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ASTRO 101

Analemma
Asteroids
Aurora
Big Bang
Black Holes
Bode Titius
Brightest Stars
Comets
Constellations
Coordinates
Cosmology
Cruithne
Dark Matter
Eclipses
Galaxies
Historical
HR Diagram
Hubble's Law
Intelligent Life
Kepler's Laws
Leap Year
Light Waves
Lunar Libration
Messier Objects
Meteors
Milky Way
Moon
Moon Phases
Planets
Precession
Rainbows
Redshift
Seasons
Stellar Evolution
Stardust
Sun & Fusion
Telescopes
Tides
Time of Day
Twilight
Zodiac
 
Hertzsprung Russell Diagram

The HR diagram is the "Rosetta Stone" of stellar astronomy. Simply put, it plots a star's luminosity against its surface temperature. As simple as that sounds, it is the key to understanding stellar evolution.

The luminosity of a star is its rate of energy output, i.e. wattage. The Sun's output is about 4 x 1026 watts.

The surface temperature of a star and its color are directly tied to each other. Hotter stars are toward the blue end of the spectrum. Cooler stars are red. Other colors are inbetween. Stars are grouped into spectral types which can be viewed as either temperature or color groupings. From hottest to coolest the group designations are: O B A F G K M. The order is remembered by astronomy students with the mnemonic "Oh Boy Another Fine Girl (or Guy) Kissed Me."

The majority of stars lie roughly on a line from hot and bright, to cool and dim. This line is known as the "main sequence." Mathematically speaking, stars live most of their lives on the main sequence.

Most stars begin their lives hot and bright on the map, then progress to a semi-permanent address farther down on the main sequence. What happens later depends on the star's mass. For example, the Sun will eventually move upwards and to the right, into the realm of the red giants. Then it will move up and to the left, and then drop straight down into the graveyard of white dwarfs.