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Mathematical Equations & Relationships:

A. Orbital Mechanics and Motion

Kepler’s 3rd Law: (MA + MB) = a3/ p2

Kepler's law is useful for any orbital motion, such as two stars in a binary system. It is a
relationship among mass (M), period (p), and distance of separation in au's (a).

2π r = vP
This equation is used to determine the rotational periods of an object. During one rotation
a point in the equatorial region will travel a distance equal to 2π r. This distance is equal
to the velocity of the point times the time elapsed during one rotation. It is a relationship
among radius, velocity, and period. If you know any two of the variables, you can solve
for the third variable.

v = d/t ; a = v/t ; Fc = mac ; ac = v2/r = rω2

These fundamental physics of motion equations should not be forgotten. Everything is
moving in space, and for even stars and galaxies velocity (v) equals the rate at which
distance (d) changes over time (t), and acceleration (a) is equal to the rate at which
velocity changes over time. Everything also rotates in space, and therefore centripetal
forces also apply. Centripetal force (Fc) equals mass (m) times centripetal acceleration
(ac), and centripetal acceleration (ac) equals velocity squared (v2) divided by the radius
(r). Since velocity on a spinning object is an angular displacement, angular acceleration
is also equal to radius times angular velocity squared (ω2).

B. Stellar Radiation

Wein's Law: λmax = 2.9 x 107/T

This law relates the maximum peak (angstroms) output of radiation from an emitting
object (λmax) to its temperature (T) in Kelvin (K).

Stephan-Boltzmann Law: L = 4πR2σT4

This involves the total luminosity (L) from a stellar surface, which is the produce of its
surface area (4πR2) and temperature (T) to the fourth power. Another form of this
relationship is E = σTeff4 where Teff is the effective surface temperature in Kelvin, and
E is the energy per unit surface area in erg/cm2. σ is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant, 5.70
x 10-5 erg/cm2K4s. Other forms of the Stephan-Boltzmann law are as follows:
L/Lsun = (R/Rsun)2 x (T/Tsun)4 or R/Rsun = (Tsun/T)2 x √L/Lsun
These simpler rearrangements express the stellar properties in terms of solar properties.

C. Luminosity

The Distance Modulus: M = m - 5log10 (d)/10

This is a relationship among absolute magnitude (M) - or luminosity, apparent
magnitude (m), and distance (d). If you know any two of these three variables, you can
use this relationship to find the third variable. Used with Cepheid and RR Lyrae variable
stars, and the other standard candles that measure cosmological distances.

Inverse Square Law: L = 1/r2 or L = (r/rsun)2 x b/bsun or b/bsun = (r/rsun)2
Light, or luminosity, is one of several phenomena that decrease in brightness as the
square of the distance. This can be expressed in many ways - two examples are given
above. The distance (r), luminosity (L), or brightness (b) can be written relative to the

Tully-Fisher Relation: L = Vrot4

The luminosity of any spiral galaxy is equal to the 4th power of its rotation, or, the faster a
galaxy spins, the more luminous it is. There is a correlation between spin rate and
luminosity because the gas and stars are in orbit in the galaxy, so the centripetal and
gravitational forces are in balance. Mathematically, v2/r - GMgalaxy/R2 = 0. This shows
that the greater the rotation, the more mass the galaxy has to have to maintain a balance
between the two forces. So the faster a galaxy rotates, the more massive it must be - and
the more luminous.

D. Expansion of the Universe

Hubble's Law: vr= H0d

Hubble's law states that the recessional velocity (vr)of a distant galaxy is equal to its
distance (d) times Hubble's constant. (Assume 70km/s/Mpc for H0.) The recessional
velocity is determined from the Doppler redshift (z) of the H and K lines in the spectrum
of the receding galaxy.

Doppler Effect Equation: λ – λ0 = νr/c ; z = λ - λ0/ λ0 ; vr ≈ zc

The first equation is the combination of the next two. First, z = λ - λ0/ λ0 is used to
measure the redshift (z) by comparing the spectral lines from the galaxy (λ) and the
known spectral lines (λ0). The recessional velocity (vr)is then equal to the redshift(z)
times the speed of light (c).

E. Other Important Calculations:

Parallax for nearby stars: d = 1/p
Frequency, wavelength, and speed of light: λ f = c
Time spent on the main sequence: t(years) = 1010m/L
Mass-Luminosity relationship on main sequence: L α M4
or in the more expanded form: L/L(Sun) ~ [M/M(Sun)]4

D. Basic Math & Conversion Factors

Circumference, Area, Surface Area, and Volume of a Sphere
Since most stars, star clusters, clusters of galaxies, etc are spherical, there are many
instances where the formulas for the above dimensions are useful.

1 parsec (pc) = 206,265 astronomical units (au) = 3.26 light years (ly) =
3.08 x 1016m ; 1° = 60 arcmin = 60´ ; 1´ = 60 arcsec = 60˝

Derivations and Sample Problems: Parallax

Derivations and Sample Problems: Orbital Mechanics

Derivations and Sample Problems: Radiation Laws

Derivations and Sample Problems: The Distance Modulus and Luminosity

Derivations and Sample Problems: Hubble's Law and the Doppler Effect