A Question and Answer Guide to Astronomy by Pierre-Yves Bely PDF

By Pierre-Yves Bely

ISBN-10: 052118066X

ISBN-13: 9780521180665

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Extra resources for A Question and Answer Guide to Astronomy

Sample text

Ry N D ite n Pla Wh Mass of the main sequence stars relative to the mass of the Sun ae nov per ants ergi Sup Su form a planetary nebula. † Eventually, all that remains of the original is a small star with a hot, dense core of carbon and oxygen, called a white dwarf. e. at least eight times as large as the Sun, it, too, enters a giant phase once its hydrogen core is consumed, but in this case the event is unimaginably violent and leaves the star a supergiant. The temperature in the core of a supergiant is higher than in stars of average mass, and nuclear fusion extends beyond the synthesis of carbon.

The period can be extremely Beam of stable, constant to within a few seconds over a million years – more accurate than the best atomic clocks on Earth. A pulsar forms when a supernova explodes, leaving a neutron star in place of the original stellar core (Q. 16). The original star revolved slowly on its axis (like our Sun, which rotates once in 27 days), but as it collapsed into an extremely small, compact neutron star, its speed increased – like an ice skater pirouetting (Q. 162) – resulting in the incredibly fast rotational speeds found in pulsars.

As the atmosphere of the aging giant expands, the material is captured by its dwarf companion. Such a transfer of matter onto a stellar surface is called accretion. The explosion occurs as the material from the red giant is deposited on the surface of the white dwarf. Compressed under the white dwarf’s gravity and heated to the point of triggering nuclear fusion, the accreted material releases a vast amount of energy as it explodes, blowing the gases away from the white dwarf at incredible speeds, up to thousands of km/s, and causing a sudden brightening of the binary pair by a factor of 50 000 to 100 000.

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A Question and Answer Guide to Astronomy by Pierre-Yves Bely

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