Introduction to stellar evolution

“Stars are much like humans. They are born, live their lives and die.” Ilgmars Eglitis, astronomer

Observing the spectra of stars allows us to look deep into their origin and characteristics. A large catalog of star spectra exists at Baldone Observatory in Latvia, which is being made available online this year.

In the picture above, each horizontal “line” is the raw spectrum of one star. These are investigated with simple graphical tools, allowing us to determine each stars characteristics, origin and evolutionary state.

More educational material will appear on these pages over time. So far, you can play with this Black Body radiation calculator.

Baldone observatory, Latvia
A lot of details are hidden in the spectra of stars. To study them, even using just a fraction of the techniques and theory available to professional astronomers, allows us to identify the spectral type of stars, their current age and evolutionary state. For simplicity, we model stars as being Black Bodies, so simulations like this can help us understand the light output of stars of different temperatures.
Black body radiation spectrum generated using the online simulator.
The user interface from the online simulator.

Stars are born in huge clouds of gas and dust, such as those seen below in images obtained from the Faulkes Telescope Project.

Stars can die in a number of ways, but the more massive stars (maybe those 10 times or more massive than our Sun) explode in spectacular supernovae, such as those seen in the images below.

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