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Solutions Second Assignment

Phy 113- Fall 2016

1. (10 points) Playing with apparent sizes. Remember that linear size and
distance must always be expressed in the same units of length (both meters,
or both kilometers, or both light-years, etc) whenever you calculate an
apparent size or distance. Express your answers in power-of-ten.
a. What would be the apparent size (in arcseconds) of an astronaut 2
meters tall standing on the Moon 400,000 km away? Write your
answer using power-of-ten notation.
This is a straight application of the relationship between apparent size and
distance. That relationship is as follows,
real size
apparent size=
or, in symbolic form: =2105
The apparent size (noted as ) will be in units of arcseconds if D and d are in
the same units. Here we have

400,000 km

We need to change meters to kilometers, or kilometers to meters. I will do the latter

1000 m
400,000 km=400,000 km
=400,000,000 m=410 m
1 km

=1103 arcsecond
400,000 km
410 m

That is how large an astronaut on the Moon would appear to us. I think we can agree
we would not be able to see an astronaut on the Moon.
b. What is the apparent diameter (in arcseconds) of the star alpha
Centauri which has a diameter about equal to the diameter of the Sun
(diameter of Sun = 1.4x108 m) and is 4.2 light-years away from us?
Write your answer using power-of-ten notation.
I would like to point out there is a typo in the diameter of the Sun, it should be 1.4x109
m ). Calculations using either number will be fine.
For the star, we have


1.410 m
4.2 l.y.

We need to change meters to light-years, or light-years to meters. I will do the latter

9.510 m
4.2 l.y.=4.2 l.y.
=41016 m
5 1.410 m
=710 arcsecond
410 m

Which says the star appears to be even smaller than the astronaut.
c. Which is larger? Why do you think we can see alpha Centauri easily
with the naked eye but it is not possible to see the astronaut on the
Moon (hint: it is not because of the size difference)?
The astronaut appears to be larger than the star. We can only see the star because it is
much much brighter than the astronaut on the Moon.
2. (10 points) There are skeptics who argue (falsely I might add) that the Apollo
manned lunar flights never happened. They argue that by pointing the
Hubble space telescope on the Moon we would see the equipment left over by
the astronauts and that the absence of such images prove that no man walked
on the Moon. Based on what we learned of telescopes, we can verify that it is
not possible with the Hubble space telescope.
a. Calculate the apparent size of the lander if it is 10 meter wide at a
distance of 380,000 km.
One of the advantages of a telescope is to see smaller details than is possible with
the naked eye. We have seen that the size of the smallest detail is inversely
proportional to the size of the telescope. If you double the diameter of a telescope,
you can see details two times smaller than before.
In the question above we are told that some people argue that by pointing the
Hubble space telescope at the Moon we should see the traces of the visits by the
American astronauts. It is in fact not possible with Hubble. The reason is simply
that the diameter of the Hubble telescope is too small to see details of that size.
The apparent size of the lander on the Moon is given by
10 m
linear size
= 2 10 5
= 2 10 5
= 0.0052 arcsecond
380,000,000 m
b. The Hubble space telescope has a diameter of 2.5 m. Is that large
enough to distinguish the lander if it observed at a wavelength of 500
nm? (assume the same distance for the Moon)
Can Hubble see this? Hubbles angular resolution is
500 nm
500 10 9 m
= 2.5 10 5
= 2.5 10 5
= 2.5 10 5
2.5 m
2.5 m
= 0.05 arcsecond
Hubble would not see the lander because the smallest detail it can see is 10 times
bigger than the lander. Hubble could only see objects that are larger than 0.050

3. Look at the video For the Love of Physics by Walter Lewin at, also linked on Moodle, from 35:54 to the
end (that astronaut thing is so cool!).
a. How does he use cigarette smoke to show why clouds are white?
Explain in your own words why clouds are white and the sky is blue.
The color of the light scattered by particles in the way of the light depends on the size of
the particle. Very small particles scatter blue light more than other colors while big
particles scatter all colors equally.
Lewin inhales smoke into in lungs where water precipitates on the smoke particles
making them bigger. Then white light that scatters off these larger particles makes them
look white. Clouds are made of small droplets of water that scatter all colors equally and
therefore look white.
In the atmosphere, outside of clouds, small particles are common and the white light that
encounters those particles will see its blue part scattered while the other colors are not
scattered as much. When we look at the sky we see this scattered light, which is mostly
b. How does he show and explain why sunsets are red?
Again the blue light is scattered by the small particles. If sunlight travels through a thick
layer of air almost all the blue light is scattered. The light that reaches us is then mostly
red. Then the Sun will appear red, but also clouds and the sky off which this red light
scatters will also appear red. The more pollution and other particles off which the red
sunlight can bounce off are present in the atmosphere, the prettier the sunset
4. Explain briefly in your own words why
a. telescopes observing in the visible are built on mountain tops.
We want to minimize the effect of the atmosphere. The atmosphere above mountain tops
is thin and so there will be less air turbulence and absorption by the atmosphere. There
will be less light pollution because these are typically lightly populated regions.
b. Contrary to telescopes observing in the visible, telescopes observing in
the radio can easily observe celestial objects from Earths surface
during daytime and/or when the sky is cloudy.
This was not discussed in class. The basic idea is that when observing in the radiowaves
our observations are not affected by the atmosphere the same way as they are when
observing in the visible.
What prevents astronomy in the visible in the day time is the brightness of the sky (light
pollution due to the Sun). We can infer that whereas the sky in the visible is bright and
overwhelms the light from most celestial objects like stars, planets, galaxies, etc the
sky in the radio is completely dark and does not interfere with observations.
As for clouds it is the same idea. Clouds block visible light but they do not block radio
c. telescopes observing in the X-rays must be placed in space.
The sky is completely opaque to X-rays. We can see nothing of all celestial objects unless
we travel outside the atmosphere.