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Different Kinds of Stars

Each activity or resource is labeled by access mode:

Requires computer access
Requires downloading from the Web
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Main Topics & Concepts
  • A star's spectrum peaks at a characteristic temperature.
  • Different temperatures, or spectral types of stars group together on a plot of absolute magnitude versus temperature, called a Hetzsprung- Russell diagram.
  • Star types include main sequence stars, neutron stars, variable stars, dwarfs and white dwarfs, giants and super giants.
This topic applies to California state standards 2d in 9th grade Earth Science. 

Science Probe Text
Science Probe I § 14.4 The Color and Temperature of Stars

Activity Access Description
S P I: Activity 14F / Colors of Light Sources book  Students use a classroom spectroscope to observe various light sources. They compare the spectra of elements with those of thermal sources, such as the sun or a light bulb.

Activities & Lessons
Activity Access Description

Life Cycles of Stars Information/Activity book



NASA/Imagine the Universe!

paper Use online or download PDF. Activities are brief and math based. Students will need some of the informational sections of the booklet to do each one.

These Stars are Classified A problem of determining of stellar type from mass and temperature.

Others referred in other parts of this curriculum.

Parts 5&6


web  Students "surf" science Web sites to find information about stars. After completing a section on the comparison of stellar spectra to a black body, they try classifying stars by type on a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.

Universe at Your Fingertips

G-3 Investigating Types of Stars


book Students use a radiometer to explore how the temperature, color and intensity of a light source are related, and apply the results to stars of different types. Requires some equipment. Possible hands-on complement to precede the "Stellar Temperatures" activity above.
More Universe at Your Fingertips

G-8 How Big Is That Star?


book Students will first learn about characteristics of stars in general, and then how to use eclipsing binary systems to measure star diameters. They will use data from three x-ray sources to calculate the diameters in three binary systems. 
Rainbows and Spectra, Part 5: Star Types From Histograms


web  Students use example spectra from 4 known stars of different types to determine the types of a number of mystery stars. They learn about the star types, and how to interpret spectra.
What Types of Stars Are in Our Universe?

TERC activities page

 webpaper  Includes an 11-page Teacher's Guide and 3-page Student Guide. A large (2m x 2m) plot of 100 colored stars is assembled by students to study the color, temperature, and age relationships between stars as well as their frequency in stellar populations. Download/print in PDF.

*Astronomical Society of the Pacific Ordering info $$

Resources Access Description
White Dwarfs web Page on this common end state of stars like our Sun, with illustrations and a mouse-over glossary. Linked to a "quiz me" page.
X-ray Binary Stars

Imagine the Universe

web One-page introduction to binary stars that emit a lot of x-rays and why they do that. With link to a short video animation with voice-over. All terms are glossed.

Imagine the Universe

web One of the more exotic objects, a pulsar is a rapidly rotating neutron star with a tremendous magnetic field. Read about pulsars, questions, and take the quiz.
The Classification of Stellar Spectra


web The basics of stellar types, with quantitative info and confuse-o-graphs. But good background and useful to those who want to read about the underpinnings of lessons like "Stellar Temperatures." Refers to locations on the HR diagram of the various types,