Part A Cepheid Variables
As we've discussed in class there exists a relationship between the period of luminosity variation and average luminosity for pulsating stars known as Cepheids. If we can identify a Cepheid variable and measure the period of its brightness variation then we can infer its luminosity from this relation and in turn determine its distance. We accomplish this via the relation between brightness and luminosity given as
where b is brightness measured in , L is luminosity typically measured in where , and d is distance to the star measured in parsecs, with .
Figure 1: The Period-Luminosity relationship for Cepheids. The shaded strip centered on the mean line indicates schematically that there are slight devaitions from a one-to-one relation, because of both theoretical reasons and observational uncertainties. (From Shu, Chapter 9)
Part B Light Echoes
In 1987 a supernova exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, it was given the endearing name SN 1987A. When the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observed the remanant of the supernova it observed several rings surrounding it (see figure 2). These are thought to be material thrown off by the progenitor star sometime before the explosion. The supernova heated the rings of gas causing them to glow like fiery goats. Let's consider the inner, bright ring. It is presumed to be circular but tilted from the perspective of Earth. It's projected semi-axes have dimensions 0.830'' and 0.605''. Because of the tilted geometry light was was received from the near side of the ring 340 days before light arrived from its far side.