelylargerubbersheet,
whichwestretchedinalldirections.
Big Bang in a Nutshell
Youmightbesittingtherethinking,ButwhatcausedtheBigBang?
Thatisaquestionmostlyoutsidetheboundsofastronomyandphysics.Scientistscan
onlyhopetounderstandthingsofthisuniverse,andwhatevercausedtheBigBangis
inherentlyunobservable.
Universalrecessionintimemeanstheuniverseisexpanding,andexpansion,in
turn,impliesanorigintime.Astronomersbelievethatatitsorigin,theuniversewas
unimaginablydense.Theentireuniversewasapoint,withnothingoutsidethepoint.
About14billionyearsago,theentireuniverseexplodedintheBigBang,andtheuni-
versehasbeenexpandingeversince,coolingandcoalescingintoevermoreorganized
statesofmatter.Oneveryhighlyorganizedstateofmatter(you)isreadingthisbook.
HubblesLawdescribestherateoftheobservedexpansion.
Chapter 16: Cosmology and Cosmologies 235
Big Bang Chronology
TheprehistoryoftheBigBangisinherentlyunknowable,butweareabletodiscuss
whathappenedverysoonaftertheBigBang.Andwedomeanverysoon.Fromabout
1
100 ofasecondaftertheBigBangonward,wecanoutlinethemajorstepsinthe
evolutionoftheuniverse,whichisbasicallyastoryofcoolingandexpanding.Fora
thoroughreviewofmoderncosmology,seeTimothyFerrissexcellentandhumorous
TheWholeShebang(Touchstone,1998).Andyoucanfindanexpandedandmoretech-
nicaltakeontheearlymomentsoftheuniverseinStevenWeinbergsTheFirstThree
Minutes(BasicBooks,1993).
Attheearliesttimeswecantrack,theuniversewasincrediblyhot(10
11
K)andfilled
withelementaryparticles,thebuildingblocksofatoms:electrons,positrons,neutri-
nos,andphotonsoflight.Andforeverybillionorsoelectronspresentatthistime,
therewasoneheavyparticle(aneutronorproton).
Inthisroilingsoupanentireuniverse
hotterthanthecoreofastarenergyand
matterweregoingbackandforthaselec-
tronsandpositronsannihilatedtoproduce
energy,andmorewerebornfromtheener-
geticphotonsthatfilledtheuniverse.At
about1secondintothelifeoftheuniverse,
thetemperatureeverywherewas10
10
K,
stilltoohotforneutronsandprotonstobe
boundintonuclei.
Particlesandantiparticlesannihi-
late whentheymeet,converting
theirmassintoenergy.Electrons
andanti-electrons(positrons)were
continuallycreatedandannihi-
latedintheearlyuniverse.
Astheuniverserapidlycooled,afteramere10to15seconds,therewasinsufficient
energytocreatenewelectronsandpositrons,somostofthemannihilated,without
newonestakingtheirplace.Itwascoolenoughatthispointforheliumnuclei(two
protonsandtwoneutrons)toform,buttheycouldonlyformafterdeuterium(aniso-
topeofhydrogenconsistingofoneprotonandoneneutron)formed.Theinstability
ofdeuteriumatthistemperaturemeansthattheuniversestillcouldntformmuch
helium.
Afteraboutthefirstthreeminutesofitsexistence,theuniversehadcooledtosome1
billiondegrees.Mostoftheelectronsandpositronshadannihilated,andtheuniverse
thenconsistedofphotonsoflight,neutrinosandantineutrinos,andarelativelysmall
amountofnuclearmaterial.Ataboutthistime,deuteriumnucleiwereabletohold
together,andtheentireuniverse(foramoment)actedlikethecoreofastar,fusing
heliumandsmallamountsoflithiuminaphasecalledprimordialnucleosynthesis.
236 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Theuniversewasstillfartoohotforelectronstocometogetherwithnucleitoform
stableatoms.Notuntilabout300,000yearslater(whentheentireuniversewasatthe
temperatureofastellarphotosphere)wouldnucleibeabletoholdontoelectrons.It
wasntuntilafterthisfirst300,000yearsthattheuniversebecametransparenttoits
ownradiation.
Whatdoesthatmean?
Beforetheelectronssettledoutintoatoms,theygotinthewayofallthephotonsin
theuniverseandkeptcollidingwiththem.Withtheelectronsclearedoutofthe
picturegrabbedbynucleitheuniverseshiftedfromaradiation-dominatedstateto
amatter-dominatedstate.
Heresanotherwaytothinkaboutthisidea:forthefirst300,000yearsaftertheBig
Bang,theuniversewasfoggywithelectrons.Thiselectronfogmadetheuni-
verseopaquetoitsownphotons.Whentheuniversewascoolenoughforelectrons
andnucleitocombine,itsuddenlybecametransparent.Thecosmicmicrowaveback-
groundcomesfromthosefirstfreedphotons.
Fromthispointon,theuniversecontinuedtocoolandcoalesce,eventuallyforming
thestarsandgalaxiesoftheobservableuniverse.
A Long Way from Nowhere
NowjustwheredidthisBigBangoccur,youmightbewondering?
IftheBigBangtookplacesomewhere,thatplaceis,bydefinition,thecenterofthe
universe.Yetthecosmologicalprincipleforbidsanysuchcenter.TheBigBangmight
resolvesomeopenquestions,butitalsotorpedoes
AstroByte
thecosmologicalprinciple.
AtthemomentoftheBig
Well,actually,itdoesntaslongasweconcludethat
Bang,theentireuniversecame
theBigBangtookplaceeverywhere.Andtheonlyway
intobeing.Astheuniverse suchaconclusioncouldbetrueisiftheBigBang
cooled,theelementshydrogen
wasnotanexplosionwithinanemptyuniverselike
(73percent)andhelium(27
amovieexplosion,saybutwasanexplosionof
percent)werecreatedinthepri-
theuniverseitself.Atearlytimesintheuniverse,
mordialfireball,alongwithsmall
itsentirevolumewashotterthanastellarinterior.
amountsoflithium.
Theuniversewasandisallthatexistsandhasever
existed.
Chapter 16: Cosmology and Cosmologies 237
Lookedatthisway,itisasymptomofgeocentricbiastosaythatthegalaxiesare
recedingfromus.Rather,theuniverseitselfisexpanding,andthegalaxies,ourselves
included,aremovingalongwiththatexpansion.
How Was the Universe Made?
Radiationdominatedovermatterintheearlyuniverse.Althoughphotons(radia-
tion)stilloutnumberatoms(matter)byaboutabilliontooneintheuniverse,matter
nowcontainsfarmoreenergythanradiation.Asimplecalculation,usingEinsteins
celebratedequationshowingtheequivalenceofenergyandmass,E=mc
2
,demon-
stratesthatmatter,notradiation,isdominantinthecurrentuniverse.Theenergy
containedinallthemassintheuniverseisgreaterthantheenergycontainedinall
theradiation.
Thereisatwisthere,however,whichweexploreinthenextchapter.Theentireuni-
versemightbedominatedbydarkenergydrivingitscontinuedexpansion.
Astheuniverseexpands,bothradiationandmatterbecomelessconcentrated;they
travelwiththeexpansion.However,theenergyoftheradiationisdiminishedmore
rapidlythanthedensityofmatterbecausethephotonsareredshifted,becomingless
energeticastheirwavelengthlengthens.Thus,overtime,matterhascometodomi-
natetheuniverse.
Mommy, Where Do Atoms Come From?
Whenwelookedatfusioninthecoresofstars,wenotedthathydrogenservedas
thenuclearfuelinaprocessthatproducedhelium.Yetsomuchheliumisinthe
universeitaccountsformorethan23percentofthemassoftheuniversethat
stellarfusioncannothaveproduceditall.Itturnsoutthatmostoftheheliumin
theuniversewascreatedinthemoments
followingtheBigBang,whentheuniverse
AstroByte
hadcooledsufficientlyfornucleitohold
together,afteraboutthefirstthreeminutes.
Whentheentireuniversewas
thetemperatureofacool
Hydrogenfusionintheearlyuniversepro-
stellarphotosphere(about
5,000K),electronswereableto
ceededmuchasitdoesinthecoresofstars.
Aprotonandaneutroncometogetherto
jointogetherwithnuclei,forming
formdeuterium(anisotopeofhydrogen),
hydrogenandheliumatomsand
causingtheuniversetobecome
andtwodeuteriumatomscombinetoform
transparenttoitsownradiation.
aheliumnucleus.
238 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Carefulcalculationsshowthatbetween100and120secondsaftertheBigBang,
deuteriumwouldbetornapartbygammaraysassoonasitwasformed.However,
afterabouttwoorthreeminutes,theuniversehadsufficientlycooledtoallowthe
deuteriumtoremainintactlongenoughtobeconvertedintohelium.Astheuni-
versecontinuedtocool,temperaturesfellbelowthecriticaltemperaturerequiredfor
fusion,andprimordialnucleosynthesisended.
Onlyafterabout300,000yearshadpassedwouldtheuniverseexpandandcoolsuf-
ficientlytoallowelectronsandnucleitocombineintoatomsofhydrogenandhelium.
Atthispoint,withthetemperatureoftheentireuniverseatsome5,000K,photons
couldfirstmovefreelythroughtheuniverse.
Thecosmicmicrowavebackgroundwecannowmeasureconsistsofphotonsthat
becamefreetomoveintotheuniverseatthisearlytime.
Therestoftheperiodictabletheotherelementsoftheuniversebeyondlithium
wouldbefilledoutbyfusionreactionsinthecoresofstarsandsupernovaexplosions
ofmassivestars.
Thecosmicmicrowaveback-
ground(CMB)canbevery
wellmodeledwithablack
bodythathasatemperature
of2.725K(curveshown
here).
(ImagefromNASA)
Stretching the Waves
Asmentionedearlier,thereisanotherwaytothinkabouttheobservedredshiftin
galaxyspectra.Thephotonsemittedbyarecedinggalaxyarelikeelasticbandsinthe
Chapter 16: Cosmology and Cosmologies 239
fabricoftheuniverse:theyexpandwithit.Inthissense,theredshiftwemeasure
fromdistantgalaxiesisnothinglessthanadirectmeasurementoftheexpansionofthe
universe.
Wehaveseenwheretheuniverseandallthatiswithinitcamefrom.Nowweturn
finallytowhereitisallgoingandwhereitwillend.Willtheuniverseexpandforever?
Orwillitturnbackinonitselfandendinafinalcollapse?Italldependsongravity.
Dependingonhowmuchmassthereis,theuniversewilleitherexpandforeveror
collapsebackinonitselfintheoppositeofaBigBang:aBigCrunch.Recentobser-
vationsofhigh-redshiftsupernovaeandthecosmicmicrowavebackgroundsuggest
thisBigCrunchwillneverhappen.Theuniverseappearsdestinedordoomedto
expandforever.
The Least You Need to Know
u Theredshiftofgalaxiesandthepresenceofacosmicmicrowavebackgroundare
twocluesthattheuniversehadabeginningintime.
u Thecosmologicalprinciple,whichallowsustogeneralizefromlocalobserva-
tions,holdsthattheuniverseishomogeneous(uniforminstructureonlarge
scales)andisotropic(itlooksthesameinalldirections).
u ThecurrenttheoryoftheoriginoftheuniverseistheBigBang,whichholds
thattheuniversebeganasanexplosionthatfilledallspace.
u Forthefirst300,000yearsaftertheBigBang,theuniversewasfoggywith
electronsandopaquetoitsownphotons,butwhentheuniversewascool
enoughforelectronsandnucleitocombine,itbecametransparent,andthecos-
micmicrowavebackgroundcomesfromthesefirstfreedphotons.
u AllmatterintheuniversewascreatedatthemomentoftheBigBang,andsince
thattime,stellarfusionandsupernovaehaveconvertedthedominanthydrogen
andheliumintoalloftheelementsoftheperiodictable.
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17
Chapter
The Beg nn ng and the End o
the Un verse
n Th s Chapter
Supernova ghtcurvesasstandardcand es
Theacce erat ngexpans onoftheun verse
Thesca eoff uctuat ons nthecosm cm crowavebackground CMB
Thefutureoftheun verse:expans onorcontract on?
Thedens tyoftheun versemaydeterm ne tsfate
InWoodyA ens1977mov Ann eHa af ashbacktakesusbacktothe
Brook ynch dhoodofthema ncharacter,astand-upcom cnamedA vy
nger.Thefam ydoctorhasbeensummonedbecauseyoungA vy,per-
haps10yearso d, sdepressed.Hav ng ust earnedthattheun verse
expand ng,hebe eves tw eventua yf yapart.Thephys an,puff ng
onac garette,offersthecomfort ngthoughtthatun versa ca am ty
manyb onsofyears nthefuture.A vysmother smorestr dent:What
tyourbus ness?We ve Brook yn.Brook yn notexpand ng
242 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
What Redshift Means
Alvysmotherwasright.ThetruthisthatBrooklynitselfisntexpanding.Butthe
universethatrevolvesaroundit(weretakingaBrooklynitesperspectivehere)is
expanding.MuchtothechagrinofNewYorkers,Brooklynisnotsomehowexempt
fromthelawsoftheuniverse.ThisboroughlikeEarth,likeastar,likeagalaxy,or
likeahumanbeingisheldtogetherbyitsowninternalforces.Theexpansionofthe
universethatistheechooftheBigBangisonlyvisibleonthelargestscale,thedis-
tancesbetweenclustersandsuperclustersofgalaxies.
Letsreturntoourdescriptionoftheuniverseasthesurfaceofarubberballoon.
Astheballoonisinflated,thedistancebetweenanytwodotsdrawnonitssurface
increases.Theresultingobservationisthattheserecedinggalaxiestheyarereceding
withrespecttooneanotheremitphotonsthatare
redshifted.Anotherwaytothinkofitisthatthepho-
tonsthatleaveanothergalaxyarepartofthefabric
Cosmological redshift isthe
oftheuniverse,andasthisfabricisstretched,each
lengtheningofthewavelengthsof
photongetsstretchedalongwithittoalonger,
electromagneticradiationcaused
bytheexpansionoftheuniverse.
andthereforeredder,wavelength.Thistypeofwave-
lengthincreaseiscalledacosmologicalredshiftandisa
directmeasureofuniversalexpansion.
Here Are Your Choices
Pleasekeepthisinmind:thevalueswemeasurelocally,relatedtotheexpansionof
theuniverse,arenotnecessarilyuniversalintime.Justbecausetheuniverseis
expandingatacertainratenowinourparticularneighborhooddoesntmeanthatit
hasalwaysexpandedatthatrate.Itmighthavebeenexpandingmoreslowlyormore
quicklyinthedistantpast.Theonlywaytofindoutistomeasuretheredshiftofvery
distantobjects.
Andjustbecausetheuniverseisexpandingnowdoesntnecessarilymeanthatitwill
goonexpandingforever.TheexpansionthatpresumablystartedwiththeBigBang
isopposedbyarelentlessforceyouhavemetmanytimesbeforeinthisbook:gravity.
Theeventualfateoftheuniversehangsonhowmuchstuff(massandenergy)thereis
intheuniverse.Thedensityofmatterandenergyintheuniversewilldeterminehow
itallends.
Wehavejustthreechoices:theuniversewilleitherexpandforever(beunbound);
itwillcontinuallyslowinitsexpansionbutneverstop(bemarginallybound);orit
willreachacertainsizeandthenbegintocontract(bebound).
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 243
A Matter of Density
Theoriginoftheselimitedchoicesisthedensityoftheuniverse.Iftheuniversecon-
tainsasufficientamountofmatterandenergyifitissufficientlydensethenthe
forceofgravitywillbesuchthatitwilleventuallysucceedinhaltingexpansion.The
universewillgraduallyexpandataslowerandslowerrate,andthenreverseitselfand
begintocollapse.If,however,theuniverse(evencountingallofthematerialthatwe
cantseethedarkmatter)doesnotcontainsufficientmassistoothinthenthe
expansionoftheuniversewillcontinueforever.
RememberthatintheBigBangtheory,thereisnosuchthingasneworoldmatter.All
matterwascreatedasaresultoftheBigBang;therefore,thedensityoftheuniverse
anditseventualfateweredeterminedattheinstanttheBigBangoccurred.
Acertaindensityofmatterandenergyintheuniverseistheswordedgebetween
ultimatecollapseandeternalexpansion.Andastronomershavecalculatedthiscritical
density.Iftheuniverseismoredensethanthis,itwilleventuallycollapse;ifitisless
densethanthis,itwillexpandforever;andifitisexactlythisdense,itwillstillkeep
expanding,butmoreandmoreslowly,forever.
Stalking the Wily Neutrino
Weveseenneutrinosbefore,streamingfromtheSun.Thesearesubatomicparticles
withoutelectricchargeandwithvirtuallynomass.Asaresult,theyaresortofstealth
particles:small,neutralparticlesthatarehardtodetect.OnJune5,1998,U.S.and
JapaneseresearchersinTakayama,Japan,announcedthat,usinganenormousdetec-
tiondevice,theyfoundevidenceofmassintheneutrino.Thedevice,calledthe
Super-Kamiokande,isatankfilledwith12.5milliongallonsofpurewaterandburied
deepinanoldzincmine.
Becauseneutrinoslackanelectricchargeandrarelyinteractwithotherparticles,
passingunnoticedthroughvirtuallyanykindorthicknessofmatter,theyhave
provenespeciallyelusive.Theyarethegreasedpigsofthesubatomicworld,soplen-
tifulthat100billionofthem(thatsasmanystarsasthereareinourGalaxy)pass
throughyourbodyeverysecond.TheSuper-Kamiokandecontainssomuchwater,
however,thatoccasionallyaneutrinodoescollidewithanotherparticleandproduces
aninstantaneousflashoflight,whichisrecordedbyavastarrayoflight-amplifying
detectors.
Soiftheresearchersarerightandneutrinosdohavemass,justhowmuchmassdo
theyhave?Well,itdoesntappeartobeenoughtoaffectcriticaldensity.
244 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
TheSuper-Kamiokande
detector,whichbeganobser-
vationsin1996,consistsofa
totalof50,000tonsofwater.
Thereareouterandinner
volumes,theinnervolume
ringedwith11,200photo-
multipliertubes(PMTs),
seenhereduringmainte-
nance.Thetubesaresensitive
tolightcalledCerenkov
light,whichisemittedby
highvelocityparticlestravel-
inginthewater.
(ImagefromU.Tokyo/UC
Irvine/BU)
Run Away! Run Away!
Topredictwhethertheuniversewillexpandinfinitely,itisnecessarytocalculate
criticaldensityandtoseewhetherthedensityofouruniverseisaboveorbelowthis
criticalfigure.Bymeasuringtheaveragemassofgalaxieswithinaknownvolumeof
space,astronomersderiveadensityofluminousmatterwellshortofcriticaldensity,
approximately10
-28
kg/m
3
.Thatfigureisroughly1percentofwhatisrequiredto
closetheuniverse.Afterfactoringintheaddedcontributionofthedarkmatterthat
hasanapparentgravitationaleffectingalaxyclusters,wecanaccountforabout30
percentofthecriticaldensity.Istheuniverse,then,farfromcriticaldensity?
Onthecontrary,recentexperimentsstronglysuggestthattheuniverseisveryclose
tocriticaldensityandthatthemissing70percentisnotmadeupofmassbutof
energy.Iftheexpansionoftheuniverseisacceleratingandtheuniversehascritical
density,thesemightbothbeexplainedbyenergycontainedinthevacuumofspace.
What Does It All Mean?
Youshouldnowstarttoseetheoutlinesofthedifferentpossiblefatesfortheuniverse.
Letsconsiderwhatsomeofthevariousendsoftheuniversemightmeanforus.
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 245
The Universe: Closed, Open, or Flat?
SothentheuniverseexpandedfromthispointintheBigBang.Whatwastheeven-
tualresult?Whatisthegeometryoftheuniverse?
Tobegintovisualizetheshapeoftheuniverse,wehavetostopthinkinglikeNewton
andstartthinkinglikeEinstein.Remember,Einsteinthoughtofgravitationnotasa
forcethatobjectsexertupononeanotherbutastheresultofthedistortioninspace
thatmasscauses.Einsteinexplainedthatthepresenceofmasswarpsthespaceinits
vicinity.Themoremassthegreaterthedensityofmatterthegreaterthewarp
(themorespacecurves).
Theuniversemightbeclosed,
open,orflat,dependingon
whethertheuniverseisatcritical
densityornot.Thisimageshows
two-dimensionalmodelsthatwecan
usetounderstandthesethreebasic
geometries.Acloseduniverse(top
figure)canbethoughtofascurved
likethesurfaceofasphere,and
finiteinextent.Anopenuniverse
(middlefigure)canbethoughtof
assaddle-shapedandinfinitein
extent.Aflatuniverse(bottom
figure)canbethoughtofasaplane,
alsoinfiniteinextent.
