Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/313

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We have seen that a single glance at the spectrum of a star is sufficient to give us important information as to the structure of its atmosphere, while a study of the position of the lines tells what chemical elements are present. We might go on to consider how the width and sharpness of the lines, together with shifts in their position toward the red end of the spectrum, furnish the means of estimating the density of the vapors and the pressure to which they are subjected. The relative intensities of certain lines also serve as a clue to the temperature. Thus in the spectrum of magnesium there is a pair of lines, one of which is the stronger at the temperature of the electric spark, while the other is the stronger at the lower temperature of the electric arc. In the spectra of certain stars the greater intensity of the first line indicates that the temperature is high and approximates that of the electric spark, while in other stars the relative intensities are reversed, indicating that the temperature is lower and corresponds more closely with that of the electric arc. In addition to all this, certain easily measurable changes in the position of the spectral lines are known from Doppler's principle to indicate motion of the star in the direction of the earth. Thus if the lines are shifted toward the red with reference to their normal position, and if we have evidence that the shift is not due to pressure, we may conclude that the distance between the earth and the star is increasing, while if the lines are shifted toward the violet we conclude that the distance between the earth and the star is decreasing. As the earth's motion is known, the velocity of the star in the line of sight can therefore be accurately determined.

After this glance at the methods employed by the spectroscopist, we may return to a further consideration of the stages of stellar evolution. We have seen that the long continued action of gravity tends to produce condensation of a cosmical cloud. The constellation of Orion contains many examples of stars in this early stage of development. As the mass condenses its temperature rises, and corresponding with this rise in temperature and in the density of the vapors which constitute the star we find characteristic changes in the spectrum and also in the star's color. Such a brilliant white or bluish-white star as Sirius or Vega may be taken as representative of the next stage of stellar development. Here the broad bands of hydrogen, which constitute a beautiful series expressible by a simple mathematical formula, serve as the chief mark of distinction. The conditions are not yet ripe for the marked development of metallic lines, though doubtless the numerous elements which constitute the sun and which for the most part are familiar to us on the earth, are present in such stars, though they are not revealed through a study of the spectrum. It is true that evidence exists of the presence of iron and a few other substances, but the lines are thin and few in number and would be overlooked in a