Glenbrook South Year-End Projects


Basic Research Questions


Your role as researcher for this project involves acquiring a wealth of technical information about chemistry and physics principles pertinent to the field of astronomy. The process of conducting a literature search should yield some basic information about the chemistry and physics which underlies astronomers understanding of the sun, stars, galaxies and the universe. Some basic topics for research and ultimate discussion have been listed below to assist you in the initial stages of your literature search. The role of this listing is to provide an initial framework for your literature search and not a conclusive list of topics to be discussed. Your group is expected to go beyond these topics, exploring diverse areas of individual interest about astronomy.


  1. Explain what an electromagnetic wave is and how it is produced; describe the various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, their relative wavelength, frequency and energy and their basic interactions with matter; relate these findings the relative ease and the methods used by astronomers to detect such radiation from space.
  2. Discuss quantum models regarding the basic structure of the atom; use energy level diagrams to discuss the energy changes experienced by electrons as they jump between energy levels within an atom; relate these energy changes to the atomic spectra of a given element.
  3. Explain what spectroscopy is and distinguish between an emission and absorption spectrum; describe how astronomers use spectroscopy to obtain information about the sun and stars; discuss the a few types of spectrographic analysis in use today.
  4. Discuss the inverse square law of wave propagation and apply it to light to explain the distance-illuminance relationship; relate this relationship to the distinction between apparent and absolute brightness of stars.
  5. Explain what H-R diagrams are and their importance to astronomers in understanding the different types of stars and their important differences; use H-R diagrams to explain the changes which must occur in order for interstellar nebula and protostars to convert to main sequence stars; use H-R diagrams to describe the ultimate fate of low-mass, medium-mass and enormous-mass stars.
  6. Explain what gravitation is and explain the factors which effect the amount of gravitation between any two bodies (particles, planets, stars, etc.); identify the variables which describe a gas and explain how these variables relate to each other; demonstrate how principles of gravitation and gas laws are used to explain how stars form and evolve from birth to death.
  7. Discuss what the Doppler effect is and explain when and why it is observed. Relate the Doppler effect to the red shift and blue shift observed by astronomers and explain the significance of such findings. 
  8. Use an understanding of nuclear chemistry to explain how the sun and other stars produce energy by fusion; describe the temperatures, pressures and density at which the fusion process occurs. Use balanced nuclear equations to discuss the various steps in the fusion process and identify how the type of fusion which occurs is dependent upon the age of the star.
  9. Use the model of blackbody radiation to explain how stars radiate heat; relate their energy emission to the radiation spectrum, the energy-temperature relationship, and the wavelength-temperature relationship. Explain how astronomers use this model to determine the surface temperatures of stars.
  10. Define reflection and refraction and discuss their application to reflecting and refracting telescopes; trace the history of these telescopes and their use in exploring the heavens; discuss a few telescopes in use today (or yesterday) and the types of findings which they provide.



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Questions and comments can be sent to Tom Henderson.

This page last updated on 4/21/99.