(ImagefromNASA)
Ifthedensityoftheuniverseisgreaterthanthelevelofcriticaldensity(
o
>1),then
theuniversewillwarp(orcurve)backonitself,closedandfinite.Iftheuniverseis
closed,thenourballoonanalogyhasbeenparticularlyaccurate.Inacloseduniverse,
wethinkoftheentireuniverseasrepresentedbythesurfaceofasphere,finitein
extent,butwithnoboundaryoredge.Ifyoushootoutparallelbeamsoflightina
closeduniverse,theywouldeventuallycrosspaths,likelinesoflongitudeonaglobe.
Ifthedensityoftheuniverseisbelowthecriticallevel(
o
<1),anopenuniversewill
result.Whereasthesphericalorcloseduniverseissaidtobepositivelycurved,the
openuniverseisnegativelycurved.
246 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Saddle Up the Horses: Into the Wide-Open Universe
Theclosesttwo-dimensionalapproximationoftheopenuniverseisthesurfaceof
asaddle(oraPringlespotatochip),curvedupinonedirectionanddowninthe
otherandextendingouttoinfinity.Inanopenuniverse,beamsoflightinitially
parallelwoulddiverge.Untilrecently,thisappearedtobethetypeofuniversewe
inhabited.
Withpreciselycriticaldensity,bytheway,theuniversebecomesflat,albeitstillinfi-
niteinextent.Inwhatwecallflatspace,parallelbeamsoflightwouldremainparallel
forever.Forthisreason,flatspaceissometimescalledEuclideanspace.Mostobserva-
tionalresultsfromactualmeasurementsofthecosmicmicrowavebackgroundsuggest
thattheuniversemightwellbeflat.
We Have Some Problems
Scientistsaretotheirtheoriesasoverbearingparentsaretotheirchildren.They
haveonlytheveryhighestexpectationsforthem.Contradictionsarenotallowedand
mustberesolved.Evensomethingconsiderablyshortofanoutrightcontradictionis
intolerable.Agoodtheoryshouldaccountforallobservationsandmaketestablepre-
dictions.Anyobservationsincontradictiontothetheoryaretakenseriouslyandthe
theoryamended,ifnecessary.
Inthisregard,althoughithasbeenverysuccessful,theBigBangtheoryseemstofall
shortintwoareas.Itdoesnotexplaintheincrediblesamenessoftheuniverseonits
largestscales,nordoesitaccountforwhytheuniversehasadensity,roughly30per-
centmassand70percentenergy,thatisapparentlysoclosetocritical.
Withregardtothesamenessissue,thereistheso-calledhorizonproblem,which
dealswiththeincredibleuniformityofthecosmicmicrowavebackground.Nomatter
wherewelook,itsintensityisthesame,eveninpartsoftheuniversethatarefartoo
distanttobeincontactwithoneanother.Regionsintheuniversethatnevercould
haveexchangedinformationbecauseofthelimitingspeedoflightseemtoknow
abouteachother.
ThisuniformitydoesnotcontradictanythingintheBigBangtheory,itsjustthat
nothinginthetheoryaccountsforit.Thetheoryprovidesnoparticularreasonwhy
twowidelyseparatedregionsshouldbethesameespeciallybecauseregionsvery
distantfromoneanothercouldneverhaveinteracted.(Thatis,giventheageofthe
universe,thespeedoflightisntfastenoughforinformationtotravelbetweenthemost
distantregions.)
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 247
Withregardtothesecondissue,theapproximationofcriticaldensity,thereistheso-
calledflatnessproblem.Itsnamecomesfromthefactthatthecriticaldensityofthe
universe,oncethemassofdarkmatterandtheroleofenergyarefiguredintothings,
approaches1,whichmeansthattheuniverseisalmostflat.Whyisthisaproblem?
Again,aswiththehorizonproblem,thedifficultyisnotthatflatnesscontradicts
theBigBangtheoryitdoesnosuchthingbutthetheorydoesntexplainwhythe
universeshouldhaveformedsoclosetocriticaldensity.Asfarasthetheorygoes,
theuniversemighthavebeensignificantlymoredensethan1orsignificantlyless.
Scientistswontaccepttheluckofthedraw.Theywantanexplanation.
CloseEncounter
Fourknownforcesgoverntheuniverse:gravity,electromagnetism,theweak
nuclearforce,andthestrongnuclearforce.Gravityandtheelectromagneticforce
actoverlargedistancesthesizeoftheuniverseandgovernthemotionsofplanets
andgalaxies,moleculesandatoms.Thenuclearforcesactoveronlysmalldistances
(withinanatomicnucleus)andholdnucleitogether.Thenuclearforcesarethestrongest,
buttheyactovertheshortestdistances.Gravityisbyfartheweakest,butitslongreach
meansthatitspullwillgovernthefateoftheuniverse.
Intheearlyuniverse,scientistsbelievetheseforcesstartedasasingleforce.Astheuni-
verseexpanded,eachforceestablisheditsownuniqueidentity.
Down to Earth
Successfulpeopleinallfieldsfromastronomytoretailsaleslearntoseeproblems
notasobstacles,butasopportunities.Thebiggest,mostbasicissuesastronomydeals
withseemthefurthestremovedfromoureverydayexperience;butthepossiblereso-
lutionofthehorizonandflatnessproblemsmighthelpustoconnectmoreintuitively
withthisstrangethingcalledtheuniverse.
Blow It Up
WithinthefirstinfinitesimalfractionsofthefirstsecondfollowingtheBigBang,
astronomershavetheorized,thethreeforcesotherthangravityintheuniverse
electromagnetic,weaknuclearforces,andstrongnuclearforceswereunitedasa
singleforce.
Between10
35
secondsand10
32
secondsaftertheBigBang,gravityhadalreadysplit
outasaseparateforce,buttheotherforceswerestillone.Foranunimaginablybrief
248 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
instant,gravitypushedtheuniverseapartinsteadofpullingittogether.Theoristscall
thismomentinflation,forobviousreasons.Withinthisinflationaryepoch,theuniverse
expanded100trilliontrilliontrilliontrillion(10
50
)times.
Ofcourse,10
35
to10
32
secondsseemstousinstantaneous;buttherewastime
howeverbriefbeforethis,betweentheBigBangandtheonsetoftheepochof
inflation.Duringthisperiod,allpartsoftheuniversewereincommunicationwith
oneanother.Theyhadampletimetoestablishuniformphysicalpropertiesbeforethe
epochofinflationpushedthemtooppositesidesoftheuniverse.
Astheearlyuniversecontinuedtoexpand,itdidsoataratefasterthanitsconstituent
regionscouldcommunicatewitheachother.Theuniverse,ineffect,outraninfor-
mation,sothatthemostextremeregionshavebeenoutofcommunicationwithone
anothersince10
32
secondsaftertheBigBang.
Yettheysharethepropertiestheyhadattheveryinstantofcreationandcontinueto
sharethesepropertiestoday.Thus,withtheadditionofinflation,theBigBangcan
accountforthehorizonproblem,andwevetieduponelooseendofthetheory.
Looks Flat to Me
Thatleavesuswiththeflatnessproblem.WhyintermsoftheBigBangtheory
shouldtheuniversebeatornearcriticaldensity?
Ifamassofexternalevidencedidntexist,itwouldbealmostimpossibletoconvince
anyonethattheEarthisround.Afterall,itcertainlylooksflat.
AfterweacceptthatEarthiscurved,however,weunderstandthatitlooksflat
becausetheradiusoftheglobeisverylargeand,therefore,thearcofthecurveit
describesisextremelygradual.Takeasmallportionofanyarc,anditwilllook,forall
practicalpurposes,likeastraightlinethatis,flat.IfEarthwereverysmallorwe
wereverylargeorveryfarawaythecurvatureofEarthssurfacewouldbeapparent
onaroutinebasis.
10
Theuniversemighthavebeencurvedattheinstantofitscreation,butinexpanding
50
timesduringtheepochofinflation,itbecameonthescaleoftheobservable
universeflat.
Aflatuniverseisconsistentwithauniversewhosedensityisexactlycritical.Ifthe
universeweremoredense,itwouldbepositivelycurved;iflessdense,itwouldbe
negativelycurved.Iftheuniverseistrulyflat,itsdensitymustbeexactlycritical.
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 249
I Thought We Were Done
Youknowthatfeelingwhenyouvegottenjustabouteverythingfiguredoutandare
readytokickbackandrelaxforawhilebutthenyounoticesomethingthatsud-
denlymakesyourealizethatyoustillhavealotofworktodo?
Forafewyearsthereinthe1990s,itwasstartingtoseemlikemanythingsaboutthe
originoftheuniverse,theBigBang,andtheHubbleLawwerefittingtogethervery
nicely.
Andthen,asisoftenthecaseinastronomy,severalsurprisingnewobservationswere
madethatforcedastronomerstothinkabouttheworkingsoftheuniverseinacom-
pletelynewway.
The Universe: Smooth or Crunchy?
Oneofourearlyassumptionsabouttheuniverseisthatitishomogeneousandiso-
tropic.Thismeansthattheuniverseappearstobethesameoverlargevolumes
(homogeneous)andlooksthesameinalldirections(isotropic).Launchedin1989,the
CosmicMicrowaveBackgroundExplorer(COBE)satellitemadeobservationsofthe
cosmicmicrowavebackground(CMB)andconfirmedthattheuniversewasindeed
isotropic.Toveryhighaccuracy,afterthemotionofthesolarsystemthroughthe
CMBwassubtracted,theCMBwasincrediblysmooth.
Orwasit?In1992,aftermoreanalysisofthedata,theCOBEteamannouncedasur-
prisingresult.Atverylowlevelslevelsof1partin100,000fluctuationsdidexist
intheCMBafterall.Thatis,theCMBappearedtohavesomestructure.Atverylow
levels,theuniversewasnotisotropic!
Small Fluctuations
AsthefirstinstrumenttomeasuretheCMBfromspace,COBEcertainlyhadsome
limitations,buttherewasnodoubtthatitcouldaccuratelymeasurethemicrowave
temperature.UsingtheDifferentialMicrowaveRadiometer(DMR),theCOBEteam
measuredtheskytemperaturewithamazingaccuracyandfoundittobe2.725K
(giveortake0.001K).
WhatCOBEcouldnotdowasmapthetemperaturevariationswithhighresolu-
tion.TheCOBEimagehadaneffectiveresolutionofabout10degreesonthesky.
RememberthattheMoonisaboutadegreeonthesky,sothefluctuationswere
blurredtothesizeof20Moons.
250 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
ThisimagefromCOBE
(theCosmicMicrowave
BackgroundExplorer)shows
threeviewsoftheall-sky
mapofthecosmicmicrowave
background(CMB).Thetop
imageshowscombinedemis-
sionsfromtheMilkyWay
andourmotionthroughthe
CMB.Themiddleimagehas
hadourmotion(thedipole)
removedandshowsonlyour
Galaxysemissions.Themap
showingonlysmall-scale
fluctuationsintheCMBis
atthebottom.
(ImagefromCOBE/NASA)
Butthefactthattherewerefluctuationsatallwasveryinterestingtocosmologists.It
meantthatataveryearlytimeintheuniverse(onlyabout300,000yearsaftertheBig
Bang),thereweredensityvariationsintheuniverseatthelevelof1partin100,000.
Itwasquitepossiblethatthesedensityvariationsweretheseedsthatwouldeventu-
allygrow,thankstogravity,intogalaxies,galaxyclusters,andgalaxysuperclusters.
Theastronomersresponsibleforthisfinding,JohnMatherandGeorgeSmoot,won
theNobelPrizein2006.
Cosmologistshadoftenaskedhow,iftheuniversewereindeedperfectlyhomogeneous,
couldstars,galaxies,oranythingelseform?Nowtheyhadapartialanswer.Theuni-
versewasnotperfectlyhomogeneous.Somethingcreateddensityvariationsintheearly
universe.TheCMBbetrayedthepresenceofalittlecrunchinessinwhathadbeen
thoughttobeasmoothearlyuniverse.
Zooming In
TheBOOMERANG(BalloonObservationsOfMillimetricExtragalacticRadiation
AndGeophysics)missionflewfor10daysinlate1998andearly1999.BOOMERANG
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 251
didnottrytocompetewiththeCOBEmissionbymappingthewholesky,nordid
ittrytocompetewithNASAsthenupcomingMAP(MicrowaveAnisotropyProbe)
missionbymappingthewholeskyathighresolution.Instead,theballoon-bornecraft
flew37kilometersaboveAntarctica,samplinghigh-resolutiondataatmicrowavefre-
quencies,sensitivetothepartofthespectrumwheretheuniverseemitsphotonsthat
arearemnantechooftheBigBang.
BOOMERANGmappedonlyatinyportionofthesky,butitdidsowithamuch
higherresolutionthanCOBE.Itmadeimagesatfourfrequencies,andallfour
frequencieswereimagedwithlessthanadegreeresolution,morethan10times
sharperthantheCOBEimages.
Time for Some Geometry
Theresultswerenothingshortofbreathtaking.BOOMERANGwasabletodetect
thetrue-scalesizeofthefluctuationsinthecosmicmicrowavebackground.
Areyouontheedgeofyourseatyet?WhatdidBOOMERANGfind,youask?It
turnsoutthatthescalesizeofthedetectedfluctuationswasabout1degree.
Thescalesizeofthetem-
peraturefluctuationsinthe
microwavebackgroundcan
tellusaboutthegeometryof
theuniverse.Aflatuniverse
shouldhavefluctuationswith
scalesizesofabout1degree.
Inacloseduniversethefluc-
tuationswouldbelarger,and
inanopenuniverse,smaller.
TheBOOMERANGdata
(centerimage)stronglysug-
gestedthatweliveinauni-
versewithaflatgeometry.
(ImagefromNASA)
252 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Inaflatuniverse,onethathascriticaldensity,or
o
=1,thescaleofthefluctuations
inthecosmicmicrowavebackground(CMB)isexpectedtobeabout1degree,ortwice
thesizeofthefullmoon.Fluctuationssmallerorlargerthan1degreemeanthatthe
universehasacurvature.Inacloseduniversethefluctuationswouldbelargerthan
1degree,andinanopenuniverse,theywouldbesmaller.TheBOOMERANGresult
impliedaflatuniverse.
Fasten Your Seatbelts, Were Accelerating
WhiletheBOOMERANGscientistswerelendingcredencetothenotionofaflat
universe,otherastronomerswerebusyobservingverydistantsourcesandmaking
somesurprisingdiscoveriesoftheirownconcerningnottheshapeoftheuniverse,
butitsageanditsfate.
ManycosmologistshavebeenintenselyinterestedinthecorrectvaluefortheHubble
constant.Thisconstantisbasicallytheslopeofthelinedescribinghowfastgalaxies
arerecedingfromoneanotherasafunctionoftheirseparation.Recentmeasurements
ofhighredshiftsupernovaehavefixedtheslopeofthislinetobe71km/sec/Mpc.
Thatis,foreverymillionparsecsofdistancefromus,galaxiesaremovingawayfrom
usat71km/s.Astronomersdeterminedthisnumberfromcarefulmeasurementsof
thedistancestoobjectsandthespeedthattheyaremovingawayfromus.
Thereasonfortheinterestisthattheslopeofthislinecanbeusedtotellustheage
oftheuniverse.Andeverybodywantstoknowtheageoftheuniverse,right?
Butthereisamoresubtleeffectaswell.EversincetheBigBangwasproposed,
astronomershavebeencuriousaboutthefateoftheuniverse.Willtheuniverse
expandforever,orwilliteventuallyhaltitsexpansionandcollapseintoanother
fireball?
Onewaytoanswerthisquestionistocomparetheexpansionrateoftheuniverse
now(usinggalaxiesclosetous)totheexpansionratelongago(usinggalaxiesfaraway
fromus).Withgooddata,weshouldbeabletofigureoutiftheexpansionoftheuni-
verseisslowingdownornot.Andifitsslowingdownattherightrate,thenweknow
thatweareinforaBigCrunchsometimeinthefuture.
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 253
CloseEncounter
Somerecentdiscoverieshaveabearingonthequestionoftheeventualfateof
theuniverse.Twogroupsofastronomers(oneattheHarvard-SmithsonianCenterfor
Astrophysics,andtheotheratBerkeleyLabs)usingtheHubbleSpaceTelescopehave
foundevidencethattheuniverseislikelytoexpandforeverthattheuniversedoesnt
haveenoughmassinittocausetheexpansiontohalt.
TheyhaveusedwhatwecallTypeIasupernovae(cataclysmicexplosionsthatresult
whenawhitedwarfstarborrowsabittoomuchmaterialfromitsbinarycompanion)
asstandardcandles.TypeIasupernovaearesoincrediblyluminousthattheyenable
ustoseefartherthanjustaboutanyotherphenomenonweknowof.Usingthesesuper-
novae,astronomershavedeterminedthattheexpansionoftheuniverse(asdescribedby
HubblesLaw)doesntseemtobeslowingdownatall.Infact,itappearstobespeed-
ingup.
What Type of Supernovae Would You Like?
Comparingthesetworatesofexpansionisexactlywhatapairofcompetingresearch
groupstheSupernovaCosmologyProjectandtheHigh-ZSupernovaSearch
Teamstartedtodointhemid-1990s.Theirgoalwastofindarelativelycommon
astronomicalobjectthathadaknownluminositythattheycoulduseasastandard
candletogreatdistances.Thatmeantithadtobeverybright,andTypeIasuper-
novaeturnedouttobetheperfectobjects.
TypeIasupernovaearetheexplosionsofwhitedwarfsthathavebeenstealingmate-
rialfromabinarycompanion.Whenthemassofthethievingstarexceeds1.4solar
masses,itwillexplodeasaTypeIasupernova.Theseeventsare10to100times
brighterthanaTypeIIsupernova,whichisthecollapseandexplosionofanormal
high-massstar.
AstronomershadstudiedTypeIasupernovaelongenoughtoknowtheyhadaknown
lightcurve,orbrighteningandfadingasafunctionoftime,andmostimportantly,
nearbysupernovaeofthiskindseemedtohaveaveryregularpeakluminosity.So
ifonecouldjustidentifyTypeIasupernovae(whichcanbedonebyanalyzingtheir
opticalspectra),thenhecouldusetheirapparentbrightnesstodeterminethedis-
tancetothegalaxyinwhichthesupernovawasdetected.ThebeautyisthataTypeIa
supernovacanbeseenuptobillionsoflight-yearsaway.
254 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
This Cant Be Right
Thetwoteamsstudiedthedatafromatotalofabout50high-redshiftTypeIasuper-
novaeandweresurprisedtofindthattheexpansionoftheuniversewasnotslowing
downatall.Whatwastrulyshockingwasthattheexpansionoftheuniversewas,in
fact,speedingup.Alltheevidencefromthehigh-redshiftsupernovae,whichenabled
researcherstotracetheHubbleexpansionbacktotheearliesttimesintheuniverse,
indicatedthattheuniversewasacceleratinginitsexpansion,anditwasexpanding
morerapidlynowthanithadinthepast.
Thiswasaresultthatnoonehadexpected.Astronomersunderstoodanexpansion
thatwasslowingdownasindicatingthattheuniversehadcriticaldensityandthatthe
forceofgravitywaswinningout.Butanacceleratingexpansion?Whatdidthatmean?
Blunder or Brilliance?
RememberhowEinsteinhadtoinitiallyproposeacosmologicalconstantlesthis
theoreticaluniversecollapseunderitsowngravity?Thecosmologicalconstantkept
hisuniversepumpedupbyprovidingaforcethatpushedthingsapart.
WhenEdwinHubblediscoveredtherecessionofgalaxiesinthe1920s,however,the
cosmologicalconstantwasputaway,deemedunnecessary,andanabashedEinstein
calledithisbiggestblunder.Thenin1998,withthediscoveryoftheaccelerat-
ingexpansionoftheuniverse,scientistspulledthecosmologicalconstantoutofthe
draweranddusteditoff.
Couldtheforcethatitdescribed(whichfollowednaturallyfromEinsteinstheoryof
generalrelativity)betheforcethatwaspushingthingsapart?
Nowrecallthatdespitetheirbestefforts,astronomershadatthetimebeenunable
toaccountformorethanabout30percentofthecriticaldensityoftheuniverse.
Includingluminousanddarkmatter,thereisabout70percentofthecriticaldensity
entirelyunaccountedfor.Yettheevidencefromthecosmicmicrowavebackground
seemedtoindicatethattheuniversehadcriticaldensityandaflatgeometry.
Itispossiblethattheother70percentofthedensityoftheuniverseisnotinitsmass
butinsomeformofenergy.Recallthatenergyandmassareinsomesenseinter-
changeable,asEinsteinfamouslydescribedwiththeequationE=mc
2
.Infact,the
latestobservationssupportabout25percentdarkmatterand75percentdarkenergy,
givingtheuniverseitscriticaldensity.
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 255
Einsteinsblundermightjustpointtheway.Iftheexpansionoftheuniverseis
acceleratingandtheuniversehascriticaldensity,thesemightbothbeexplainedby
energycontainedinthevacuumofspaceitself.
Why So Critical?
Whyshouldweexpectthattheuniversehascriticaldensity?Doessomehumanaes-
theticbiascompelustoenvisionauniversethathasthedensityrequiredtobalance
gravityexactly?
