Emily Springer, Alexis Dickerson, Daniela Posada
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.
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.