Star guides

Emily Springer, Alexis Dickerson, Daniela Posada

Understanding stars


  • Even though stars are too far for scientists to directly analyze them, they can learn a lot about their makeup from the lights they emit.

  • Astronomers pass starlight through telescopes which funnels into a spectrometer to differentiate the light and pass it through a spectrum(a rainbow of its component colors).

  • Because each element on the periodic table has its own unique color pattern astronomers read the color patterns in starlight to determine the elements present in a star.

Early star discovery

  • Throughout astrophysics early days many astronomers assumed that stars had an extremely similar chemical composition to that of Earth.

  • When they passed starlight through a prism they discovered absorption lines of many common Earth elements.

The 20th century discoveries

  • In the nineteen-twenties, Cecilia Payne studied the spectra of stars, and devised a way to figure out the temperature and true chemical composition of stars. She concluded that the atmospheres of stars were

  • NOT made up of the same mix of elements as the Earth

  • NOT wildly variable in compo

  • But were almost entirely hydrogen in most starssition


How this helps scientists


  • Without knowledge of a star's composition scientists would not be able to predict a star's life cycle or be able to accurately know what its purpose is.

  • By having the ability to look at a star's components scientists can predict how old and an estimate of when it will die.

Element Spectras

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