Notreally.EvenbeforetheBOOMERANGexperimentfoundthatthescaleofthe
fluctuationsintheCMBwasabout1degreeandthereforeconsistentwithaflat
universeandcriticaldensitydiscussionsoccurredamongcosmologiststhatwent
somethinglikethis:thevalueof(thedensityinmassandenergy)couldbeany-
thing.Itisveryunlikelythatthevaluewouldbesocloseto1(remember,observations
oftheuniverseindicatethatdarkandluminousmattercanaccountforabout30per-
centofcriticaldensity),andnotactuallybe1.
ButwithBOOMERANGtherewasclearevidencethattheuniversehadcriticalden-
sity.Andmoreevidencehasbeencomingin.
This Just In: The Whole Sky
TheBOOMERANGmissiondidinsomesensescooptheNASAMAP(Microwave
AniotropyProbe),nowcalledtheWMAP(WilkinsonMicrowaveAnisotropyProbe).
BOOMERANGmadethefirstdeterminationofthescaleofthefluctuationsinthe
CMB,butthehigh-resolutionimageofthefluctuationsintheCMBofthewholesky
hadtowaitfortheWMAP,whichwaslaunchedinJune2001.
InFebruary2003,NASAandtheWMAPteamreleasedthefirsthigh-resolution,
all-skyimagesofthecosmicmicrowavebackground.Theseresultshaveprovided
stunningconfirmationoftheBOOMERANGresultandhaveplacedeventighter
constraintsonthehistoryoftheearlyuniverse.Anotherimportantresultfromthe
WMAPisthatthefirststarsappeartohaveformedwhentheuniversewasonlyabout
200millionyearsold,muchearlierthanwehadpreviouslythought.
256 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
TheWilkinsonMicrowave
AnisotropyProbe(WMAP)
hasimagedtheentiresky
withlessthan1degreereso-
lution,similartothe
BOOMERANGimage.
Thisimageshowsthecom-
parisonbetweentheCOBE
(top)andtheWMAP(bot-
tom)results.
(ImagefromWMAP/NASA)
The Futures a SNAP
Thehigh-redshiftsupernovaeobservationsthatbeganwithground-basedobser-
vationsinthe1990shavemovedinparttoobservationswiththeHubbleSpace
Telescope.Inthefuture,researchteamshopethatadedicatedsatelliteinstrument
stillinitsdevelopmentalstages,calledSNAP,ortheSuperNova/AccelerationProbe,
willcarryouttheobservations.
Oneofthelimitationsofthecurrenthigh-redshiftsupernovaeworkisthatitisoften
difficulttogettimeontelescopesforfollow-upobservationsonshortnotice.Follow-
upobservationsarerequiredtodeterminethetypeofadetectedsupernovaandto
tracktheevolutionofthelightcurve.Asadedicatedinstrument,SNAPwouldresolve
manyoftheseobservationalissuesandaddtoourlistmanymoresupernovaeatvery
highredshifts.
Putting It All Together
Letsnowpulltogetheralltheissuesthatscientistshaveclarifiedabouttheearlyhis-
toryoftheuniverseinthepastfiveyears,ahalfdecadethathasbeenremarkablefor
astronomy:
u BasedontheWMAPresultsandotherrecentobservations,theuniversehasan
ageof13.7billionyears,plusorminusonlyabout100millionyears.
u Thefirststarsintheuniversestartedfusinghydrogenonly200millionyears
aftertheBigBang,muchearlierthanpreviouslythought.
Chapter 17: TheBeginningand the End of theUniverse 257
u Theuniverseconsistsof4percentnormalatoms(thestuffwearemadeof),23
percentdarkmatter,and73percentdarkenergy.
u TheexpansionrateoftheuniversegivesusavaluefortheHubbleconstant(H
0
)
of71km/sec/Mpc.
In1920,RobertFrostwroteapoemcalledFireandIce.Frostbegan,Somesaythe
worldwillendinfire,Somesayinice.Wemightnowhaveadefinitiveanswer.
Intheend,itlooksasifwearejustatinypartofauniversethatisgoingtoexpand
forever,atanever-increasingrate.Theuniverse,then,willendinice.Ofcourse,that
stillleavesuswithabsolutelynoideawhat96percentoftheuniverseisrightnow,
whileitsstillinbusiness.Inthefinalchapter,wewonderifanyoneelseouttherein
theuniverseisponderingitscontentanditsfate.Andifso,willweeverbeabletoget
togetherandtalkaboutit?
The Least You Need to Know
u Thecosmicmicrowavebackground(CMB),whichisourinsightintotheearliest
timeoftheuniverse,indicatesthattheuniverseisnotperfectlyhomogeneous;
tinyfluctuationsindensitywerepresentevenwhentheuniversewasinits
infancy,only300,000yearsold.
u ThescaleofthefluctuationsintheCMBisabout1degree:thesizeoffluctua-
tionsexpectedinaflatuniverse.
u Theexpansionoftheuniverseappearstobeaccelerating.
u Combiningtheresultsofhigh-redshiftsupernovaeandthefluctuationsinthe
cosmicmicrowavebackgroundsuggeststhatmostofthedensityoftheuniverseis
notinvisiblematterordarkmatter,butindarkenergy,whateverthatmightbe.
I
I i
u i
u initi li
u i i lini ili inli
u li i l
u li
u Li i l i
i i li ici
fi ll l i i i i
i i ifli i i
i i i l i
i i
l i l l
i i i l
i i i li limi-
i l i i lli li in
il i l i
i i i l
i
18
Chapter
Where s Everybody?
n Th s Chapter
TheFerm Paradox
Def onsof fe
Earth:un queortyp ca tsab tytosusta fe?
Other fe nourso arsystem
Thecasefor feonMars
fe nourGa axy:theDrakeEquat on
Enr coFerm ,theIta an-bornphys stwhoseresearchteamcreatedthe
rstcontro ednuc earcha nreact on,posedaquest on nthe1950sthat
hass ncebecomeknownastheFerm Paradox: fe sabundant nthe
un verseandtheun verse sbothvastando d,where severybody?
Thequest ongoestotheheartofsometh ngthathumanshavewondered
aboutfora ongt me.Whydowefee soa one?
Wem ghtcons deranumberofquest onstoreso vetheparadox.Isthe
un verseperhapsteem ngw th fethatcantgettousbecauseofthe
tat onsandcostofspacetrave ?Arewethef rstwaveof nte gent fe
theM kyWay?Orareotherssoadvancedastobes mp yun nterested
nus?Th schapterconfrontssomeofthesequest onsandmayhe pyou
dec deyourownanswerstothem.
260 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Inthepastfourcenturies,wehavelearnedthatnothingisspecialaboutourposition
inthecosmos.Weinhabitthethirdplanetorbitinganaveragestarinasolarsystem
tensofthousandsoflight-yearsfromthecenterofanormalspiralgalaxy.Andafew
hundredbillionotherstarsarealsointheGalaxy.Granted,notallofthemcould
havesolarsystemslikeourown,butthehistoryofourunderstandingofourplacein
theuniverseshouldtellusthatanassumptionofmediocrityisprobablyagoodidea.
Ifwerenotspecial,whyhasnoonecontactedus?Dowesmellbad?Isitourhair?Or
isourplanettrulytheonlyrepositoryoflifeintheuniverse?Letstakeaninventory
ofwhatweknow,andlookatwhatitmighttellusaboutourplaceintheuniverseas
intelligent,curiousbeings.
What Do You Mean by Alone?
Sittinginyourhomeatnight,watchingtelevision,withnootherhumanspresent,
youmightconsideryourselfalone.Butareyoureally?Therearemicrobescrawling
onyourskin;bacteriaareinyourintestines;andyourcatissprawledacrossyourlap.
Silverfishinhabitthedampcabinetunderneathyourkitchensink,andyetyoumight
stillconsideryourselfalone.Why?
Althoughotherlivingthingsareclosetoyou,someevenonorinyourownbody,
youcannotcommunicatewiththem.Yourcatmaycomeclosetocommunicating,but
evenshehaslimitationsbeyondappreciatingbeingfedandscratched.
Nowreconsiderthelargerquestion.Isthemereexistenceofotherlifeintheuniverse
enoughforusnottofeelalone?Wouldtherebeanycomfortinknowingthattheuni-
verseisteemingwithbacteriallife?Orwillourcosmiclonelinessbeendedonlyby
thepresenceofotherintelligentlife,lifewithwhichwecanpotentiallycommunicate?
If You Call This Living
Sointhinkingabouttheprospectsforlifebeyondourplanet,mostofusprobably
contemplatetwodistinctsubjects:intelligentlifelifecapableofcreating
civilizationsand,well,justplainlife.
Tostartwith,justhowplaincanlifegetandstillbecalledlife?
Youknowhowashrink-wrappedboxofsoftwarehasminimumrequirementsprinted
onitsside?AndittellsyouhowmanymegabytesofRAMyouneed,howmuchhard
drivespace,andsoon?Well,lifeseemstohavesomeminimumrequirementsaswell.
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 261
Mostbiologistsagreethattherequirementsforsomethingtobeclassifiedasaliving
organisminclude
u Theabilitytoreproduce
u Theabilitytoobtainnourishmentorenergyfromtheenvironment
u Theabilitytoevolveorchangeastheenvironmentchanges
Thelate,greatevolutionarybiologistStevenJ.GouldcalledthecurrentageonEarth
theAgeofBacteria,andhemadethecasethat,intermsofdiversityandadaptability,
bacteriarule.ThesciencefictionwriterKurtVonnegutJr.oncesuggestedthatthe
purposeofhumanbeingsistobringvirusestootherplanets.Maybehewasjoking.
Maybe.
Bacteriaandvirusesmightbeplentiful,butwhataboutmoremacroscopicbeings?
Couldthesebefoundorevenbecommononotherplanets?
Do You Like Your Earth Served Rare?
Thepreviouslylistedrequirementsareminimaland,forexample,saynothingabout
movement,specificsenses,orevenconsciousnessattributesthatnarrowandrefine
thedefinitionoflife.WeknowthatlifeonEarthrangesfromtinyviruseswhich
hardlyseemaliveatallwheninactiveandwhichmostbiologistsdonotclassifyas
livingtosimpleone-celledorganisms,tothewholerangeofmorecomplexplant
andanimallife,toourselves.
Lifeatitsmostbasicseemstorequireverylittle:thepresenceofafewchemicalele-
ments,theabsenceofcertainharmfulsubstances,andtheavailabilityoftolerable
environmentalconditions.Somescientistsbelievetheexistenceofthesebasicrequire-
mentsonEarthisasortofcosmicflukearare,possiblyevenunique,lotteryjackpot
win.ButmostassumethatEarth,althoughspecialtous,iswithintheGalaxy
mediocre.Thebeliefthatnothingisuncommon,letaloneunique,abouttheconditions
onEarththatsupportlifeissometimescalledtheassumptionofmediocrity.
Asfaraswecantell,Earthdoesnotpossessanyspecialelementsorconditionsthat
arenteasilyavailableelsewhereintheGalaxyandtheuniverse.Notonly,then,is
therenothingtohavepreventedlifefromevolvingelsewhereintheuniverse,but
withhundredsofbillionsofstarsinourGalaxyalone,wehaveeveryreasonto
believethatlifehasindeedsprungforthelsewhere.
262 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Thereareevenrecentsuggestionsthatlifemighthaveoriginatedonanotherplanet
ofoursolarsystemnamelyMarsandwasbroughttoEarthonthebacksof
asteroids.Otherresearchershavebeenabletogeneratestructuresthatcouldbethe
precursorstocellwallsinconditionsthatsimulatetheharshenvironmentsofinter-
stellarspace.Life,oncethoughttobefragileandunique,appearstobequiteatough
survivor.
Okay,fine.Butevengivenallofthesehopefulsignsforlifeintheuniverse,Fermis
questionremainsunanswered:Whereiseverybody?
The Chemistry of Life
Accordingtothosewhostudyhigh-redshiftsupernovae,theuniverseisabout14bil-
lionyearsold.Earth,likeotherplanetarybodiesinthesolarsystem,appearstobe
about4.5billionyearsold,andthefossilrecordshowsthatEarthwasnotdevoidof
lifeforverylong,perhapsforonlyafewhundredmillionyearsafteritcoalescedfrom
thesolarnebula.
TheoldestfossilsknownonEarth,Precambrianmicrofossils,arefromwestern
Australiaandareabout3.5billionyearsold.Theyresemblecurrentlylivinganaero-
bicbacteria,bacteriawhichdonotrequirefreeatmosphericoxygen.Thefirstfossils
indicatingthepresenceofliferequiringfreeoxygenareabout2billionyearsold,
whichmeansthatEarthsatmosphereunderwentahugechangeintheintervening
billionandahalfyears.Thefossilrecordtellsusthatlifearoserelativelyquicklyon
thesurfaceofEarthandwentthroughwavesofdiversityandevolutionontimescales
oftensofmillionsofyears.
Oneglaringmysteryremains:howdidlifegeta
AstroByte footholdinthefirstplace?
Volcanicactivityontheearly
MostscientistswhostudylifeonearlyEarthpro-
Earthsentmanygasescours-
posethatsometimebeforethefirstlifeformsarose,
ingintotheatmosphere.Its
duringEarthsinitialseveralhundredmillionyears,
earlycarbondioxideatmosphere
thesimplemoleculespresent(nitrogen,oxygen,car-
literallyarosefromwithin.Earth
hadsufficientmasstoholdonto
bondioxidegas,ammonia,andmethane)somehow
theheaviermoleculesinits
formedintothemorecomplexaminoacidsthatare
atmospherebutnotthelighter
thechemicalbuildingblocksoflife.Theturbulent
hydrogenandhelium.Earthwas
youthofEarthprovidedtheenergythatcausedthe
awarmerplaceinthepast,
transformationofsimpleelementsandcompounds
warmedbyitsgreenhousegases.
intothebuildingblocksoflife.Alsorememberthat,
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 263
initsinfancy,EarthwasorbitedmuchmorecloselybytheMoon,sothatafterliquid
waterwaspresentonitssurface,thetideswouldhavebeenenormousperhaps1,000
feetupanddownastheplanetrotatedonceevery6(not24)hours.Thisvigorous
mixingoftheprimordialsoup(shaken,notstirred)mighthavehadanimportant
effectontheoriginoflife,providingaworkbenchonwhichsomewhatrandom
chemicalexperimentscouldoccur.
Afteraminoacidsandnucleotidebaseswereavailable(andobservationalevidenceof
star-formingregionssuggeststhathighlycomplexmoleculesarepresentininterstel-
larspace),thenextstepupincomplexitywouldhavebeenthesynthesisofproteins
andgeneticmaterial.
TheDNAmoleculeismadeupofnucleotidebasescalledgenes.Strungtogether,the
genestellourcellswhattodowhentheyreproduceandmakeusdifferent(insome
ways)from,say,earthworms.TheDNAmoleculeisthemostdurable,portable,flex-
ible,andcompactinformationstoragedeviceweknowof,andwearejustbeginning
tounravelitsmysteries.
ButthisisnottosaythatDNAistheonlywaylifecouldpropagateandcouldhave
propagated.Perhapstherearemyriadothermeansbywhichlifecanencodeways
tomakemoreofitself.Nevertheless,astartingpointistounderstandthegenetic
materialthatsupportslifeonEarth,andwearestillintheearlyphasesofthat
understanding.
Althoughplentyofplanetsmightbesimilar
toEarth,toestimatethelikelihoodthat
moleculesonanygivenplanetwillcombine
Astrobiologists arescientistswho
toformaminoacidsandnucleotides,let
contemplatequestions(likethe
aloneproteinsandDNA,isextremelydiffi-
originandevolutionoflifeon
cult.Astrobiologistshavewondered:Arethere
Earth)thatariseattheintersection
fundamentalbiologicallawsinthesameway ofthesetwofields.Astrobiology
thattherearefundamentalphysicallaws?
isarelativelynewdiscipline,
combiningtheexpertiseofastron-
Dothebasic,universalrulesofchemical
equationsinevitablyleadtoinformation
omersandbiologists.
storagesystemslikeDNA?OrisDNAa
flukepeculiartoourplanet?Thisiswhere
thequestions,andthedebates,begin.
264 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
CloseEncounter
In1953,scientistsStanleyMillerandHaroldUreydecidedtoseeiftheycould
duplicate,experimentally,thechemicalandatmosphericconditionsthatproduced
lifeonEarth.Ina5-literflask,theyreplicatedwhatisthoughttobeEarthsprimordial
atmosphere:methane,carbondioxide,ammonia,andwater.Theywiredtheflaskforan
electricdischarge,thesparkintendedtosimulateasourceofultravioletphotons(lightning)
orotherformofenergy(suchasameteorimpactshockwave,whichmusthavebeen
commonintheearlysolarsystem).TheMiller-UreyExperimentdidntproducelife,butit
didcreateacollectionofaminoacids(buildingblocksofproteins),sugars,andother
organiccompounds.ThustheMiller-UreyExperimentimpliedanextensionoftheassump-
tionofmediocrity.Notonlycouldwereasonablyconcludetheremustbesimilarplanets
intheGalaxybutalsothattheymusthavethechemicalelementsnecessaryforlife,and
randomenergyinputalonecouldtriggerthesynthesisofthebuildingblocksoflife.
AlllifeonEarthiscarbon-based.Thatis,itsconstituentchemicalcompoundsare
builtoncombinationsofcarbonatomsand,furthermore,developedinaliquidwater
environment.Evencreaturessuchasourselves,whodonotliveinwater,consist
mostlyofwater,andthepresenceofliquidwaterisvitaltoourcontinuedexistence.
IflifeonEarthdevelopedfirstintheoceans,we,billionsofyearslater,individually
developasfetusesinatinyoceanlikewomb;thenwebeingmostlywatercarry
theseoceanswithinusthroughourlives.
Life on Mars
SciencefictionhaslongportrayedMarsashometointelligentlife,andtheAmerican
astronomerPercivalLowell,earlyinthetwentiethcentury,createdagreatstir
withhistheoryofMartiancanals.Actor-director-writerOrsonWellestriggered
anationwidepanicwithhis1938radiodramatizationofH.G.WellssWarofthe
Worlds,aboutaMartianinvasionofEarth.PeopleofEarthseemedprimedtobelieve
thatlifemightexistonMars.
Givenourfascinationwiththeredplanetanditsproximity,itisnowonderMars
hasbeenthetargetofanumberofunmannedprobes.Inthemid-tolate1970s,the
VikingprobesperformedroboticexperimentsontheMartiansurface,includingtests
designedtodetectthepresenceofsimplelifeformssuchasmicrobes.Thesetests
yieldedapparentlypositiveresults,which,however,weresubsequentlyreinterpreted
asfalsepositivesresultingfromchemicalreactionswiththeMartiansoil.Then,on
August7,1996,scientistsannouncedthat,basedonitschemicalcomposition,amete-
oriterecoveredinAntarcticahadoriginatedonMarsandpossiblycontainedevidence
offossilizedbacteriallife.
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 265
ThetwoMarsExploration
Rovershavebeenfunction-
ingasroboticscientistsonthe
surfaceofMars,extending
thereachofhumanunder-
standing,andfaroutlasting
theirexpectedlifetimes.
(ImagefromNASA)
TheMarsPathfinder(1997)andMarsGlobalSurveyor(1998)missionshavetaken
detailedpanoramicviewsfromtheMartiansurfaceandhigh-resolutionsatellite
imagesofthesurface.Bothofthesemissionshavefoundevidenceofthepresenceof
liquidwaterontheMartiansurfaceatsometimeinthepast.AndinJanuary2004,
twoMartianroversNASAlaunchedinthesummerof2003toucheddownonthe
surfaceofMarsandfoundgeologicalevidenceofthepresenceofwaterontheplanet
inthepast.
TheroverSpirit,almost
threeyearsafterlaunch,
recentlyuncoveredevidence
ofanancientwateryenvi-
ronmentinGusevCrater:
fine-grainedsilica(SiO
2
)
exposedbydraggingoneof
itswheels.Silicasediments
arefoundonancientEarth,
depositedincoastalwaters.
(ImagefromNASA/
JPL-Caltech/Cornell)
266 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Alloftheseresultsareintriguing,butsofar,noneoftheMartianprobeshasfound
incontrovertibleevidenceoflife(pastorpresent)onMars.Inthepast,theMartian
atmosphere,nowverythin,waslikelythickerand,asaconsequence,theplanetssur-
facewaswarmerandwetter.So,possibly,microbiallifeonceexistedonMars.Under
theplanetscurrentcold,dry,andgenerallyharshconditions,however,thepresence
oflifetodayishighlyunlikely.
Hello! Is Anybody Out There?
SolifebeyondEarthbutwithinthesolarsystemseemsunlikely.Butthatsokay.
TheresstilltherestoftheGalaxy,right?
WithhundredsofbillionsofstarsinourownGalaxy,oddsaretheremustbemany
otherplanetarysystems.Observationsofthewobbleofstarsindicatesthepresence
ofwellover100starswithplanetsaroundthem.Recentresearchhasshownthatstars
withhighmetallicity(determinedbytherelativeabundanceofironinthestar)are
muchmorelikelytohaveplanets.Butthatnarrowstheoddsonlyslightly.Andifone
oftheseplanetsorbitsataconstantdistancefromitshoststaratadistanceatwhich
liquidwatercouldexist,couldntlifeexistthereaswell?How,exactly,dowedeter-
minetheodds?
