Glenbrook South Year-End
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The GBS Physics staff invite you to send
Questions and comments can be sent to Tom
This page last updated on 4/21/99.