Stellar Guide

By: Cianna Stovall: May 12, 2016

A Stellar Guide to Elements in Spectrum of the Stars

Spectroscopy takes a huge part in identifying the elements in a star. Spectroscopy is the investigation and measurements of spectra produced when matter emits or interacts with electromagnetic radiation. The analysis of the light (radiation) coming from a star will allow scientists to identify they types of elements in the star and the type of star.

A Stars Color

A stars color is critical in identifying a star because it not only tells you the surface temperature, but it also tells you the types of elements a star is made up of. A star does not stay the stay color throughout it's lifecycle due to the different fusion of elements it can go through. The color of a star is very important to astronomers. Not only is it fascinating, but it also allows them to know whether or not a star is receding from us and the rate of acceleration. Because of the different colors, astronomers can identify the element, age, speed of acceleration (if any), and the surface temperature. In this case, a color is so much more then just a color.

Star Structure

In the words of Shrek "Ogres have layers, onions have layers, we both have layers." and stars have layers too, just like the Earth.
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In each layer of a star there can be different types of fusion making the inner core the hottest part of a star and the cause of the colors of a to differ.


Star colors do not differ to the extent where there are bright pink and neon green stars floating around, they all appear somewhat red, yellow, white, or blue. Hydrogen (H) is the primary element in a star that causes it to look red. The rapid speed the extremely hot atoms are going in a star can cause the atoms to fuse. Two Hydrogen atoms make up a Helium atom. This is called Hydrogen fusion. Stars that are more red are typically newer stars due to the fact they do not have many helium atoms because of minimal Hydrogen fusion.


The light of Helium appears to be yellow. More yellow makes an older star because it had more time for fusion to occur. Our star, the Sun, is a yellow star due to the temperature, not because of the Helium content. There is about 75% Hydrogen left in out Sun.

Other Elements in Stars

Oxygen is visible on a spectrum as green using a spectroscope because of it's wavelength. A spectroscope is an apparatus used for producing and recording spectra examination. A wavelength is the distance between successive crests of a wave, especially points in a sound wave or electromagnetic wave. Oxygen burning occurs when a star has burned up all it's lighter elements in it's core such as Hydrogen and Helium.


A Carbon star is typically a red star that had Carbon and Oxygen in it's atmosphere. The two elements combined form Carbon Monoxide and after a while all the Oxygen is consumed giving a Carbon star it's twinkle. Stars like the Sun have a higher Oxygen level in it's atmosphere, keeping it cool, yellow, and an Oxygen-rich-star. Carbon has very distinct spectral characteristics causing astronomers to be able to identify Carbon stars.


The burning process of Neon in a star is a set of nuclear fusion reactions. Neon require very high temperatures to burn. Neon is burnt in a star after Carbon runs out, making the core of the star primarily Neon, Magnesium, and Oxygen. This allows the rest of the Carbon to be burnt in a "shell" and for Hydrogen and Helium to be burnt of the surface of the star.Neon can also appear to be red.


Sillicon has a very short burning period and is the final stage for a massive star that has run out of other, more useful elements. It can appear to be a white yellow color, only because like Oxygen, on it's spectrum it is predominantly green. You can identify this element in an older star.

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