An Equation Youll Like
GiventhebillionsofstarsinourGalaxy,theexistenceoflifesomewhereinthe
MilkyWayisprettylikely,butdowehaveanywaytogetaroughideaofjusthow
likely?NoteverystarintheGalaxyisagoodprospectforlife.Somestarsaresomas-
sivetheydontlastlongenough,andothersarenothotenoughtowarmanyplanets
thatmightbecloseby.Othersformedlongagowhentherewerenotasmanymetals
present,andothersareinbinarysystemsinwhich(simulationsshow)planetshavea
hardertimesurviving.
Perhaps15percentofthestarsintheGalaxyhavethepropermasstobejustlumi-
nousenoughbutnottooluminoustosupporthabitableplanets.In1961,an
astronomernamedFrankDrakeattemptedtoquantifytheoddsthatintelligentlife
capableofcommunicationexistselsewhereintheGalaxyandtriedtogetatleasta
roughanswertopartoftheFermiParadox.
Drakeproposedanequationtoestimatethepossiblenumberofcivilizationsinthe
MilkyWay.TheDrakeEquationcontainsanumberofhighlyuncertainterms
variablesthatmustsimplybeguessedat;nevertheless,itisausefulwayofbreaking
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 267
downacomplexquestionintosmaller,better-differentiatedblocks,whichmay
becomemorecertainastechnologyandunderstandingimprove.Someofthevari-
ablesthatwerehighlyuncertainin1961thenumberofstarswithplanets,for
examplehavebecomemorecertainasfurtherrelevantobservationsweremade.
HereswhattheDrakeEquationlookslike:
N=R f
p
N
p
f
e
f
l
f
i
f
c
L
*
AndhereswhatthetermsoftheDrakeEquationstandfor:
u N(theleft-handsideoftheequation)isthenumberofcivilizationsinour
Galaxywithwhichweshouldbeabletocommunicateviasomesortofsignal.
u R istherateatwhichourGalaxyformssolar-massstarsitsproductivityin
*
solarmassesperyear.
u f isthefractionofstarswithplanetarysystems.
p
u N
p
istheaveragenumberofplanetsperstar.
u f
e
isthefractionofEarthlikeplanets(planetssuitableforlife).
u f
l
isthefractionoftheseplanetsonwhichlifeactuallydevelops.
u f
i
isthefractionoftheseplanetsonwhichintelligentcivilizationsarise.
u f
c
isthefractionoftheseplanetsonwhichtechnologicalcivilizationsdevelop.
u Listhelifetimeofacivilizationinyears.
A Careful Look at the Equation
PerhapsthemostimportanttermintheequationisL,thelifetimeofacivilization.
Ifcivilizationslastformanymillionsofyears,thenourownGalaxycouldbeteeming
notonlywithlifebutalsowithadvancedcivilizations.AsFermiandothersrealized,
theuniversehasbeenaroundforalongtime.Thetypesofstarsaroundwhichcivi-
lizationscouldevolvehavebeenpresentsincerelativelysoonaftertheBigBang,and
ourplanettookabout5billionyearstoproduceus.ButEarthdidntformuntilthe
universewasalmost10billionyearsold.Ifthelikelihoodofallofthesevariablesis
high,intelligentcivilizationsshouldhavecolonizedtheGalaxybynow.Sowhere
arethey?
268 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
Heresonesomewhatdepressingpossibility:ifLisrathersmall(evenhundredsor
thousandsofyears),thentheGalaxymightbealonelyplaceindeed.Civilizations,
likecandles,mightbelitfrequently,butiftheydonotburnforverylong,onlyafew
others(ornoothers)willbeburningsimultaneouslywithus.
Letslookatsomeoftheotherkeytermsintheequation.
Galay Productivity
Astronomersfigurethataminimumof100billionstarspopulatetheMilkyWay.
Wecanestimatethatabout10percentofthesestarsorabout10billionstarsare
solar-massstarsthatarenotinbinarysystems.IftheGalaxyisabout10billionyears
old,thenthestarformationrateisabout10billionstarsdividedby10billionyears,
or1solar-massstareachyear.
Do They All Have Planets?
WhentheDrakeEquationwasfirstwrittendown,theonlyplanetarysystemwe
knewaboutwasourown.Butastronomershaveexpendedgreateffortinthepast
threedecadestouncoverotherplanetarysystems.Asnotedpreviously,wenowknow
manyotherplanetarysystems(over200atlastcount)exist,andarecentstudybased
onstatisticalcorrectionstoplanetarysearchesestimatesthatatleast25percentof
solar-massstarshaveplanetarysystems.
Welcome to the Habitable Zone
Estimatesofthetypicalnumberofplanetsperplanetarysystem,basedonnumeri-
calmodeling,rangefrom5to20.Thenumberishighlydependentonthesimulation
thatisrun,butthatshouldntbesurprising,sincetheformationofaplanetarysystem
hassomedegreeofrandomness.
Ourownsolarsystem,ofcourse,haseightplanetsandahostofdwarfplanets,
includingPluto,whicharenowbeingdiscovered.Wehaveobservationsofotherplan-
etarysystems,butwemustrememberthat,atpresent,wecandetectonlythemost
massiveplanetsorbitingthesestars.Wehavenocountsofthenumberofsmaller
planetsinthesesystems.
However,manyplanetsdoformaroundastar;astronomerscalladoughnut-shaped
regionaroundallstarsthehabitablezone.Thiszoneisthespacebetweensomeinner
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 269
andouterdistancefromthestarwhereastar
withagivenluminosity(rateofenergyproduc-
tion)producesatemperaturethatsjustright.
Threeplanetsareinthehabitable
AstronomersNotebook
zoneoftheSunVenus,Earth,
Justrightforwhat?Well,justrightforliquid
andMars.Thehabitablezone
watertoexistwithoutfreezingorboilingaway. isthedistancefromthestarat
Wewillestimatethat10percentoftheplanets
whichliquidwatercouldsurvive.
aroundastarwillfallwithinthehabitablezone.
Soapparentlybeinginthezone
Recentworkhasnarrowedthiszonebyintro-
isnotsufficienttosupportlife!
ducingtheconceptofacontinuouslyhabitable
zone.Thisisthedistancefromastar(throughoutitschangeablelifetime)atwhich
liquidwatercouldexist.ItisinterestingtonotethatalthoughVenus,Earth,and
MarsfallinthehabitablezoneoftheSun,onlyEarthfallsinthenarrowercontinu-
ouslyhabitablezone.
Primordial Soup du Jour
AlthoughastronomerssuchasCarlSagan(19341997)haveassumedthatlifedevelops
onvirtuallyeveryplanetcapableofsupportingit,estimatesofthisprobabilityvary
widely.Untilscientistsproduceamodelwherebybasicelementscanself-organize
intoreproducingproto-life,theoddsoflifearisinggiventherightconditionsare
anybodysguess.
Thefractionofhabitableplanetsonwhichlifearises,f ,isexpressedasadecimal,
withthenumber1indicatingthatthereisa100percentchancethatlifewilldevelop
onahabitableplanet.EstimatesrangefromSagansoptimistic1downto0.000001
thatis,perhapsonly1outofevery1millionhabitableplanetsactuallydevelopslife.
Thisnumberishighlyuncertain.Ifroboticprobesinthesolarsystemweretofind
thatmicrobiallifeonceexistedonMars,thenthismightcauseustoraisetheodds
thatlifewillarisegiventherightconditions.
l
Aswewillseelater,theprobabilitythatsimplelifearisesmightbehigh,butmight
onlybeundonelaterintheequationbythedifficultiespresentedtolong-termsur-
vivalofcomplexlife.
You Said Intelligent Life? Where?
Beyondthispointintheequation,thetermsbecomeveryuncertain.Somescientists
believethatitispossiblethatbiologicalevolutionasobservedonEarthisauniversal
270 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
phenomenon;givenenoughtime,lifeanywhereitexistswilltendtoevolvetoward
greaterandgreatercomplexity.
Ifthisisthecase,thenwemightassumethat,givenenoughtime,intelligencewill
emergewhereverthereislife.Others,however,believethatintelligenceisnotindis-
pensabletosurvivalandthat,therefore,itisnottheinevitablebyproductofnatural
selectionandevolution.Arebacteriaintelligent?Notparticularly,andtheyvedone
prettywellforthemselveshereonEarth.
Turn on the Radio
Forthefractionofintelligentlifeformsthatdevelopcivilizationandtechnology(f
c
),
estimatesvarywidely.Howcouldtheynot?Wehavenowenteredtherealmofpsych-
ologyandsocialscience,disciplinesthathaveahardenoughtimeunderstanding
humans,muchlessutterlyconjecturallifeforms.
Somearguethatgiventime,technologyandcivilizationareinevitabledevelopments
ofintelligence.Othersmakejustascompellingacasethattheconnectionisnotinev-
itableand,consequently,putf
c
muchlower.Othercomplicatingfactorsinvolvethe
correlationbetweenintelligenceandaggression.Areintelligentlifeformsdestined
todestroythemselves?Ordoafewselectcivilizationsenteratimeofpeace,apax
planetaria?
Finally,wecannotassumethatallcivilizationswillhavethedesiretocommunicate.
Maybecivilizationsdevelopvirtualrealitiesmuchmoreinterestingthanthereal
universeanddevelopbeyondphysical,biologicalbodiesaltogether.Thisterminthe
DrakeEquationhasbeenrichterritoryforminingbygoodsciencefictionwriters.
The End of the World As We Know It
Thefinaltermisperhapsboththemostinterestingandthemostuncertainofthem
all:howlongdocivilizationscapableofcommunicationendure?Toestimatehow
manycivilizationsthereareintheGalaxyatanygiventime,wemustknowhowlong
theylast.Oncelit,howlongdoesthecandleofcivilizationburn,atleastonaverage?
Considerourowncivilization,onewitharecordedhistoryofnomorethan5,500
yearsandonethathasbeenhighlytechnological(possessingtheatomicbomband
radiotelescopes)forlessthanacentury.
Planetsandstarshavelonglifespans,butwehaveonlyalittleover5,000yearsof
documentedexperiencewithcivilization.Whatismostdisquietingisthatwehave
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 271
reachedapointoftechnologicaldevelopmentthatenablesus,atthetouchofafew
buttons,todestroyourcivilizationinathermonuclearfireballhereandnow.And
thesolarsystemisstillaplacewherethingsareoutofourcontrol.Wereanasteroid
liketheonethatmayhavestruckEarthabout65millionyearsagotohitusagain,we
wouldfarenobetterthanthedinosaurs.Fiftymillionyearsafterthatimpact,highly
evolvedantsmightbeexcavatingourfossilizedbonesandspeculatingonthecauseof
ourdemise.
Sowhatistheaveragelifespanofacivilization?Athousand,fivethousand,tenthou-
sand,amillionyears?Evenif,overtime,therehavebeenmany,manycivilizationsin
ourGalaxy,howmanyaretherenow?
Wereanasteroidlikethe
onethatmayhavedoomed
thedinosaurstohitEarth
tomorrow,wewouldfareno
betterthantheydid.Civili-
zationsfaceinternaland
externalchallengestotheir
survival.
(ImagefromNASA)
CloseEncounter
IfweapproachanyvariableintheDrakeEquationpessimistically,assigningit
alowvalue,weendupwiththepossibilitythatthereareveryfewtechnological
civilizationsintheGalaxy.Butifweplugintotheequationthemostoptimisticestimates
forallthevariables(suchaslifewillalwaysdevelop;intelligencewillalwaysevolve;
technologywillalwaysarise),weendupfindingthatthenumberoftechnologicalcivili-
zationsintheGalaxyisequaltotheaveragelifetimeofsuchacivilization.
Iftheaveragetechnologicalcivilizationsurvives10,000years,wecanexpectto
find10,000civilizationsintheGalaxyatanytime.If5,000yearsisthenorm,5,000
civilizationswouldbeexpected.Ifacivilizationusuallylastsmillionsofyears,then,
assuminghighvaluesthroughouttherestoftheequation,wemightexpecttofinda
millioncivilizationsintheMilkyWay.Buteveninthisoptimisticscenario,thedistances
betweencivilizationsremainenormous.
272 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
TravelingtothelocationofanothercivilizationintheGalaxyisahighlyimpractical
proposition.Eveninabest-casescenario,civilizationsintheGalaxymustbehun-
dredsoflight-yearsapart,and,usingcurrenttechnology,gettingtotheneareststar
wouldtakeustensofthousandsofyears.Acivilizationmightbelonggonebythe
timewegottheretosaynothingofhavingtocopewiththemotherofalljetlagsat
theendofthetrip.
Wouldntitbetragictotraveltoanotherstarsystemtofindthattheyhaddone
themselvesinduringthethousandsofyearsittookustogetthere?
What We Look For
Giventhevastdistancesthatmustseparatecivilizationseveninthemostoptimistic
scenarios,itisunlikelythatwewillbetravelingtodistantcivilizationsanytimesoon.
Buttheurgetodetectsomesignofotherintelligentlifeintheuniversepersists,and
sincethe1960s,dedicatedgroupsofresearchershavetrainedradiotelescopessky-
wardinthehopeofreceivingbroadcastsfromextraterrestrialsources.Searcheshave
variedfromtargeted(directedtowardotherSunlikestars)torandom(piggybacking
onotherastronomicalobservations).Sofar,noneofthesearcheshavedetecteda
repeatingsignalofextraterrestrialorigin.
tainl
t
t
ifit tt
i i
Whyuserad
cer yposs
pho onsverywel
muchgrea er.Rad
as weren here.We
nrad owaves.
AstroByte
iosignals?Whynotuseanopticallaserpulsesentoutintospace?Itis
ible,butbecausethedustintheplaneofourGalaxyabsorbsoptical
l,theenergyrequirementsforopticalcommunicationwouldbe
iowaves,ontheotherhand,passthroughtheplaneoftheGalaxy
(andourpotentialneighbors)cancastacheaper,widernet
Earlier on Survivor
Theprojectofmonitoringtheheavensforradiobroadcastsseemstoassumethata
technologicalcivilizationwouldhavemadethedecisionintentionallytobroadcasta
repeatingsignal.GiventhatweEarthlingsaredoingnosuchthing,thisassumption
seemsabitshaky.
Thereisnoneedtoassumethatthecivilizationactuallywantstocommunicate
andisintentionallybroadcastingtootherworlds.Afterall,weonEarthhavebeen
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 273
broadcastingradiowavessincetheearlytwentiethcenturyandhavebeendoingso
intensivelyforabout70years.
Althoughradiosignalsatlongerwavelengthsdonotpenetratebeyondouratmosphere,
thoseinthehigherfrequencies,FMradioandtelevision,areemittedintospace.We
dontintendthistohappen,butitisaninevitableby-productofourtechnological
civilizationatleastuntileverythingcomesthroughopticalfibers.Perhapssomeother
civilizationisproducingasimilarby-product.Ourfirstglimpseofanothercivilization
mightbetheequivalentofitssitcoms,advertising,realityTV,andtelevangelists.And
yetwekeeponlistening.
The SETI Search
Monitoringtheheavensforartificialextraterrestrialbroadcastsisadauntingtask
akintolookingforaneedleinahaystack.Whereshouldwelook?Whatfrequencies
shouldwemonitor?Howstrongwillthesignalbe?Willitbecontinuousorintermit-
tent?Willitdrift?Willitchangefrequency?Willitevenberecognizabletous?
Tosaytheleast,radiofrequencysearchesaretime-andequipment-intensive.Frank
Drakeconductedthefirstsearchin1960,usingthe85-footantennaattheNational
RadioAstronomyObservatoryinGreenBank,WestVirginia.Hecalledhisendeavor
ProjectOzma,afterthequeenofthelandofOz.Thissearchultimatelydeveloped
intoProjectSETI(SearchforExtra-TerrestrialIntelligence),which,despitelos-
ingfederalfundinginthe1990s,remainsthemostimportantsponsorofsearchand
researchefforts.
TheSETIInstituteisaprivate,nonprofitgroupbasedinMountainview,California.
WhenNASA-basedSETIfundingwascutin1993,SETIconsolidatedmuchof
itseffortintoProjectPhoenix(risen,likethemythicalbird,fromtheashesofthe
fundingcut),aprogramthatbeganin1995andmonitors28millionchannelssimul-
taneously.SETIhopeseventuallytomonitor2billionchannelsforabout1,000
nearbystars.Computersoftwarealertsastronomerstoanyunusual,repeatingsignals.
Sofar,norepeatingsignalshavebeendiscovered.
Down at the Old Water Hole
SETIresearchersalsoguessthatcivilizationsmightchooseintentionallytobroadcast
theirpresencetotheirneighbors,sendingsomesortofradio-frequencybeaconinto
space.Whatportionofthespectrummighttheychoose?
274 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
CloseEncounter
WanttodoyourbitfortheSearchforExtra-TerrestrialIntelligence(SETI)?
Downloadascreensaver(atwww.seti-inst.edu/science/setiathome.html)thatmight
helptofindthatfirstET.Theprogramusescyclesonyourcomputer(whennotinuse)to
processoneofthelargestdatasetsmankindhaseverassembled.
AndifyoujustwanttocheckthecurrentstatusofSETI,gototheirinformativewebsite:
www.seti-inst.edu.TheSETIInstitutereceivedalargefinancialboostfromMicrosoft
co-foundersPaulAllenandNathanMyhrvold,whogave$11.5millionand$1million
respectivelyfortheconstructionofaradiotelescopearraydedicatedtotheSETIsearch.
Uptothispoint,searcheshavedependedoncadgingtimeonexistingtelescopes.The
AllenTelescopeArray(ATA)willbededicatedtotheSETIprojectaroundtheclock.The
firststageoftheATAisunderconstruction.ByJuly2006,thefirst 10antennasoftheATA-
42(firststage)hadbeenequippedwithmotorsandreceivers.Whencompleted,the
arraywillconsistof3506.1-mtelescopes.
InFebruary2007,thefirstastronomicalimagesmadewiththeATAwerereleased.Inaddi-
tiontobeingaSETIworkhorse,theATAwillbeapowerfulastronomicalradiotelescope.
Researcherschieflymonitorasmallportionoftheradiowavelengthsbetween18cm
and21cm,calledthewaterhole.Therationaleformonitoringthissliceoftheradio
spectrumistwofold.First,themostbasicsubstanceintheuniverse,hydrogen,
radiatesatawavelengthof21cm.Hydroxyl,thesimplemolecularcombinationof
hydrogenandoxygen,radiatesat18cm.Ifwecombinehydrogenandhydroxyl,we
getwater.
Ifthesymbolismofthewaterholeisnotsufficientlypersuasivetopromptextrater-
restrialbroadcasterstousethesewavelengths,thereisalsothelikelihoodthatthis
sliceofthespectrumwillberecognizedasinvitingonamorepracticallevel.Itisan
especiallyquietpartoftheradiospectrum.Thereislittleinterferencehere,avery
lowlevelofgalacticbackgroundnoise.Researchersreasonthat,attheveryleast,
intentionalbroadcasterswouldseethewaterhole(whichlooksthesamenomatter
whereintheGalaxyoneislocated)asamostopportunebroadcastchannel.
Do We Really Want to Do This?
Hollywoodhasdoneaprettyfairjobofreflectingtherangeofopiniononthepsy-
chologicalmakeupofextraterrestrialbeings.The1950sand1960ssawanumberof
moviesaboutmalevolentalieninvaders,butthenStevenSpielbergsCloseEncounters
oftheThirdKind(1977)andE.T.theExtraterrestrial(1982)suggestedthatcontact
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 275
withemissariesfromotherworldsmightbe
thrilling,beneficial,andevenheartwarm-
AstroByte
ing,nottomentionboffoboxoffice.
TheVoyager spacecrafteach
haveonboardagoldenplaque
Thecloseofthe1990spittedIndependence
andphonographrecord.
Dayinwhichaliensattempttotakeover
Amongotherthings,theplaque
EarthagainstContact,inwhichcom- showsamanandwoman,the
munionwithextraterrestrialsisportrayed
trajectoryofthespacecraftinthe
asaprofoundlyspiritual(ifratherweepy)
solarsystem,andarepresentation
experience.AndthenX-Files:Fightthe
ofthehydrogenatom.Thephono-
Futureproposedthatourentireplanetis
graphrecordcontainsrecordings
ofhumanvoicessendingagreet-
beingpreparedformassivecolonizationby
inginmanylanguagesandmusic.
extraterrestrials.Infact,thewholeX-Files
Itisamessageinabottlecast
televisionseriessuggestedanoveland
intoavastocean.
surprisinglypopularsolutiontotheFermi
Paradox.Whereiseverybody?Hey,theyre
alreadyhere!
Thepointisthis:noteveryoneispersuadedthatreachingoutissuchagreatidea.
Afterall,eventhemostsociableamonguslockourhousesatnight.
