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# ph2900-10

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PH2900

Astronomy

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Page 1 of 7 2009 -10
UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

MSci/BSc EXAMINATION 2010

For Internal Students of
Royal Holloway

DO NOT TURN OVER UNTIL TOLD TO BEGIN

PH2900 : ASTRONOMY

Time Allowed: TWO hours

Answer Question ONE and TWO others

Approximate part-marks for questions are given in the right-hand margin

The total available marks add up to 60

No credit will be given for attempting any further questions

College Calculators are provided

Royal Holloway University of London 2010
PH2900

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GENERAL PHYSICAL CONSTANTS

Permeability of vacuum
0

= 4t 10
-7
H m
-1

Permittivity of vacuum
0
c
= 8.85 10
-12
F m
-1

0
1/ 4tc
= 9.0 10
9
m F
-1

Speed of light in vacuum c = 3.00 10
8
m s
-1

Elementary charge e = 1.60 10
-19
C
Electron (rest) mass
e
m
= 9.11 10
-31
kg
Unified atomic mass constant
u
m
= 1.66 10
-27
kg
Proton rest mass
p
m
= 1.67 10
-27
kg
Neutron rest mass
n
m
= 1.67 10
-27
kg
Ratio of electronic charge to mass
/
e
e m
= 1.76 10
11
C kg
-1

Planck constant h = 6.63 10
-34
J s
/ 2 h t = = 1.05 10
-34
J s
Boltzmann constant k = 1.38 10
-23
J K
-1

Stefan-Boltzmann constant o = 5.67 10
-8
W m
-2
K
-4

Gas constant R = 8.31 J mol
-1
K
-1

Avogadro constant
A
N
= 6.02 10
23
mol
-1

Gravitational constant G = 6.67 10
-11
N m
2
kg
-2

Acceleration due to gravity
g
= 9.81 m s
-2

Volume of one mole of an ideal gas at STP = 2.24 10
-2
m
3

One standard atmosphere
0
P
= 1.01 10
5
N m
-2

MATHEMATICAL CONSTANTS
2.718 e ~ 3.142 t ~ log 10 2.303
e
~

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Question ONE: answer only FIVE sections.

You are advised not to spend more than 40 minutes answering Question One.

PART
MARKS
1. (a) Describe the physical basis of the Rayleigh criterion and how it relates
to the angular resolution of a telescope.
A lunar crater of diameter 25 metres needs to be observed. What size
earth based telescope would be needed to resolve the crater? (Take the
earth-moon distance as 400000 km and use a reasonable estimate for
the visible wavelength of light and ignore atmospheric effects.) 

(b) Explain what is meant by a standard candle, giving and explaining
one example.
Explain how standard candles can be used to determine the distance to
remote galaxies. 

(c) Make a diagram of the celestial sphere as viewed from a latitude of

| = 25
o
. Mark on the diagram the north celestial pole (NCP), lines of
constant declination (o ), hour angle ( h), the observers meridian and
the horizon.
The local sidereal time is 17 hours and 30 minutes. A star is at right
ascension of 17 hours 15 minutes and declination of 73
o
. Indicate on
the diagram the direction of the vernal equinox and location of the star. 

(d) Briefly describe the properties of short and long period comets. Why
are comets interesting objects for astronomers to study? Explain briefly
how astronomers measure the composition of comets. 

(e) The sun has an effective surface temperature of T
eff
= 5800K. A
sunspot is measured to be only 30% as intense, what is its effective
temperature?
Another star has an effective surface temperature of 4200Kand radius
5 times of the sun. Compute the ratio of its luminosity and peak
continuum wavelength compared with the sun. 

(f) A star is observed over 20 minutes and yields 1524 counts (in analogue
to digital converter units ADU) in an area of 64 pixels of a CCD
camera. A similar adjacent area of the image is used to measure sky
glow and gives a signal of 132 ADU. Compute the background-
subtracted number of photo-electrons, given the CCD camera gain is
2.3. What is the signal to noise ratio for the observation? If the CCD
has quantum efficiency of 63% how many photons are received from
the star? 

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PART
MARKS
2. (a)

The flux (F

) as a function of
wavelength ( ) for a star at
temperature T
1
= 9000 K

is shown
in the graph. Consider a second
star with a temperature with
T
2
= 5000 K .

(i) Draw a sketch of the flux as function of wavelength for both
stars
(ii) At what wavelength is the peak for each of the flux curves?
Weins displacement constant is
3 -1
2.898 10 nmK

.
(iii) What is the ratio of areas of the two flux curves?
(iv) With the help of your sketch explain how the colour indices
B V give a measure of the temperature. Which of the two stars
has a larger value of B V ? Justify your answer. 

