Chapter 17 Analyzing Starlight
Collaborative Group Activities
- The Voyagers in Astronomy feature on Annie Cannon: Classifier of the Stars discusses some of the difficulties women who wanted to do astronomy faced in the first half of the twentieth century. What does your group think about the situation for women today? Do men and women have an equal chance to become scientists? Discuss with your group whether, in your experience, boys and girls were equally encouraged to do science and math where you went to school.
- In the section on magnitudes in The Brightness of Stars, we discussed how this old system of classifying how bright different stars appear to the eye first developed. Your authors complained about the fact that this old system still has to be taught to every generation of new students. Can your group think of any other traditional systems of doing things in science and measurement where tradition rules even though common sense says a better system could certainly be found. Explain. (Hint: Try Daylight Savings Time, or metric versus English units.)
- Suppose you could observe a star that has only one spectral line. Could you tell what element that spectral line comes from? Make a list of reasons with your group about why you answered yes or no.
- A wealthy alumnus of your college decides to give ?50 million to the astronomy department to build a world-class observatory for learning more about the characteristics of stars. Have your group discuss what kind of equipment they would put in the observatory. Where should this observatory be located? Justify your answers. (You may want to refer back to the Astronomical Instruments chapter and to revisit this question as you learn more about the stars and equipment for observing them in future chapters.)
- For some astronomers, introducing a new spectral type for the stars (like the types L, T, and Y discussed in the text) is similar to introducing a new area code for telephone calls. No one likes to disrupt the old system, but sometimes it is simply necessary. Have your group make a list of steps an astronomer would have to go through to persuade colleagues that a new spectral class is needed.