But,someargue,thepointismoot;theradiocathasbeenoutofthebagformore
thansixdecades.Anever-expandingsphereofourradiobroadcastsismovingout
atthespeedoflightinalldirectionsfromEarth.Theearliesttelevisionbroadcast
(which,unfortunately,includesimagesofAdolfHitleratthe1936Olympics)isnow
over70light-yearsfromEarth.Itsabitlatetostartfeelingshy.
OnNovember16,1974,thegiantradiodishoftheAreciboObservatorywasused
asatransmittertobroadcastabinary-codedmessagecontainingacompacttreasure
troveofinformationabouthumans.Reassembled,themessagegeneratesanimage
thatshowsthenumbers1through10;theatomicnumbersforhydrogen,carbon,
nitrogen,oxygen,andphosphorous;arepresentationofthedouble-helixofDNA;an
iconicimageofahumanbeing;thepopulationoftheEarth;thepositionofEarthin
thesolarsystem;andaschematicrepresentationoftheArecibotelescopeitself.We
haveyettoreceiveareply,butthatshouldcomeasnosurprise.Travelingatthespeed
oflight,themessagewilltake25,000yearstoreachitsintendedtarget,aglobular
clusterintheconstellationHercules.Maybebythenwewillknowhowtogreetour
alienfriendshospitably.
276 Part 5: TheBigQuestions
TheAreciboRadioTelescope
inPuertoRicobroadcastthe
AreciboMessagein1974.
Themessageis1,679bits
long,theproductoftwo
primenumbers,23and73.
Whenthezerosandonesare
arrangedinarectanglewith
sides23and73unitslong,
theymakethispicture,which
showsamongotherthingsa
humanform,ournumber
system,andthedoublehelix
ofDNA.
(ImagefromNASA)
SomemightviewtheAreciboMessageastheworkoflatter-dayQuixotesjousting
withcosmicwindmills.Othersmightviewitasaninterstellarmessagecastadriftin
adigitalbottle,containingtheveryhumanhopeofcontact.Letsjusthopethatwe
haventtoldthemtoomuch.
Coming Full Circle
Wevecomealongwaysincewefirstconsideredourastronomicalancestorslooking
upattheskyandwondering.Wehavecometotheendofourstory,astorythatas
isobviousfromdailynewspaper,television,andWebstoriesisstillbeingwritten.
Weliveinanincredibleage,whentheeveningnewsmightreportthediscoveryof
accretiondisksaroundblackholesanddistantTypeIasupernovaeattheedgeofthe
visibleuniversealongwiththedoingsofmoviestarsandmusicians.Ourbook,we
hope,willenableyoutofollowthenewswithinterest,acriticaleye,andcuriosity
aboutwhatisjustbeyondthehorizonofourunderstanding.
Chapter 18: Where Is Everybody? 277
The Least You Need to Know
u ThechemicalsandconditionsonEarththatsupportlifeareprobablynot
uniqueorevenexceptionalbutcommonthroughouttheGalaxyandthe
universe.
u Wecanproducesomeofthebasicbuildingblocksoflifeinthelaboratoryand
haveevendetectedsomeofthesebasicblocksininterstellarspace.
u AlthoughthepossibilityoflifebeyondEarthwithinoursolarsystemisvery
small,theexistenceofsimplelifeelsewhereinourGalaxyishighlylikely.
u TheDrakeEquation,aroughwaytocalculateinareasonedmannerthenum-
berofcivilizationsthatmightexistintheMilkyWay,includeseightfactors,
somebasedinastronomyandwell-determined,andothersthatarestillhighly
speculative.
u Smallbutdedicatedgroupsofresearchers(includingthoseoftheSETIproject)
monitortheheavensforartificialradiosignalsofextraterrestrialorigin,andthe
SETIInstitutenowhasadedicatedtelescope(theAllenTelescopeArray)under
construction.
A
i
l
l i l i i
l i i i i
i i i l i ; i i-
i i i l i idi i
i l l i ; i ll
il l ll l i i l
i
i l l l i l
l i
al i i Alti ( l i i )
i ( i i i l
).
alti al i i
i ( ) i iti ll
si l illi
l i i li
i i i i l l i j
l i Di j i
le( ) i i i (
).
Append
Star Words G ossary
abso utemagn tude See um nos ty.
acce erat ngexpans on Recentobservat onsofveryd stantsupernovae
suggestthattheexpans onoftheun verse sacce erat ng that s,theun
verse sexpand ngmorequ ck ynowthan td nthed stantpast.
accret on Thegradua accumu at onofmass th susua yreferstothe
bu d-upof argermassesfromsma eronesthroughmutua grav tat ona
attract on.
act vega axy Aga axythathasamore um nousnuc eusthanmost
ga ax es.
taz muthcoord nates tude angu ard stanceabovethehor zon
andaz muth compassd rect onexpressed nangu armeasurefromdue
north
tude See taz muthcoord nates.
angstrom Abbrev atedA or .Th sun susedtomeasureverysma
ze,equa toonetenb onthofameter,or10
-10
meter.
angu armomentum Therotat ngvers onof nearmomentum.
Dependsonthemassd str but onandrotat ona ve oc tyofanob ect.
angu arseparat on stancebetweenob ects ntheskyexpressedas
anang suchasdegrees ratherthan nd stanceun ts suchasfeetor
meters
280 Appendix A
angularsize Sizeexpressedasanangle(suchasdegrees)ratherthanindistance
units(suchasfeetormeters).
annihilate Usedasanintransitiveverbbyastronomers.Particlesandantiparticles
annihilatewhentheymeet,convertingtheirmassintoenergeticphotons.Electrons
andanti-electrons(positrons)werecontinuallycreatedandannihilatedintheearly
universe.
anthropicprinciple Comesindifferentvarieties,butthebasicconceptisthatthe
universemustbethewayitis(intermsofitsfundamentalparameters)orhuman
beingswouldnotbeheretoobserveit.
apolloasteroids Asteroidswithsufficientlyeccentricorbitstocrosspathswith
Earth(andotherterrestrialplanets).
apparentmagnitude Avaluethatdependsonthedistancetoanobject.Seealso
luminosity.
arcminute Onesixtiethofanangulardegree.
1
arcsecond Onesixtiethofanarcminute( 3,600 ofadegree).
assumptionofmediocrity AscientificassumptionthatsaysweonEartharenotso
special.TheconditionsthathaveenabledlifetoariseandevolveonEarthlikelyexist
inmanyotherplacesintheGalaxyanduniverse.
asterism Anarbitrarygroupingofstars,withinorassociatedwithaconstellation,
perceivedtohavearecognizableshape(suchastheTeapotorOrionsBelt)thatread-
ilyservesasacelestiallandmark.
asteroid Oneofthousandsofsmall,rockymembersofthesolarsystemthatorbit
theSun.Thelargestasteroidsaresometimescalledminorplanets.
astronomicalunit(A.U.) Aconventionalunitofmeasurementequivalenttothe
averagedistancefromEarthtotheSun(149,603,500kilometersor92,754,170miles).
autumnalequinox Thedate(usuallySeptember21)onwhichdayandnightare
ofequallengthbecausetheSunsapparentcourseagainstthebackgroundstars(the
ecliptic)intersectsthecelestialequator.
barred-spiralgalaxy Aspiralgalaxythathasalinearfeature,orbarofstars,run-
ningthroughthegalaxyscenter.Thebarliesintheplaneofthespiralgalaxysdisk,
andthespiralarmstypicallystartattheendofthebar.
Star WordsGlossary 281
BigBang Theprimordialexplosionofahighlycompactuniverse;theoriginofthe
expansionoftheuniverse.
binaries Alsocalledbinarystars.Two-starsystemsinwhichthestarsorbitacom-
moncenterofmass.Thewaythecompanionstarsmovecantellastronomersmuch
abouttheindividualstars,includingtheirmasses.
blackbody Anidealized(theoretical)objectthatabsorbsallradiationthatfallson
itandperfectlyreemitsallradiationitabsorbs.Thespectrum(orintensityoflightas
afunctionofwavelength)thatsuchanobjectemitsisanidealizedmathematical
onstructcalledablack-bodycurve,whichcanserveasanindextomeasurethe
temperatureofarealobject.Someastronomicalsources(suchasstars)canbeapprox-
imatedasblackbodies.
blackhole Astellar-massblackholeistheendresultofthecorecollapseofahigh-
mass(greaterthan10solarmass)star.Itisanobjectfromwhichnolightcanescape
withinacertaindistance(seeSchwarzschildradius).Althoughspacebehavesstrangely
veryclosetoablackhole,atastronomicaldistances,theblackholesonlyeffectis
gravitational.
BodesLaw AlsocalledtheTitius-BodeLaw,BodesLawisanumericaltrickthat
givestheapproximateintervalbetweensomeoftheplanetaryorbitsinoursolar
system.
brightness Themeasuredintensityofradiationfromanobject.Thebrightnessof
astronomicalobjectsfallsoffwiththesquareofthedistance.
browndwarf Afailedstar,thatis,astarinwhichtheforcesofheatandgravity
reachedequilibriumbeforethecoretemperaturerosesufficientlytotriggernuclear
fusion.
calderas Cratersproducednotbymeteoroidimpactbutbyvolcanicactivity.Seealso
corona.
cardinalpoints Thedirectionsofduenorth,south,east,andwest.
Cassinidivision AdarkgapbetweenringsAandBofSaturn.Itisnamedforits
discoverer,GianDomenicoCassini(16251712),namesakeofthemissioncurrently
exploringSaturn.
cataclysmicvariable Seevariablestar.
celestialequator ThisimaginarygreatcircledividestheNorthernandSouthern
Hemispheresofthecelestialsphere.
282 Appendix A
celestialsphere AnimaginaryspheresurroundingEarthintowhichthestarsare
imaginedtobefixed.Forhundredsofyears,peoplebelievedsuchasphere(orbowl)
reallyexisted.Today,however,astronomersusetheconceptasaconvenientfictionto
describethepositionofstarsrelativetooneanother.
chainreaction Seenuclearfission.
circumpolarstars StarsnearthecelestialNorthPole;frommanylocationson
Earth,thesestarsneverset.
closeduniverse Auniversethatisfiniteandwithoutboundaries.Auniversewith
densityabovethecriticalvalueisnecessarilyclosed(seecriticaldensity).Anopen
universe,incontrast,willexpandforeverbecauseitsdensityisinsufficienttohaltthe
expansion.
comet Alsothoughtofasadirtysnowball.Thissmallcelestialbody,composed
mainlyoficeanddust,completeshighlyeccentricorbitsaroundtheSun.Asacomet
approachestheSun,someofitsmaterialisvaporizedandionizedtocreateagaseous
head(coma)andtwolongtails(onemadeofdust,oneofions).
conjunction Theapparentcomingtogetheroftwocelestialobjectsinthesky.
constellations Thesearbitraryformationsofstarsareperceivedasfigures
ordesigns.Thereare88officialconstellationsintheNorthernandSouthern
Hemispheres.
convectivemotion Agas-flowpatterncreatedbytherisingmovementofwarm
gases(orliquids)andthesinkingmovementofcoolergases(orliquids).
core Theinnermostregionofaplanetorstar.
corehydrogenburning Theprincipalnuclearfusionreactionprocessofastar.
Thehydrogenatthestarscoreisfusedintohelium,andthesmallamountofmass
lostisusedtoproduceenormousamountsofenergy.
core-collapsesupernova Thisextraordinarilyenergeticexplosionresultswhenthe
coreofahigh-massstarcollapsesunderitsowngravity.
core-halogalaxy Seeradiogalaxy.
corona Inastronomy,acoronamightbealuminousringappearingtosurrounda
celestialbody,theluminousenvelopeofionizedgasoutsidetheSunschromosphere,
oralargeupswellinginthemantleofthesurfaceofaplanetormoonthattakesthe
formofconcentricfissuresandthatisaneffectofvolcanicactivity.Seealsocalderas.
Star WordsGlossary 283
cosmicmicrowavebackground(CMB) Thesehighlyredshiftedphotonsleft
behindbytheBigBangaredetectabletodaythroughoutallspaceasradio-wavelength
radiation,indicatingablack-bodytemperaturefortheuniverseof2.73K.
cosmologicalprinciple Acornerstoneassumptionaboutthenatureoftheuniverse.
Itholdsthattheuniverseexhibitstwokeyproperties:homogeneity(samenessof
structureonthelargestscale)andisotropy(appearsthesameinalldirections).
cosmologicalredshift Thelengtheningofthewavelengthsofelectromagnetic
radiationcausedbytheexpansionoftheuniverse.
cosmology Thestudyoftheorigin,structure,andevolutionoftheuniverse.
crater ThisLatinwordforbowlreferstotheshapeofdepressionsintheMoonor
othercelestialobjectscreated(mostly)bymeteoroidimpacts.
criticaldensity Thedensityofmatterintheuniversethatrepresentsthedivision
betweenauniversethatexpandsinfinitely(unbound,oropen)andonethatwillulti-
matelycollapse(bound,orclosed).Thedensityoftheuniversedetermineswhetherit
willexpandforeverorendwithaconflagrationasdramaticastheBigBang.
crust Thesurfacelayerofaplanet.
darkenergy Thiscatch-allphraseisusedtodescribeanenergyofunknownorigin
thatdrivestheapparentaccelerationoftheexpansionoftheuniverse.
darkhalo TheregionsurroundingtheMilkyWayandothergalaxiesthatcontains
darkmatter.Theshapeofthedarkhalocanbeprobedbyexaminingindetailthe
effectsitsmasshasontherotationofthegalaxy.
darkmatter Thiscatch-allphraseisusedtodescribeanapparentlyabundant
substanceintheuniverseofunknowncomposition.Darkmatteris100timesmore
abundantthanluminousmatteronthelargestscales.
differentialrotation Apropertyofanythingthatrotatesandisnotrigid.Aspin-
ningCDisarigidrotator.Aspinningpieceofgelatinisnotasrigid,andaspinning
cloudofgasisevenlessso.Forexample,theatmospheresoftheouterplanetsandof
theSunhaveequatorialregionsthatrotateatadifferentratefromthepolarregions.
DrakeEquation Thisequationproposesanumberoftermsthathelpusmakea
roughestimateofthenumberofcivilizationsinourGalaxy,theMilkyWay.
dustlanes Darkareassometimesvisiblewithinemissionnebulaeandgalaxies;
thetermmostfrequentlyreferstointerstellarabsorptionapparentinedge-onspiral
galaxies.
284 Appendix A
dwarfplanet PlanetslikePlutoinoursolarsystemthatorbitthehoststar,but
unlikenormalplanets,aretoosmalltocleartheneighborhoodoftheirorbit.
eccentric Anellipse(orellipticalorbit)iscalledeccentricwhenitisnoncircular.An
ellipsewithaneccentricityof0isacircle,andanellipsewithaneccentricityofclose
to1wouldbeveryoblong.
eclipse Anastronomicaleventinwhichonebodypassesinfrontofanothersothat
thelightfromtheoccluded(shadowed)bodyisblocked.WhentheSun,Moon,and
Earthalign,theMoonblocksthelightoftheSun,resultinginasolareclipse.
eclipsingbinaries Seevisualbinaries.
ecliptic TheecliptictracestheapparentpathoftheSunagainstthebackground
starsofthecelestialsphere.Thisgreatcircleisinclinedat23
1
2 degreesrelativeto
thecelestialequator,whichistheprojectionoftheEarthsequatorontothecelestial
sphere.
electromagneticradiation Energyintheformofrapidlyfluctuatingelectricand
magneticfieldsandincludingvisiblelightinadditiontoradio,infrared,ultraviolet,
x-ray,andgamma-rayradiation.Thisenergyoftenarisesfrommovingchargesin
atomsandmolecules,thoughhigh-energyradiationcanariseinotherprocesses.
electromagneticspectrum Thecompleterangeofelectromagneticradiation,from
radiowavestogammawavesandeverythinginbetween.
ellipse Aflattenedcircledrawnaroundtwofociinsteadofasinglecenterpoint.
ellipticalgalaxy Agalaxywithnodiscerniblediskorbulgethatlookslikeanoval
orcircleofstarsonthesky.Thetrueshapesofellipticalsvaryfromelongated(foot-
balls)tospherical(baseballs)toflattened(hamburgerbuns).Ellipticalgalaxies
consistofoldstarsandappeartohavelittleornogasinthem.
emissionlines Narrowregionsofthespectrumwhereaparticularsubstanceis
observedtoemititsenergy.Theselinesresultfrombasicprocessesoccurringonthe
smallestscalesinanatom(suchaselectronsmovingbetweenenergylevels).
emissionnebulae Glowingcloudsofhot,ionizedinterstellargaslocatedneara
young,massivestar.(Singular,emissionnebula.)
ephemeredes Thesespecialalmanacsgivethedailypositionsofvariouscelestial
objectsforperiodsofseveralyears.
escapevelocity Thevelocitynecessaryforanobjecttoescapethegravitationalpull
ofanotherobject.
Star WordsGlossary 285
eventhorizon CoincidingwiththeSchwarzschildradius,thisisanimaginary
boundarysurroundingaconcentrationofmass,suchasacollapsingstarorblack
hole.Withintheeventhorizon,noinformationoftheeventsoccurringtherecanbe
communicatedtotheoutside,asatthisdistancenoteventhespeedoflightprovides
sufficientvelocitytoescape.
extrasolarplanet AplanetorbitingastarotherthantheSun.Over100suchplan-
etshavebeendiscovered,thoughmostlyinhighlyellipticalorbits.
flatuniverse Thisuniverseresultsifitsdensityispreciselyatthecriticallevel.
ItisflatinthesensethatitsspaceisdefinedbytherulesofordinaryEuclidean
geometryparallellinesnevercross.
focallength Thedistancefromamirrorsurfacetothepointwhereparallelraysof
lightarefocused.
focus Thepointatwhichamirrorconcentratesparallelraysoflightthatstrikeits
surface.
frequency Thenumberofwavecreststhatpassagivenpointperunitoftime.By
convention,thisismeasuredinhertz(equivalenttoonecrest-to-crestcyclepersec-
ond,namedinhonorofthenineteenth-centuryGermanphysicistHeinrichRudolf
HertzandabbreviatedHz).
galacticbulge Alsocallednuclearbulge,thisisaswellingatthecenterofspiral
galaxies.Bulgesconsistofoldstarsandextendoutafewthousandlight-yearsfrom
thegalacticcenters.
galacticdisk Thethinnestpartofaspiralgalaxy.Thedisksurroundsthenuclear
bulgeandcontainsamixtureofoldandyoungstars,gas,anddust.Inthecaseof
theMilkyWay,itextendsoutsome50,000light-yearsfromtheGalacticcenterbut
isonlyabout1,000light-yearsthick.Thedustinthedisk(afewhundredlight-years
thick)createsthedarkribbonthatrunsthelengthoftheMilkyWayandlimitsthe
viewofourownGalaxy(seedustlanes).
Galactichalo Alarge(50,000light-yearradius)sphereofoldstarssurroundingthe
galaxy.
galacticnucleus Thecoreofaspiralgalaxy.InthecaseofSeyfert(active)galaxies,
thenucleusisextremelyluminousintheradiowavelengths.
galaxycluster Agravitationallyboundgroupofgalaxies.
geocentric Earth-centered,thegeocentricmodeloftheuniverse(orsolarsystem)is
oneinwhichEarthisbelievedtobeatthecenteroftheuniverse(orsolarsystem).
286 Appendix A
giantmolecularclouds(GMCs) Thesehugecollectionsofcold(10Kto100K)
gascontainmanymillionsofsolarmassesofmolecularhydrogen.Thesecloudsalso
containothermolecules(suchascarbondioxide)thatwecanimagewithradiotele-
scopes.Thecoresofthesecloudsareoftenthesitesofthemostrecentstarformation.
gibbous ThiswordfromMiddleEnglishmeansbulginganaptdescriptionof
theMoonsshapebetweenitsfirstandthirdquarterphases.
globularclusters Collectionsofafewhundredthousandstars,heldtogetherby
theirmutualgravitationalattraction;theyarefoundinhighlyeccentricorbitsabove
andbelowthegalacticdisk.
gnomon Anyobjectdesignedtoprojectashadowusedasanindicator.Theupright
partofasundialisagnomon.
heliocentric Sun-centered;describesoursolarsystem,inwhichtheplanetsand
otherbodiesorbittheSun.
heliumflash Astellarexplosionproducedbytherapidincreaseinthetemperature
ofaredgiantscoredrivenbythefusionofhelium.
homogeneity Seecosmologicalprinciple.
H-Rdiagram ShortforHertzsprung-Russelldiagram.Itisagraphicalplotof
luminosityversustemperatureforagroupofstarsthatisusedtodeterminetheage
ofclustersofstars.
HubblesLaw Thelinearrelationshipbetweenthevelocityofagalaxysrecession
andthegalaxysdistancefromus.Simplystated,thelawsaysthattherecessional
velocityisdirectlyproportionaltothedistanceandisusedtodeterminetheageof
theuniverse.
inflationaryepoch AtimesoonaftertheBigBangwhentheuniversewaspuffed
upsuddenly,increasinginsizebyafactorof10
50
inaninstant.Thisinflationcould
accountfortheincrediblesameness,oruniformity,oftheuniverse,eveninregions
that(withoutinflation)couldneverhavebeenincontactwithoneanother.
interferometer Thisisacombinationoftelescopeslinkedtogethertocreatethe
equivalent(intermsofresolution)ofagianttelescope.Thiscomputing-intensive
methodgreatlyincreasesresolvingpower.
interstellarmatter Thematerialfoundbetweenstars.Referstothegasanddust
thinlydistributedthroughoutspace,thematterfromwhichthestarsareformed.