(b) Describe how absorption lines are produced in a stellar spectrum and
describe three different locations in the journey a photon takes from a
stellar interior to the Earth-based spectrometer where an absorption line
can be formed.
Explain briefly how light emitted from a star can result in the
observation of emission lines.
What is the equivalent width of a spectral line? Illustrate with the help
of a simple sketch and explain what information can be obtained from
it. 

(c) Describe briefly the following contributions to the width of a spectral
line. In the description include information on the physical origin of the
broadening and describe the line shape:
(i) Thermal broadening,
(ii) Rotational broadening,
(iii) Collisional (pressure) broadening. 

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PART
MARKS
3. (a) Describe in detail the limits on ground-based observations of
astronomical objects due to atmospheric refraction and absorption.
The technique of adaptive optics can be used to correct for the effect of
turbulence in the atmosphere. Briefly explain how natural and laser
guide stars can be used with adaptive optics to remove the effects of
atmospheric turbulence. 

(b) Derive from first principles the equation governing radiation transport
through matter which is given by:
1

dI(x)
dx
= j kI(x).
Give the meaning of the variables in the equation and explain the
physical significance of each term. Re-express the equation as
dI(t)
dt
= sI(t),
given that optical thickness is defined asdt = k dx and the source
function is s = j /k .
Suppose an interstellar cloud has constant opacity and the source
function is zero. Solve the corresponding equation of radiation
transport. 

(c) Describe qualitatively the effect of solar limb darkening. Include a
sketch of the intensity of the light we see coming from the Sun as a
function of the position on the surface of its disc.
In the Suns photosphere, one optical depth for red light is a shorter
physical distance than for blue. How does this fact manifest itself in the
limb darkening for red and blue light? Show this on a sketch of
intensity for red and blue light as a function of position on the Suns
disc. 

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PART
MARKS
4. (a) Show with the aid of a diagram how an image is formed at the prime
focus of a reflecting telescope. Indicate on the sketch rays parallel to
the mirrors optical axis. Also show rays at an angle u with respect to
the optical axis. Find the relation between the angle u and the
displacement of the focus s in the focal plane, given the focal length of
the telescope is F.
Consider a telescope with focal length of 5000mm used with a CCD
camera with square pixels of edge length 6m at prime focus.
Calculate the plate scale in arc seconds per pixel. Two stars have an
angular separation of 45'' . What is the separation in pixels?


(b) The centre of a cluster of pixels ( X ) is calculated as
X =
Ep
i
x
i
Ep
i
,
wherep
i
is the pixel intensity and x
i
is the pixel position. The error on
the position is given by
o
X
=
o
PSF
N

.
Explain the expression for the error on the position on the centre of the
pixel cluster, including an explanation of the symbols. Explain what
effect a non-constant background signal, for examplep
i
bg
= Cx
i
, would
have on a measurement of X .
Describe how exposure time affects the astrometric and photometric
accuracy of an astronomical measurement.
Explain using three appropriate examples why astrometric accuracy is
important for astronomical measurements.


(c) The atmosphere disturbs the observations of astronomical objects such
as stars. Illustrate with the aid of an appropriate diagram how the
apparent zenith angle is affected by atmospheric refraction. Using your
sketch and Snells law show that the apparent zenith angle (,) is
related to the true zenith angle ( z) via:
, = sin
1
1
n
sinz
|
\

|
.
| .
Suppose a star is observed at zenith angle of 25
o
, calculate the true
zenith angle in degrees, arc minutes and arc seconds. Take the
refractive index of air at ground level as n =1.00027.


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PART
MARKS
5. (a) A parabolic radio telescope with a diameter 100m D = is used to
observe at a wavelength of = 21cm. Approximately what is the
angular resolution in degrees? Explain why a parabolic shape is best for
a radio telescope compared with a spherical shape.
Radio astronomers can achieve angular resolutions in the region of
milli-arcseconds. Describe briefly how this is done.
Why is the wavelength = 21cm of particular interest in radio
astronomy? What is the physical origin of this radiation?


(b) What are Radio Recombination Lines (RRLs) and how are they
formed? Give an example of an astrophysical system from which they
can be observed.
Compute the wavelength in cm of the n =110 to n =109 RLL. (You
may use the fact that the Rydberg constant is 13.6eVand
197.3eVnm c = .)
How can the relative abundances of different elements be determined
from RRLs? 

(c) Explain briefly how the Earth-Sun orbital radius is measured and how
this can be used for form a distance ladder to measure galactic
distances. 

(d) Explain qualitatively why the objects in the asteroid belt do not collect
into a single planet.
Describe briefly the Kirkwood gaps.
Explain qualitatively why the Jovian planets have ring systems.
What is particular about the location of the large gap in Saturns rings
called the Cassini Division? 

END