About5percentofourGalaxysmassiscontainedinitsgasanddust.Theremaining
95percentisinstars.
Star WordsGlossary 287
interstellarmedium Seeinterstellarmatter.
intrinsicvariable Seevariablestar.
irregulargalaxy Agalaxytypelackingobviousstructurebutcontaininglotsofraw
materialsforthecreationofnewstars,andoften,manyyoung,hotstars.
isotropy Seecosmologicalprinciple.
jovianplanets ThegaseousplanetsinoursolarsystemfarthestfromtheSun:
Jupiter,Saturn,Uranus,andNeptune.
Kelvinscale TheKelvin(K)temperaturescaleistiedtotheCelsius(C)tempera-
turescaleandisusefulbecausetherearenonegativeKelvintemperatures.Absolute
zero(0K)isthecoldesttemperaturethatmattercanattain.Atthistemperature,the
atomsinmatterwouldstopjigglingaroundalltogether.0Kcorrespondstoapproxi-
mately273C(459.4F).
leadingfaceandtrailingface Moonsthataretidallylockedtotheirparentplanet
havealeadingfaceandatrailingface;theleadingfacealwaysfacesinthedirectionof
theorbit,thetrailingfaceawayfromit.Manymoonsoftheoutergasplanetsarein
suchlockedorbits.
libration TheslowoscillationoftheMoon(orothersatellite,naturalorartificial)
asitorbitsalargercelestialbody.Lunarlibrationgivesusglimpsesofaverysmall
portionofthefarsideofourMoon.
lightpollution Theeffectofpoorlyplannedlightingfixtures(suchasstreetand
buildinglighting)thatallowlighttobedirectedupwardintothesky.Lightpollution
washesoutthecontrastbetweenthenightskyandstars.
light-year Thedistancelighttravelsinoneyear:approximately5.88trillionmiles
(9.46trillionkm).Forinterstellarmeasurements,astronomersusethelight-yearasa
basicunitofdistance.
(The)LocalGroup Agalaxycluster,thisgravitationallyboundgroupofgalaxies
includestheMilkyWay,Andromeda,andothersmallergalaxies.
luminosity Thetotalenergyradiatedbyastareachsecond.Luminosityisaquality
intrinsictothestar;magnitudemightormightnotbe.
lunareclipse Thedarkeningofthefullmoonwhenitpassesthroughtheshadow
oftheEarth.Eclipsescanbefull,partial,orpenumbral.
magnetosphere Azoneofelectricallychargedparticlestrappedbyaplanetsmag-
neticfield.Themagnetosphereliesfarabovetheplanetsatmosphere.
288 Appendix A
magnitude Asystemforclassifyingstarsaccordingtoapparentbrightness(see
luminosity).Thehumaneyecandetectstarswithmagnitudesfrom1(thebrightest)
to6(thefaintest).Afirstmagnitudestaris100timesbrighterthanasixthmagnitude
star.Absolutemagnitudeisanothernameforluminosity,butapparentmagnitudeis
theamountofenergyemittedbyastarandstrikingsomesurfaceordetectiondevice
(includingoureyes).Apparentmagnitudevarieswithdistance.
mainsequence Whenthetemperatureandluminosityofalargenumberofstars
areplotted,thepointstendtofallmostlyinadiagonalregionacrosstheplot.The
mainsequenceisthiswell-definedregionoftheHertzsprung-Russelldiagram
(H-Rdiagram)inwhichstarsspendmostoftheirlifetime.TheSunwillbeamain
sequencestarforabout10billionyears.
mantle Thelayerofaplanetbeneathitscrustandsurroundingitscore.
maria(pronouncedMAH-ree-uh) Thepluralofmare(pronouncedMAR-ay),
thiswordisLatinforseas.Mariaaredark-grayishplainsonthelunarsurfacethat
resembledbodiesofwatertoearlyobservers.
meteor Thetermforabrightstreakacrossthenightskyashootingstar.A
meteoroidistheobjectitself,arockyobjectthatistypicallyatinyfragmentlostfroma
cometoranasteroid.Amicrometeoroidisaverysmallmeteoroid.Thefewmeteoroids
thatarenotconsumedinEarthsatmospherereachthegroundasmeteorites.
meteorshower WhenEarthsorbitintersectsthedebristhatlittersthepathofa
comet,weseeameteorshower.Thesehappenatregulartimesduringtheyear.
meteorite Seemeteor.
meteoroid Seemeteor.
micrometeoroid Seemeteor.
millisecondpulsar Aneutronstarrotatingatsome1,000revolutionspersecond
andemittingenergyinextremelyrapidpulses.
minorplanet Seeasteroid.
nebula Atermwithseveralapplicationsinastronomybutusedmostgenerallyto
describeanyfuzzypatchseeninthesky.Nebulae(thepluralformoftheterm)are
often(thoughnotalways)vastcloudsofdustandgas.
neutronstar Thesuper-densecompactremnantofamassivestar,onepossiblesur-
vivorofasupernovaexplosion.Supportedbydegenerateneutronpressure,notfusion,
itisanentirestarwiththedensityofanatomicnucleus.
Star WordsGlossary 289
nova Astarthatsuddenlyandverydramaticallybrightens,resultingfromthetrig-
geringofnuclearfusioncausedbytheaccretionofmaterialfromabinarycompanion
star.
nuclearfission Anuclearreactioninwhichanatomicunitsplitsintofragments,
therebyreleasingenergy.Inafissionreactor,thesplit-offfragmentscollidewith
othernuclei,causingthemtofragment,untilachainreactionisunderway.
nuclearfusion Thisnuclearreactionproducesenergybyjoiningatomicnuclei.
Althoughthemassofanucleusproducedbyjoiningtwonucleiislessthanthatofthe
sumoftheoriginaltwonuclei,themassisnotlost;rather,itisconvertedintolarge
amountsofenergy.
objectivelens Inatelescope,thelensthatfirstreceiveslightfromtheobserved
objectandformsanimage.
openuniverse Auniversewhosedensityisbelowthecriticalvalue(seecriticalden-
sity).Incontrasttoacloseduniverse,anopenuniversewillexpandforeverbecauseits
densityisinsufficienttohalttheexpansion.
opticalwindow Anatmosphericpropertythatallowsvisiblelighttoreachusfrom
space.
orbitalperiod Thetimerequiredforanobjecttocompleteonefullorbitaround
anotherobject.TheorbitalperiodoftheEartharoundtheSun,forexample,isa
fractionover365days.
penumbraleclipse WhentheMoonfallsintothelighter,outerpartoftheEarths
shadowthatisnotcompletelydark.
planetarynebula Theejectedgaseousenvelopeofaredgiantstar.Thisshellof
gasislitupbytheultravioletphotonsthatescapefromthehot,whitedwarfstar
thatremains.(Thistermissometimesconfusingbecauseithasnothingtodowith
planets.)
planetarytransit AneventinwhichaplanetpassesinfrontofthediskoftheSun
(orthediskofanotherstarinanextrasolarplanetarysystem).Theseeventsindistant
systemscanbeusedtoprobethepropertiesofthetransitingplanet.
planetesimals Theseareembryonicplanetsinanearlyformativestage,whichare
usuallythesizeofsmallmoons,thatdevelopintoprotoplanets,immaturebutfull-
scaleplanets.Protoplanetsgoontodevelopintomatureplanetsastheycool.
290 Appendix A
precession Theslowchangeinthedirectionoftheaxisofaspinningobject(such
astheEarth),causedbyanexternalinfluenceorinfluences(suchasthegravitational
fieldsoftheSunandtheMoon).
primarymirror Inareflectingtelescope,themirrorthatfirstreflectslightfrom
theobservedobject.
primordialsynthesis Thefusionreactionsthatoccurredintheearlyuniverseat
temperaturesofabout10
10
K.Thesefusionreactionsproducedheliumandasmall
amountoflithium.
propermotion Motionofastardeterminedbymeasuringtheangulardisplacement
ofatargetstarrelativetomoredistantbackgroundstars.Measurementsaretaken
overlongperiodsoftime,andtheresultisanangularvelocity(measured,forexample,
inarcseconds/year).Ifthedistancetothestarisknown,thisangulardisplacementcan
beconvertedintoatransversevelocityinkm/s(seetransversecomponent).
protoplanet Seeplanetesimals.
pulsar Arapidlyrotatingneutronstarwithamagneticfieldorientedsuchthatit
sweepsacrossEarthwitharegularperiod.
pulsatingvariable Seevariablestar.
quasar Shortforquasi-stellarradiosource,quasarsarebright,distant,tinyobjects
thatproducetheluminosityof100to1,000galaxieswithinaregionthesizeofasolar
system.
radar Shortforradiodetectionandranging.Inastronomy,radiosignalsare
sometimesusedtomeasurethedistanceofplanetsandotherobjectsinthesolar
system.
radialcomponent Seetransversecomponent.
radiogalaxy Amemberofanactivegalaxysubclassofellipticalgalaxies.Radio
galaxiesarecharacterizedbystrongradioemissionsand,insomecases,narrowjets
andwispylobesofemissionslocatedhundredsofthousandsoflight-yearsfromthe
nucleus.
radiojets Narrowbeamsofionizedmaterialthathavebeenejectedatrelativistic
velocitiesfromagalaxysnucleus.
radiolobe Thediffuseorwispyradioemissionsfoundattheendofaradiojet.
Insomeradiogalaxies,thelobeemissiondominates;inothers,thejetemission
dominates.
Star WordsGlossary 291
radiotelescope Aninstrument,usuallyaverylargedish-typeantennaconnected
toareceiverandrecordingand/orimagingequipment,itisusedtoobserveradio-
wavelengthelectromagneticradiationemittedbystarsandothercelestialobjects.
radiowindow ApropertyofEarthsatmospherethatallowssomeradiowavesfrom
spacetoreachEarthandthatallowssomeradiowavesbroadcastfromEarthtopen-
etratetheatmosphere.
radioactivedecay Thenaturalprocesswherebyaspecificatomorisotopeis
convertedintoanotherspecificatomorisotopeataconstantandknownrate.By
measuringtherelativeabundanceofparent-and-daughternucleiinagivensampleof
material(suchasameteorite),itispossibletodeterminetheageofthesample.
redgiant AlatestageinthecareerofstarsaboutasmassiveastheSun.Moremas-
sivestarsintheirgiantphasearereferredtoassupergiants.Therelativelylowsurface
temperatureofthisstageproducesitsredcolor.
redshift Anincreaseinthedetectedwavelengthofelectromagneticradiation
emittedbyacelestialobjectastherecessionalvelocitybetweenitandtheobserver
increases.Thenamederivesfromthefactthatlengtheningthewavelengthofvisible
lighttendstoreddenthelightthatisobserved.Byanalogy,redshiftisappliedtothe
lengtheningofanyelectromagneticwave.
refractingtelescope Alsocalledarefractor,thistelescopecreatesitsimageby
refracting(bending)lightrayswithlenses.
resolvingpower Theabilityofatelescope(opticalorradiotelescope)torenderdis-
tinct,individualimagesofobjectsthatareclosetogether.
retrograde Anorbitthatisbackwardorcontrarytotheorbitaldirectionofthe
otherplanets.
Schwarzschildradius Theradiusofanobjectwithagivenmassatwhichthe
escapevelocityequalsthespeedoflight.Asaruleofthumb,theSchwarzschildradius
ofablackhole(inkm)isapproximatelythreetimesitsmassinsolarmasses,soa
5-solarmassblackholehasaSchwarzschildradiusofabout53=15km.
seeing Thedegradationofopticaltelescopicimagesasaresultofatmospheric
turbulence.Goodseeingdenotesconditionsrelativelyfreefromsuchatmospheric
interference.
Seyfertgalaxy Atypeofactivegalaxy,resemblingaspiralgalaxy,withstrong
radio-wavelengthemissionsandemissionlinescomingfromasmallregionatitscore.
292 Appendix A
siderealday Adaymeasuredfromstarrisetostarrise.Thesiderealdayis3.9min-
utesshorterthanthesolarday.
siderealmonth Theperiodof27.3daysthatittakestheMoontoorbitoncearound
Earth.Seealsosynodicmonth.
siderealyear ThetimeittakesEarthtocompleteonecircuitaroundtheSunwith
respecttothestars.
singularity Theinfinitelydenseremnantofamassivecorecollapse.
solarday Adaymeasuredfromsunuptosunup(ornoontonoon,orsunsettosun-
set)whichisslightlylongerthanasiderealday.Seesiderealday.
solarflares ExplosiveeventsthatoccurinornearanactiveregionontheSuns
surface.
solarnebula Thevastprimordialcloudofgasanddustfromwhich(ithasbeen
theorized)theSunandsolarsystemwereformed.
solarwind AcontinuousstreamofradiationandmatterthatescapesfromtheSun.
ItseffectscanbeseeninhowitblowsthetailsofacometapproachingtheSun.
spectrallines Asystemforclassifyingstarsaccordingtotheirsurfacetemperature
asmeasuredbytheirspectra.Thepresenceorabsenceofcertainspectrallinesisused
toplacestarsinaspectralclass.Seealsospectroscope.
spectrometer Seespectroscope.
spectroscope Aninstrumentthatpassesincominglightthroughaslitandprism,
splittingitintoitscomponentcolors.Aspectrometerisaninstrumentcapableof
preciselymeasuringthespectrumthusproduced.Substancesproducecharacteris-
ticspectrallinesoremissionlines,whichactasthefingerprintofthesubstance,
enablingidentificationofit.
spectroscopicbinaries Seevisualbinaries.
spicules JetsofmatterexpelledfromtheSunsphotosphereregionintothechro-
mosphereaboveit.
spiralarms Structuresfoundinspiralgalaxiesapparentlycausedbytheactionof
spiraldensitywaves.
spiraldensitywaves Wavesofcompressionthatmovearoundthediskofaspiral
galaxy.Thesewavesarethoughttotriggercloudsofgasintocollapse,thusforming
hot,youngstars.Itismostlytheionizedgasaroundtheseyoung,massivestarsthat
weobserveasspiralarms.
Star WordsGlossary 293
spiralgalaxy Agalaxycharacterizedbyadistinctivestructureconsistingofathin
disksurroundingagalacticbulge.Thediskisdominatedbybright,curvedarcsof
emissionsknownasspiralarms.Therotationcurvesofspiralgalaxiesindicatethe
presenceoflargeamountsofdarkmatter.
standardcandle Anyobjectwhoseluminosityiswellknown.Itsmeasuredbright-
nesscanthenbeusedtodeterminehowfarawaytheobjectis.Thebrighteststandard
candlescanbeseenfromthegreatestdistances.
standardsolarmodel OurcurrentpictureofthestructureoftheSun,themodel
seekstoexplaintheobservablepropertiesoftheSunandalsotodescribeproperties
ofitsmostlyunobservableinterior.
stellaroccultation Anastronomicaleventthatoccurswhenaplanetpassesinfront
ofastar,dimmingthestarslight(asseenfromEarth).Theexactwayinwhichthe
lightdimscanrevealdetails,forexample,intheplanetsatmosphere.
summersolstice OnoraboutJune21;thislongestdayintheNorthern
Hemispheremarksthebeginningofsummer.
sunspots TheseirregularlyshapeddarkareasonthefaceoftheSunappeardark
becausetheyarecoolerthanthesurroundingmaterial.Theyaretiedtothepresence
ofmagneticfieldsattheSunssurface.
supercluster Agroupofgalaxyclusters.TheLocalSuperclustercontainssome10
15
solarmasses.
superluminalmotion Atermfortheapparentfasterthanlightmotionofblobs
ofmaterialinsomeradiojets.Thiseffectresultsfromradio-emittingblobsmovingat
highvelocitytowardtheobserver.
supernova Theexplosionaccompanyingthedeathofamassivestarasitscore
collapses.
synchronousorbit Acelestialobjectisinsynchronousorbitwhenitsperiodof
rotationisequaltoitsaverageorbitalperiod;theMoon,insynchronousorbit,pres-
entsonlyonefacetoEarth.
synchrotronradiation Synchrotronradiationariseswhenchargedparticles(e.g.,
electrons)areacceleratedbystrongmagneticfields.Someoftheemissionsfromradio
galaxiesaresynchrotron.
synodicmonth Theperiodof29.5daysthattheMoonrequirestocyclethroughits
phases,fromnewmoontonewmoon.Seealsosiderealmonth.
294 Appendix A
telescope AwordfromGreekrootsmeaningfar-seeing,opticaltelescopesare
arrangementsoflensesand/ormirrorsdesignedtogathervisiblelightefficiently
enoughtoenhanceresolutionandsensitivity.Seealsoradiotelescope.
terminator Theboundaryseparatinglightfromdark,thedaytimefromnighttime
hemispheresoftheMoon(orotherplanetaryorlunarbodies).
terrestrialplanets TheplanetsinoursolarsystemclosesttotheSun:Mercury,
Venus,Earth,andMars.
thoughtexperiment Asystematichypotheticalorimaginarysimulationofreal-
ity,usedasanalternativetoactualexperimentationwhensuchexperimentationis
impracticalorimpossible.
tidalbulge Thedeformationofonecelestialbodycausedbythegravitational
forceofanotherextendedcelestialbody.TheMooncreatesanelongationofEarths
oceansatidalbulge.
timedilation Theapparentslowingoftime(asperceivedbyanoutsideobserver)as
anobjectapproachestheeventhorizonofablackholeormovesatveryhighvelocity.
trailingface Seeleadingface.
transit Whenanobjectcrossestheimaginaryhalf-circleontheskythatrunsfrom
northtosouth(themeridian),itissaidtotransit.
transversecomponent Stellarmovementacrossthesky,perpendiculartoourline
ofsight.Theradialcomponentismotiontowardorawayfromus.Truespacemotion
iscalculatedbycombiningtheobservedtransverseandradialcomponents.
triangulation Anindirectmethodofmeasuringdistancederivedbygeometryor
trigonometryusingaknownbaselineandtwoanglesfromthebaselinetotheobject.
tropicalyear Ayearmeasuredfromequinoxtoequinox.Seealsosiderealyear.
universalrecession Thisapparentgeneralmovementofallgalaxiesawayfromus
wasfirstobservedbyEdwinHubble.Thisobservationdoesnotmeanweareatthe
centeroftheexpansion.Anyobserverlocatedanywhereintheuniverseshouldsee
thesameredshift.
VanAllenbelts Namedfortheirdiscoverer,AmericanphysicistJamesA.Van
Allen,thesearevastdoughnut-shapedzonesofhighlyenergetic,chargedparticles
trappedinthemagneticfieldofEarth.Thezoneswerediscoveredin1958.
Star WordsGlossary 295
variablestar Astarthatperiodicallychangesinbrightness.Acataclysmicvariable
isastar,suchasanovaorsupernova,thatchangesinbrightnesssuddenlyanddra-
maticallyasaresultofinteractionwithabinarycompanionstar,whileanintrinsic
variablechangesbrightnessbecauseofrapidchangesinitsdiameter.Pulsatingvari-
ablesareintrinsicvariablesthatvaryinbrightnessinafixedperiodorspanoftime
andareusefuldistanceindicators.
vernalequinox Onthisdate(usuallyMarch21),dayandnightareofequaldura-
tionbecausetheSunsapparentcourseintersectsthecelestialequatoratthesetimes.
visualbinaries BinarystarsthatcanberesolvedfromEarth.Spectroscopicbina-
riesaretoodistanttobeseenasdistinctpointsoflight,buttheycanbeobserved
withaspectroscope.Inthiscase,thepresenceofabinarysystemisdetectedbynot-
ingDoppler-shiftingspectrallinesasthestarsorbitoneanother.Iftheorbitofone
starinabinarysystemperiodicallyeclipsesitspartner,itspossibletomonitorthe
variationsoflightemittedfromthesystemandtherebygatherinformationabout
orbitalmotion,mass,andradii.Thesebinariesarecalledeclipsingbinaries.
waterhole Thespanoftheradiospectrumfrom18cmto21cm,whichmany
researchersbelieveisthemostlikelywavelengthonwhichextraterrestrialbroadcasts
willbemade.Thenameisalittleastronomicaljokethehydrogen(H)andhydroxyl
(OH)linesarebothlocatedinaquietregionoftheradiospectrum,aregionwhere
thereisntalotofbackgroundnoise.BecauseHandOHadduptoH
2
O(water),this
dipinthespectrumiscalledthewaterhole.
wavelength Thedistancebetweentwoadjacentwavecrests(highpoints)ortroughs
(lowpoints).Byconvention,thisdistanceismeasuredinmetersordecimalfractions
thereof.
whitedwarf Theremnantcoreofaredgiantafterithaslostitsouterlayersasa
planetarynebula.Becausefusionhashalted,thecarbon-oxygencoreissupported
againstfurthercollapseonlybythepressuresuppliedbydenselypackedelectrons.
wintersolstice OnoraboutDecember21,intheNorthernHemisphere,itsthe
shortestdayandthestartofwinter.
zonalflow Theprevailingeast-westwindpatternthatisfoundonJupiter.
B
i
ical
l l li
i
li
(i i ) isible
i i i i
l i i ific
l ific
li ific
l i l i
l i i
i ifi
ifi i l ic
Append
Astronom Data
Tota So ar Ec pses
Durat onof
Tota ty
Date nM nutes WhereV
2008Aug.1 2.4 Arct cOcean,S ber a,Ch na
2009Ju .22 6.6 Ind a,Ch na,SouthPac
2010Ju .11 5.3 SouthPac
2012Nov.13 4.0 NorthernAustra a,SouthPac
2013Nov.3 1.7 At ant cOcean,Centra Afr ca
2015Mar.20 4.1 NorthAt ant c,Arct cOcean
2016Mar.9 4.5 Indones a,Pac cOcean
2017Aug.21 2.0 Pac cOcean,Un tedStates,At ant
Ocean
298 AppendixB
Total and Partial Lunar Eclipses
Duringatotaleclipse,theentirelunarsurfacefallsintotheEarthsshadow.Duringa
partialeclipse,onlyafractionofthelunarsurfaceisdeeplyshadowed.Duringapen-
umbraleclipse,thelunarsurfacefallsonlyintothelessintensepenumbralshadow
ofEarth.
Total and Partial Lunar Eclipses*
Date Type Duration WhereVisible
2008Feb.21 Total 00h51m CentralPacific,Americas,Europe,
Africa
2008Aug.16 Partial 03h09m SouthAmerica,Europe,Africa,Asia,
Australia
2009Feb.09 Penumbral EastEurope,Asia,Australia,Pacific,
westAmericas
2009Jul.07 Penumbral Australia,Pacific,Americas
2009Aug.06 Penumbral Americas,Europe,Africa,westAsia
2009Dec.31 Partial 01h02m Europe,Africa,Asia,Australia
2010Jun.26 Partial 02h44m EastAsia,Australia,Pacific,west
Americas
2010Dec.21 Total 01h13m EastAsia,Australia,Pacific,Americas,
Europe
*Alleclipseshaveapenumbral(orlessdark)phase,sodurationsoftheeclipsearegivenonlyfortotaland
partiallunareclipses.
Astronomical Data 299
iN o r t h e r n H o r z o n
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Southern Horizon
The Night Sky in March
Latitudeofchartis34N,butitis Charttime(LocalStandard):
practicalthroughoutthecontinental
10p.m.Firstofmonth
UnitedStates.
9p.m.Middleofmonth
Touse:Holdchartverticallyand
turnitsothedirectionyouarefacing
8p.m.Lastofmonth
showsatthebottom.
StarChartfromGriffithObserver,GriffithObservatory,LosAngeles
300 AppendixB
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Southern Horizon
The Night Sky in June
Latitudeofchartis34N,butitis Charttime(LocalStandard):
practicalthroughoutthecontinental
10p.m.Firstofmonth
UnitedStates.
9p.m.Middleofmonth
Touse:Holdchartverticallyand
turnitsothedirectionyouarefacing
8p.m.Lastofmonth
showsatthebottom.
StarChartfromGriffithObserver,GriffithObservatory,LosAngeles
Astronomical Data 301
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Southern Horizon
The Night Sky in September
Latitudeofchartis34N,butitis Charttime(LocalStandard):
practicalthroughoutthecontinental
10p.m.Firstofmonth
UnitedStates.
9p.m.Middleofmonth
Touse:Holdchartverticallyand
turnitsothedirectionyouarefacing
8p.m.Lastofmonth
showsatthebottom.
StarChartfromGriffithObserver,GriffithObservatory,LosAngeles
302 AppendixB
N o r t h e r n H o r i z o n
E
a
s
t
e
r
n

H
o
r
i
z
o
n
W
e
s
t
e
r
n

H
o
r
i
z
o
n

Southern Horizon
The Night Sky in December
Latitudeofchartis34N,butitis Charttime(LocalStandard):
practicalthroughoutthecontinental
10p.m.Firstofmonth
UnitedStates.
9p.m.Middleofmonth
Touse:Holdchartverticallyand
turnitsothedirectionyouarefacing
8p.m.Lastofmonth
showsatthebottom.
StarChartfromGriffithObserver,GriffithObservatory,LosAngeles
C
i
f
i
l l i i i il l
l i li i li
i i ( l !)
l iti l ifici i
I i i i i i
l i i l l i l
i
i i i l li l
si /
iol i i i i iol-
iol
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i j
Append
Sources or Astronomers
Webs tes
Awea thofastronomy-re ated nformat onand magesareava ab eonthe
Wor dWdeWeb.Weve stedafewh gh ghtsforyoutocheckout,but
donthes tatetouseagoodsearcheng ne suchasGoog eorYahoo to
ookforadd ona ormorespec nformat on.
nst tut ons, Magaz nes, and Soc et es
AmateurTe escopeMakersAssoc at on.Va uab eforthedo- t-yourse fer:
www.atms te.org
Astronomymagaz ne,thes te nc udes nkstootherastronomy-re ated
tes:www.astronomy.com home.asp
Astrob ogy.com.Thes te sdevotedtothemaver cksc enceofastrob
ogy:www.astrob ogy.com
Inst tuteandMuseumofH storyofSc ence,F orence,Ita y.It nc udesa
wea thofmu med amater nEng sh devotedtotheworkofGa eo:
www. mss.fi.
JetPropu onLaboratory,aNASA-re atedfac ty.Youl nda otof
nformat ononso arsystemexp orat onpro ectsandmany mages.
Amust-sees te:www. pl.nasa.gov
304 Appendix C
ThePlanetarySociety.CarlSaganfoundedthistoencouragethesearchforextrater-
restriallife:www.planetary.org
SETIInstitute.Dedicatedtothesearchforextraterrestrialcivilizations:www.seti.
org
Sky&Telescopemagazine.Heresanimportantsourceofinformation(dates,direc-
tions)onastronomicalevents:www.skytonight.com
Some Observatories
Anglo-AustralianObservatory:www.aao.gov.au
BradleyObservatory(on-campusobservatoryatAgnesScottCollege):www.bradley.
agnesscott.edu
KeckObservatory:www.keckobservatory.org
MountWilsonObservatory:www.mtwilson.edu
NationalOpticalAstronomyObservatories:www.noao.edu
NationalRadioAstronomyObservatory:www.nrao.edu
SpaceTelescopeScienceInstitute(sourceofHubbleSpaceTelescopeimages):www.
oposite.stsci.edu
SpaceTelescopeScienceInstitutePressReleasePage:www.hubblesite.org/
newscenter
UnitedStatesNavalObservatory(USNO).Informationontimekeepingandsunrise
andsunsettimes:www.usno.navy.mil
YerkesObservatory,UniversityofChicago:www.astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes
Planetary Positions, Solar System
Planetarypositioncalculator:www.imagiware.com/astro/planets.cgi
Scalemodelsolarsystem:www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system
Guides to Events (Eclipses, Meteor Showers, and So On)
AbramsPlanetariumSkyCalendar:www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.
html
Sources for Astronomers 305
Forsolareclipseinformation,includinglinktotheSOHOsite,withfrequently
updatedsolarimagesatmanywavelengths:www.umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/
sdac.html
Etrasolar Planets
Thegotowebsitetogetcurrentcountsofextrasolarplanetarysystemsandrecent
results:www.exoplanets.org
Images and Catalogs
AstronomyPicturesoftheDay:www.antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html
TheMessierCatalog(avisualcatalogofMessierobjects):www.seds.org/messier
SkyView;trulyavirtualobservatory:www.skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov
Links
Thefollowingsitesserveaslinkstomanyotherwebsitesofinteresttoamateurand
professionalastronomers:
AstronomicalSocietyofthePacific.ThissiteincludesalinktoMercuryMagazine:
www.astrosociety.org
AmericanAstronomicalSociety(AAS).Thissiteincludeslinkstotheonlineversions
oftheAstronomicalJournalandtheAstrophysicalJournal,inadditiontoinformation
andstatisticsabouttheprofession:www.aas.org
WebStars:AstrophysicsinCyberspace.Animpressivelistofinternetastronomical
resourcesitesandastronomynews:www.heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/www_info/
webstars.html
Magazines
Astronomy(KalmbachPublishing,POBox1612,Waukesha,WI53187).Apopular
andwell-writtenmonthlyjournal.
GriffithObserver(GriffithObservatory,2800E.ObservatoryRd.,LosAngeles,CA
90027).Concentratesonthehistoryofastronomy.
306 Appendix C
MercuryMagazine(390AshtonAvenue,SanFrancisco,CA94112).Apublicationof
theAstronomicalSocietyofthePacific(ASP);containshistoricalandscientificarti-
clesaswellasexcellentmonthlycolumns.
PlanetaryReport(ThePlanetarySociety,65N.CatalinaAve.,Pasadena,CA91106).
Providesnewsonexploringthesolarsystemandthesearchforextraterrestriallife.
Sky&Telescope(POBox9111,Belmont,MA02178).Someconsiderthisthestandard
foramateurastronomymagazines.
Books
Aswetoldyou,yourenotaloneinyourfascinationwithastronomy.Youllfindno
shortageofbooksonthesubject.Thefollowingareafewthatareparticularlyuseful.
Practical Guides
Berry,Richard.DiscovertheStars.NewYork:HarmonyBooks,1987.
Burnham,Robert,Jr.BurnhamsCelestialHandbook.NewYork:Dover,1978.
Carlson,Shawn,ed.AmateurAstronomer.NewYork:Wiley,2000.
Charles,JeffreyR.PracticalAstrophotography.NewYork:SpringerVerlag,2000.
Covington,MichaelA.AstrophotographyfortheAmateur.NewYork:CambridgeUni-
versityPress,1999.
Harrington,PhilipS.StarWare:TheAmateurAstronomersUltimateGuidetoChoosing,
Buying,andUsingTelescopesandAccessories,2nded.NewYork:Wiley,1998.
Levy,DavidH.TheSky:AUsersGuide.Cambridge,England:CambridgeUniversity
Press,1991.
Licher,David.TheUniverseFromYourBackyard.Milwaukee:KalmbachPublishing,
1988.
Sources for Astronomers 307
Mayall,R.Newton,etal.TheSkyObserversGuide:AHandbookforAmateurAstrono-
mers.NewYork:GoldenBooks,2000.
North,Gerald.AdvancedAmateurAstronomy.NewYork:CambridgeUniversityPress,
1997.
Tonkin,StephenF.,ed.AmateurTelescopeMaking.NewYork:SpringerVerlag,1999.
Webb,Stephen,WhereIsEverybody?NewYork:CopernicusBooks,2002.
Guides to Events
Bishop,Roy,ed.TheObserversHandbook.Toronto:TheRoyalAstronomicalSociety
ofCanada,annual.
Westfall,JohnE.,ed.TheALPOSolarSystemEphemeris.SanFrancisco:Association
ofLunarandPlanetaryObservers,annual.
Star and Lunar Atlases
Cook,Jeremy.TheHatfieldPhotographicLunarAtlas.NewYork:SpringerVerlag,
1999.
Dickinson,Terence,etal.Mag6StarAtlas.Barrington,NJ:EdmundScientific,1982.
Norton,ArthurP.Nortons2000.0,18thed.Cambridge,MA:SkyPublishingCorpo-
ration,1989.
Tirion,Wil.SkyAtlas2000.0.Cambridge,MA:SkyPublishingCorporationand
CambridgeUniversityPress,1981.
Introductory Tetbooks and Popular Science Books
Chaisson,Eric,andSteveMcMillan.Astronomy:ABeginnersGuidetotheUniverse,
2nded.UpperSaddleRiver,NJ:PrenticeHall,1998.
308 Appendix C
Ferris,Timothy.TheWholeShebang.NewYork:Simon&Schuster,1997.
Fraknoi,Andrew,etal.VoyagesThroughtheUniverse.FortWorth,TX:SaundersCol-
legePublishing,1997.
Hartman,WilliamK.Moons&Planets,3ded.Belmont,CA:WadsworthPublishers,
1993.
Kaufmann,WilliamJ.,andNeilF.Comins.DiscoveringtheUniverse,4thed.New
York:W.H.Freeman,1996.
Life in the Universe
Darling,David,LifeEverywhere:TheMaverickScienceofAstrobiology.NewYork,NY:
BasicBooks,2001.
Davies,Paul.TheFifthMiracle:TheSearchfortheOriginofLife.NewYork,NY:Simon
&Schuster,1999.
Goldsmith,Donald,andTobiasOwen.TheSearchforLifeintheUniverse,3rded.
Reading,MA:Addison-Wesley,2001.
Grinspoon,David,LonelyPlanets:TheNaturalPhilosophyofAlienLife.NewYork:
HarperCollins,2003.
Ward,Peter,andDonaldBrownlee.RareEarth:WhyComplexLifeisUncommoninthe
Universe.NewYork,NY:Springer,2003.
Inde
A
accretion,solarsystem,108-109
activegalaxies,223-228
quasars,226-228
radiogalaxies,225-226
Seyfertgalaxies,224
actualmotion,stars,141
Adams,JohnCouch,76
Airy,George,76
Aldrin,EdwinEugeneBuzz,Jr.,6
Allen,Woody,241
Almagest,10
altazimuthcoordinatesystem,8
altitude,8
AnaximenesofMiletus,122
Andromedagalaxy,191
Angstroms,30
AnnieHall,241
annihilatedelectrons,235
annihilatedpositrons,235
anthropologists,263
Apollo11mission,87
Apolloasteroids,51-52
AreciboMessage,276
AreciboRadioTelescope,35,276
Aristotle,45
Armstrong,Neil,6
assumptionofmediocrity,261
asteroidbelt,solarsystem,50
asteroids,46
Apolloasteroids,51-52
composition,51
Eros,50
solarsystem,46
astrometry,113
astronomers,272-276
radioastronomers,36
astronomicalunit(A.U.),47
astronomy,femaleroles,148
Astronomymagazine,56
atmospheres
Jupiter,80-82
Mars,65
Mercury,61
Moon,92
Neptune,82
opticalwindow,32
radiowindow,32
Saturn,82
Sun,124-129
Uranus,82
Venus,63
atmosphericceilings,32
atoms,16-17
origins,237-238
stars,17
AuroraAustralis,126
Auroras,126
A.U.(astronomicalunit),47
azimuth,8
B
Baade,Walter,219
BackyardAstronomersGuide,The,27
310
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
BackyardAstronomy:YourGuideto
StarhoppingandExploringtheUniverse,27
belts
Jupiter,77
VanAllenbelts,78
BigBangtheory,231-239
binaries,149
binoculars,Venus,viewingwith,19
births
MilkyWay,195-196
quasars,223
stars,154,163-168
blockinglight,155-157
interstellarmedian,154-155
Bjerknes,Vilhelm,128
blackbody,38
curves,38
spectra,38-40
blackholes,176-179
Cygnus,182-184
degenerateneutrons,176
mass,179
observing,181-183
relativity,179-180
blockinglight,stars,155-157
Bondi,Herman,232
BOOMERANG(BalloonObservationsOf
MillimetricExtragalacticRadiationAnd
Geophysics),250
Brahe,Tycho,46
brightness,stars,143-145
browndwarfs,163
Burnell,S.JocelynBell,172
Burnham,Robert,27
C
calculating
distances,galaxies,209-211
mass
galaxies,207-208
MilkyWay,196-197
Callisto( Jupiter),96-98
Calvin,John,153
candles,GRBs(GammaRayBursts),210
CanesVenatici,206
canyons,Mars,66-67
Cassegrain,Guillaume,21
Cassini,GianDomenico,94
Cassinidivision,94-95
Cassinispacecraft,79,100
Cassini-Huygensmission,79,100,112
CassiopeiaA,219
cataclysmicvariables,192
CCD(ChargeCoupledDevice)electronic
detectors,18,25
celestialcoordinates,6-8
celestialportraits,10-11
Celsiustemperature(Centigrade)scale,59
Cepheid,192
Cepheidvariablestars,192
CGRO(ComptonGammaRay
Observatory),37
chainreactions,Sun,131
Challis,James,76
ChandraX-rayObservatory,37
Chandrasekhar,Subrahmanyah,37,167
chargedparticles,17
Charon(Pluto),102
chemistry,life,262-264
Cherenkovradiation,133
chromospheres,Sun,125
CloseEncountersoftheThirdKind,274
closeduniverse,245-246
clusters,galaxies,210-214
superclusters,211
CMB(cosmicmicrowavebackground),
238,249-250
Inde
311
COBE(CosmicMicrowaveBackground
Explorer)satellite,194,233,249-250
colors,generation,31-32
comets
HalleysComet,54
KuiperBelt,53
long-periodcomets,53
OortCloud,53
orbits,52
originsof,53-54
Shoemaker-Levy9,78,95
short-periodcomets,53
solarsystem,46,52-54
tails,52-53
ComptonGammaRayObservatory
(CGRO),37
computers,telescopes,25
condensation,solarsystem,107-109
Consolmagno,GuyJ.,27
constellations,10-11
CanesVenatici,206
Cygnus,182
Puppis,115
Taurus,170
continuousspectra,40
contraction,solarsystem,107-109
convectivemotion,Jupiter,81
Copernicus,46,188
core-collapsesupernovas,170
core-halogalaxies,226
cores
Moon,93
radiogalaxies,226
Sun,130-133
chainreactions,131
fissionhole,130
solarneutrino,132-133
standardsolarmodel,131-132
corona,Sun,125-126
coronaleruptions,Sun,129
cosmicmicrowavebackground(CMB),
232,238,249-250
CosmicMicrowaveBackgroundExplorer
(COBE)satellite,194,233,249-250
cosmologicalprinciple,233-234
cosmologicalredshift,242-244
cosmologists,230
cosmology,229
BigBangtheory,231-239
cosmologicalprinciple,233-234
cosmologicalredshift,242-244
life,studyof,260-272
studyof,231
universe,theories,246-257
CrabNebula,170
craters
Mars,66-67
Moon,92-93
cycles,sunspots,129
Cygnus,blackholes,182-184
CygnusA,219
D
darkmatter,MilkyWay,196-197
darkness,light,33-36
deaths,stars,168-170
declination,7
degenerateelectrongas,167
degenerateneutrons,176
Deimos(Martianmoon),69
Democritus,16
density,universe,243
Dickinson,Terence,27
DifferentialMicrowaveRadiometer
(DMR),233,249
DIRBE(DiffuseInfraredBackground
Experiment),194
312
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
distances
galaxies,calculating,209-211
interplanetarydistances,47
planets,136-141
stars,139-140
DMR(DifferentialMicrowave
Radiometer),233,249
Dopplershift,114,142,212
Drake,Frank,266
DrakeEquation,266-268
dust,stars,157
interstellarreddening,156
dwarfplanets,Pluto,102
dwarfstars,147
whitedwarfs,167
Dyer,Alan,27
E
E.T.theExtraterrestrial,274
E=mc
2
,122
Eaglelunarmodule,87
Earth,46,49,58,64
Moon,85-88
atmosphere,92
benefitsof,85-86
core,93
mass,88-89
orbit,88
surface,91-93
theoreticaloriginsof,88-91
viewing,87-88
eclipticarcs,71
Einstein,Albert,123,214,254
theoryofrelativity,179-180
EinsteinObservatory,37
Einsteinsblunder,214
ejectablankets,93
electromagneticradiation,14-15,30-32
waves,15-16
electromagneticspectra,18,30-32
radiowaves,30-31
electromagneticwaves,17-18
electrons,16-17
annihilatedelectrons,235
ellipticalgalaxies,204-205
emissionnebulae,stars,158-160
energylevels,40
energyoutput
stars,124
Sun,123
energyproduction,stars,17
equatorialzones,Jupiter,77
Eros,50
escapevelocity,178
Europa( Jupiter),96-98
eventhorizons,179-181
expansion,universe,cosmologicalredshift,
242-244
F
Fahrenheittemperaturescale,59
females,astronomers,148
Fermi,Enrico,130,259,266
FermiParadox,266
Ferris,Timothy,235
FireandIce,257
FirstThreeMinutes,The,230,235
fissionhole,Sun,130
flatuniverse,245-246
Ford,Holland,183
fragmentaryleftovers,solarsystem,49-50,
54
asteroidbelt,50
asteroids,51-52
comets,52-54
Eros,50
meteorites,55
Inde
313
meteoroids,54
meteors,54-56
fragmentation,solarsystem,108-109
frequencies,waves,18
Frost,Robert,257
G
galacticbulges,189
Galacticcenter,219
galacticdisks,189-190
MilkyWay,195
galaxies,189,201-203,220
activegalaxies,223-228
quasars,226-228
radiogalaxies,225-226
Seyfertgalaxies,224
Andromedagalaxy,191
clusters,210-214
superclusters,211
core-halogalaxies,226
distances,calculating,209-211
ellipticalgalaxies,204-205
galacticbulges,189
galacticdisks,189-190
irregulargalaxies,205-206
life,266-272
localgroups,210-211
mass,calculating,207-208
MilkyWay,187-195
birthof,195-196
center,188
darkmatter,196-197
Galacticdisk,195
mass,196-197
measuring,191-195
spiralarms,197-198
viewing,198-200
photographing,191
quasars,220-222
births,223
rotationcurve,207
spiralgalaxies,203
universalrecession,212
Whirlpoolgalaxy,206-207
Galileanmoons,96
Jupiter,97-98
Neptune,100
Saturn,98-100
GalileoGalilei,20,46,51,71,78,87,94,
127,188
Moon,observationsof,86
Galileomission,51,78
Galle,Johann,76
GALLEX(GALLiumEXperiment),132
gammaradiation,17
GammaRayBursts(GRBs),32,201
candles,210
gammarays,30
Gamow,George,231-233
Ganymede( Jupiter),96-97
gaseouslayers,Jupiter,81-82
gases
degenerateelectrongas,167
stars,157-158
giantmolecularclouds(GMCs),161,195
giantstars,147
births,165-166
redgiants,166
gibbousphase(Moon),5
globularclusters,194
GMCs(giantmolecularclouds),195
Gold,Thomas,232
granulatedsurfaces,Sun,127
gravitationalforce,180
GRBs(GammaRayBursts),32,201
candles,210
GreatDarkSpot(Neptune),82
GreatRedSpot( Jupiter),77,80
314
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
H
GreenBankTelescope,28,34 interference,radiotelescopes,35-36
Gregory,John,21 interplanetarydistances,47
interstellardust,stars,157
median,154-155
medium,161-163
HGeminorum,75
habitablezones,268-269
HaleTelescope,23-24
Halley,Edmund,54
HalleysComet,54
Harms,Richard,183
HCG(HicksonCompactGroup)87,205
heat,stars,145
Herbig-Haroobjects,162
Herschel,William,75,188
Hertsprung,Ejnar,147
Hertzsprung-Russelldiagram,147-148
Hewish,Anthony,172
HicksonCompactGroup(HCG)87,205
High-EnergyAstronomyObservatory,37
Hitler,Adolf,275
Hooke,Robert,80
HopkinsUltravioletTelescope(HUT),37
horizons,eventhorizons,179-181
Hoyle,Fred,231
Hubble,Edwin,202,212-213,233,254
HubbleSpaceTelescope(HST),19,26-27
Hubblesconstant,213,231
HubblesLaw,212-213,231,234
Humason,Milton,212
HUT(HopkinsUltravioletTelescope),37
Huygens,Christian,94
Huygensprobe,100
hydrogen,40
I
infraredradiation,36
infrared-detectingequipment,17
reddening,stars,156
intrinsicvariables,192
Io( Jupiter),96-97
IRAS(InfraredAstronomySatellite),37
irregulargalaxies,205-206
J
JamesWebbSpaceTelescope,37
Jansky,Karl,36
JetPropulsionLaboratorieswebsite,28
jets,radiogalaxies,225
Jolson,Al,70
jovianplanets,49,72-75,83
Jupiter,72-75,79-82
magnetospheres,83-84
moons,96
Neptune,75-82
Saturn,79-82
Uranus,75-82
Jupiter,46,72-75,79-80,83
atmosphere,80-82
belts,77
convectivemotion,81
discoveryof,71
equatorialzone,77
GreatRedSpot,77,80
layersofgas,81-82
magnetosphere,83-84
moons,96
Galileanmoons,97-98
northequatorialbelt,77
northtemperatebelt,77
orbit,79-80
Inde
315
polarregions,77
southequatorialbelt,77
southtemperatebelt,77
zones,77
K
Kant,Immanuel,202
Kelvintemperaturescale,59
Keplermission,116
KeplersThirdLaw,196
Kuiper,GerardPeter,53
KuiperBelt(comets),53
L
LargeMagellanicClouds,205-206
layersofgas,Jupiter,81-82
Leavitt,HenriettaSwan,192-193
leftovers,supernovae,171-173
Leverrier,JeanJoseph,76
life
chemistryof,262-264
Mars,264-266
othergalaxies,266-272
requirements,260-262
SETI(SearchforExtra-Terrestrial
Intelligence),273-275
lifeexpectancies,stars,150-151
lifespans,stars,168-170
light,17-18
colors,31-32
darkness,33-36
generationof,29
lightbucket,18-19
opticallight,30
stars
blockinglight,155-157
emissionnebulae,158-160
telescopes,gathering,24
whitelight,32
lightbuckets,18-19
light-years,14
localgroups,galaxies,210-211
locatingplanets,112
long-periodcomets,53
Lowell,Percival,65,101,264
luminosity,stars,143-145,158-160
Lyrids,55-56
M
Magellanicclouds,193
magnetars,172
magneticfields,17
magnetospheres
jovianplanets,83-84
Sun,126
Venus,62
mainsequence,148
mainsequencestars,164-165
MAP(MicrowaveAnisotropyProbe)mission,
251
Marinerprobes,66
Mars,46,49,58,64-66
atmosphere,65
life,264-266
moons,69-70
OlympusMons,67
surface,66-69
canyons,66-67
craters,66-67
volcanoes,66-67
water,67-68
MarsandItsCanals,66
MarsExplorationRovers(MERs),68,265
MarsGlobalSurveyor(MGS)mission,67-
68,265
316
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
MarsOrbiterCamera,112
MarsPathfinderprobe,64-66,265
mass
blackholes,179
galaxies,calculating,207-208
MilkyWay,calculating,196-197
planets,48
stars,124,149-150
Mather,JohnC.,232
matter-dominatedstates,236
Maunder,AnnieRussel,129
Maury,Antonia,147
Maxwell,JamesClerk,17,226
measuring
MilkyWay,191-195
objects,locations,8-10
Mercury,46,49,58-61
atmosphere,61
surface,60
synchronousorbit,61
MERs(MarsExplorationRovers),68
meteorshowers,55-56
meteorites,55
meteoroids,46,54
meteors,54-56
meteorshowers,55-56
MGS(MarsGlobalSurveyor)mission,67-
68
microquasars,183
MilkyWay,187-191,195
birthof,195-196
center,188
darkmatter,196-197
Galacticbulge,189
Galacticdisk,189-195
mass,calculating,196-197
measuring,191-195
spiralarms,197-198
viewing,198-200
Miller,Stanley,264
Minkowski,Rudolph,219
Moon,5,85-88
atmosphere,92
benefitsof,85-86
core,93
gibbousphase,5
mass,88-89
orbit,88
surface,91-93
theoreticaloriginsof,88-91
viewing,87-88
moons
Galileanmoons,96
Jupiter,97-98
Neptune,100
Saturn,98-100
jovianplanets,96
Mars,69-70
Moon,85-88
atmosphere,92
benefitsof,85-86
core,93
mass,88-89
orbit,88
surface,91-93
theoreticaloriginsof,88-91
viewing,87-88
planets,numberofknownmoons,48
solarsystem,46,100-101
motion,transversecomponent,141
MountWilsonObservatory,22
N
nakedeye,starsvisibleto,4-10
nanometers,30
NationalRadioAstronomyObservatory
(NRAO),35
nebulae,109
Inde
317
Neptune,46,75-83
atmosphere,82
GreatDarkSpot,82
magnetosphere,83-84
moons,96
Galileanmoons,100
orbit,79-80
rings,95
neutrinos,130
Sun,132-133
neutronstars,172
neutrons,17
Newton,Isaac,21,76,90,180,196
Newtonianmechanics,179
Newtonianreflector,21
NextGenerationSpaceTelescope
(NGST),27
NGC3603,149
NICMOS(Near-InfraredCameraand
Multi-ObjectSpectograph),37
nonthermalemissions,226
northequatorialbelt( Jupiter),77
northtemperatebelt( Jupiter),77
novae,168
supernovae,170-171
leftovers,171-173
NRAO(NationalRadioAstronomy
Observatory),35
nuclearfission,130
numberofknownmoons,planets,48
O
objects
escapevelocity,178
locations,measuring,8-10
standardcandles,210
OlympusMons,Mars,67
Oort,Jan,53
OortCloud,53
openuniverse,245-246
opticallight,30
opticalphotons,29
opticalwindow,32
optics,telescopes,22
orbits
comets,52
Jupiter,79-80
Mercury,synchronousorbit,61
Moon,88
Neptune,79-80
planets
semi-majoraxisoforbit,47
solarsystem,46-47
Saturn,79-80
Uranus,79-80
Venus,63
origins
atoms,237-238
comets,53-54
MilkyWay,195-196
Moon,88-91
planets,107-109
quasars,223
solarsystem,106-107
theoreticalorigins,109-114
stars,154,163-168
OWL(OverWhelminglyLargeTelescope),
221
P
parallaxmethod,137-139,191
participatoryastronomy,27-28
paxplanetaria,270
Penzias,Arno,232
phases,Moon,5
Phobos(Martianmoon),69
318
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
photographinggalaxies,191
photomultipliertubes(PMTs),244
photons,opticalphotons,29
photospheres,stars,18
PioneerVenus,62
planetarytransit,detecting,114
planets,6,46,72-75
distance,136-141
Earth,64
habitablezones,268-269
interplanetarydistances,47
jovianplanets,83
magnetospheres,83-84
moons,96
Jupiter,72-80
atmosphere,80-82
locating,112
Mars,64-66
atmosphere,65
moons,69-70
surface,66-69
Mercury,61
Neptune,75-80
atmosphere,82
rings,95
orbits,solarsystem,46-47
origins,107-109
planetarytransit,detecting,114
Saturn,79-80
atmosphere,82
rings,94-95
solarsystem,46-49
averagedensity,48
jovianplanets,49
mass,48
numberofknownmoons,48
radius,48
semi-majoraxisoforbit,47
siderealperiods,48
terrestrialplanets,49,58-59
Uranus,75-80
atmosphere,82
rings,95
Venus,61-62
atmosphere,63
magnetosphere,62
orbit,63
surface,62
viewing,19
Pluto,26,46,101-102
Charon,102
discoveryof,102
PMTs(photomultipliertubes),244
polarregions( Jupiter),77
positrons,annihilatedpositrons,235
primordialnucleosynthesis,235
ProjectSETI(SearchforExtra-Terrestrial
Intelligence),273-275
propermotion,stars,142
protons,16-17
ProximaCentauri,151
Ptolemy,10,45
pulsars,173
discoveryof,172-173
pulsatingvariablestars,192
Puppisconstellation,115
Pythagoras,229
Q
quarks,17
Quasar3C273,221
quasars,183,220-222
activegalaxies,226-228
births,223
Quasar3C273,221
Inde
319
R S
R.A.(rightascension),7
radialcomponents,stellarmovement,141
radiation,15
radiation-dominatedstates,236
radioastronomers,36
radioemissions,226
radiogalaxies,225-226
radiotelescopes,33-34
AreciboRadioTelescope,35,276
GreenBankTelescope,34
interference,35-36
radiowaves,17,30-31
radiowindow,32
radius,planets,48
Reber,Grote,219
reddwarfs,148
redgiants,166
reddishstars,39
redshift,181,242-244
reflectingtelescopes,21-23
refractingtelescopes,20
relativity,theoryof,179-180
requirements,life,260-262
Richer,Harvey,167
Rigel,151
rightascension(R.A.),7
rings
Neptune,95
Saturn,94-95
Uranus,95
ROSAT(RentgenSatellite),37
rotationcurve,207
RRLyrae,192
Russell,HenryNorris,147
Sagan,Carl,269
SagittariusA,219
Saturn,46,79,80,83
atmosphere,82
magnetosphere,83-84
moons,96
Galileanmoons,98-100
orbit,79-80
rings,94-95
Schiaparelli,Giovanni,61,65
Schwabe,Heinrich,129
Schwarzschild,Karl,178
Schwarzschildradius,179
semi-majoraxisoforbit
planets,47
SETI(SearchforExtra-Terrestrial
Intelligence),273-275
Seyfert,CarlK.,224
Seyfertgalaxies,224
Shapley,Harlow,198
Shoemaker-Levy9comet,78,95
shootingstars,54-56
short-periodcomets,53
siderealperiods
planets,48
singularity,182
sizes
stars,147-151
telescopes,23-24
Sky,The,astronomysoftwarepackage,27
Sky&Telescopemagazine,56
SmallMagellanicClouds,205-206
Smoot,George,232
SNAP(SuperNova/AccelerationProbe),
256
SNO(SudburyNeutrinoObservatory),
133
320
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
SNP(SolarNeutrinoProblem),132
software,astronomysoftwarepackages,27
solarnebulae,109
solarneutrino,Sun,132-133
SolarNeutrinoProblem(SNP),132
solarsystem,105-106
accretion,108-109
asteroids,46
comets,46
condensation,107-109
contraction,107-109
fragmentaryleftovers,49-50,54
asteroidbelt,50
asteroids,51-52
comets,52-54
Eros,50
meteorites,55
meteoroids,54
meteors,54-56
fragmentation,108-109
interplanetarydistances,47
jovianplanets,72-75,83
Jupiter,72-75,79-82
magnetospheres,83-84
Neptune,75-82
Saturn,79-82
Uranus,75-82
meteoroids,46
MilkyWay,187-195
birthof,195-196
center,188
darkmatter,196-197
Galacticdisk,195
mass,196-197
measuring,191-195
spiralarms,197-198
viewing,198-200
moons,46,100-101
origins,106-107
planets,46-49
averagedensity,48
distance,136-141
jovianplanets,49
locating,112
mass,48
numberofknownmoons,48
orbits,46-47
origins,107-109
radius,48
semi-majoraxisoforbit,47
siderealperiods,48
terrestrialplanets,49,58-59
stars
distances,139-141
luminosity,143-145
sizes,147-151
stellarsorting,146-147
temperature,145
stellarmovement,141-143
Sun,46-47,121-123
atmosphere,124-129
chromosphere,125
composition,123-126
core,130-133
corona,125-126
coronaleruptions,129
energyoutput,123
granulatedsurface,127
magnetosphere,126
solarwinds,126
sunspots,127-129
surface,124-125
transitionzone,125
theoreticalorigins,109-114
solarsystems,45,114-115
galaxies,202-203,220
activegalaxies,223-228
clusters,210-214
distances,209-211
ellipticalgalaxies,204-205
Inde
321
irregulargalaxies,205-206 degenerateneutrons,176
localgroups,210-211 mass,179
mass,207-208 observing,181-183
quasars,220-223 relativity,179-180
radiogalaxies,225-226 blockinglight,155-157
rotationcurve,207 browndwarfs,163
spiralgalaxies,203 cataclysmicvariables,192
universalrecession,212 Cepheidvariablestars,192
Whirlpoolgalaxy,206-207 chargedparticles,17
solarwinds,Sun,126 composition,123-126
southequatorialbelt(Jupiter),77 deaths,168-170
southtemperatebelt(Jupiter),77 distances,139-140
SouthernLights,126 dwarfstars,147
SpecialAstrophysicalObservatory,23 whitedwarfs,167
spectra emissionnebulae,158-160
black-bodyspectra,38-40 energyoutput,124
continuousspectra,40 energyproduction,17
electromagneticspectra,30-32 gases,157-158
spectrallines,39-40 giantstars,147
spectrallines,39-40 redgiants,166
spectroscopicbinaries,149 HGeminorum,75
speedoflight,14 interstellardust,157
Spielberg,Steven,274 median,154-155
spiralarms,MilkyWay,197-198 medium,161-163
spiralgalaxies,203 reddening,156
spiralnebulae,201 intrinsicvariables,192
SpiritandOpportunityrovers,68 lifeexpectancies,150-151
SpitzerSpaceTelescope,37 lifespan,168-170
standardcandles,209-210 luminosity,143-145
standardmodel,230 mainsequencestars,164-165
standardsolarmodel,Sun,131-132 mass,124,149-150
StarryNightastronomysoftwarepackage, nakedeye,visibleto,4-10
27 neutronstars,172
stars NGC3603,149
actualmotion,141 novae,168
atoms,17 photospheres,18
births,154,163-168 pulsars,173
giantstars,165-166 propermotion,142
blackholes,176-179 ProximaCentauri,151
Cygnus,182-184 pulsatingvariablestars,192
322
The Complete Idiots Guide to Astronomy, Fourth Edition
quasars
activegalaxies,226-228
births,223
reddwarfs,148
reddishstars,39
Rigel,151
sizes,147-151
stellarmovement,141-143
stellarsorting,146-147
supergiantstars,147
supernovae,170-171
leftovers,171-173
types,253
temperature,145
variablestars,192
whitedwarfs,149
steadystatetheory,232
stellarmovement,141-143
stellarparallax,140
stellarsorting,stars,146-147
SudburyNeutrinoObservatory(SNO),
133
Sun,46-47,121-123
atmosphere,124-129
chromosphere,125
composition,123-126
core,130-133
chainreactions,131
fissionhole,130
solarneutrino,132-133
standardsolarmodel,131-132
corona,125-126
energyoutput,123
magnetosphere,126
solarwinds,126
surface,124-125
coronaleruptions,129
granulatedsurface,127
sunspots,127-129
transitionzone,125
sunspots,127-129
cycles,129
superclusters,211
supergiantstars,147
Super-Kamiokandedetector,243-244
superluminalmotion,225
SuperNova/AccelerationProbe(SNAP),
256
supernovae,170-171
leftovers,171-173
types,253
surfaces
Mars,66-69
canyons,66-67
craters,66-67
volcanoes,66-67
water,67-68
Mercury,60
Moon,91-93
Sun,124-125
coronaleruptions,129
granulatedsurface,127
sunspots,127-129
Venus,62
synchronousorbits
Mercury,61
Moon,88
synchrotronemissions,226
T
tails,comets,52-53
Taurus,170
telescopes
computerassistance,25
GreenBankTelescope,28
HaleTelescope,23-24
HubbleSpaceTelescope(HST),19,
26-27
Inde
323
HUT(HopkinsUltravioletTelescope),
37
inventionof,19-20
JamesWebbSpaceTelescope,37
Kecktelescopes,23
lightgathering,24
Newtonianreflector,21
NextGenerationSpaceTelescope
(NGST),27
optics,22
OWL(OverWhelminglyLarge
Telescope),221
radiotelescopes,33-34
AreciboRadioTelescope,35,276
GreenBankTelescope,34
interference,35-36
reflectingtelescopes,21-23
refractingtelescopes,20
sizes,23-24
SpitzerSpaceTelescope,37
Venus,viewing,19
x-raytelescopes,37
temperature,stars,145
TerrestrialPlanetFinder(TPF),116
terrestrialplanets,49,58-59
Earth,64
Mars,64-66
atmosphere,65
moons,69-70
surface,66-69
Mercury,59-61
atmosphere,61
synchronousorbit,61
Venus,61-62
atmosphere,63
magnetosphere,62
orbit,63
surface,62
theoreticalorigins,solarsystem,109-114
theories,universe,246-257
thermalemissions,226
Titan(Saturn),96-99
Tombaugh,Clyde,101
TPF(TerrestrialPlanetFinder),116
transitionzone,Sun,125
transversecomponent,motion,141
triangulation,138
Triton(Neptune),96,100
Tully-Fishertechnique,213
TurnLeftatOrion,27
U
ultravioletradiation,37
UniversalNaturalHistoryandTheoryofthe
Heavens,202
universalrecession,galaxies,212
universe
BigBangtheory,234-239
closeduniverse,245-246
cosmologicalredshift,242-244
density,243
flatuniverse,245-246
openuniverse,245-246
theories,246-257
UpsilonAndromeda,114
Uranus,46,75-80,83
atmosphere,82
magnetosphere,83-84
moons,96
orbit,79-80
rings,95
Urey,Harold,264
V
VanAllen,JamesA.,78,126
VanAllenbelts,78
variablestars,192
35
crowave Anisotropy
148
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324
The Comp ete ots Gu de to Astronomy, Fourth Ed on
Venus,46,49,58-62
atmosphere,63
magnetosphere,62
orb t,63
surface,62
VeryLargeArray VLA nterferometers,
35,136
VeryLongBase neArray VLBA ,35,183
VeryLongBase neInterferometry
VLBI ,35
ew ng
Moon,87-88
Venus,19
ng ss on,66
sua nar es,149
VLA VeryLargeArray ,136
VLA VeryLargeArray nterferometers,
35
VLBA VeryLongBase neArray ,35,183
VLBI VeryLongBase ne
Interferometry ,35
vo canoes,Mars,66-67
Voyager ss on,78
WXYZ
wanderers,6
WaroftheWor ds,66,264
water,Mars,67-68
Watson,A an,162
wave engths,18
co ors,31
waves
ectromagnet crad at on,15-16
frequenc es,18
rad owaves,30-31
wave engths,18
We nberg,Steven,230,235
We es,Orson,264
We s,H.G.,66,264
Wh poo ga axy,206-207
wh tedwarfs,149,167
wh te ght,32
Who Shebang,The,
son,Robert,232
WMAP nson
Probe ,255-256
womenastronomers,
x-rayte escopes,37
x-rays,17-18,30
YerkesObservatory,2
zones,Jup ter,77