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Elusive Red Gems of the Sky: A Study of Carbon Stars

Faculty Supervisor:
Tracy Tuttle
Year of Project Completion:
Elusive Red Gems of the Sky: A Study of Carbon Stars


Carbon stars are old, cool, variable stars on which relatively little study has been done. Through the use of a spectral grating and a CCD camera on the Mabee Observatory refracting telescope, spectra of these stars were observed and then analyzed using the programs Image J and Graphical Analysis. These spectra were found to be fundamentally different from the spectra of other types of stars. Through the fitting of a blackbody curve to the data, it was shown that the blue end of each carbon star spectrum behaved like a blackbody and that overall carbon stars are not good blackbody absorbers. Carbon stars were found to be variable in brightness and in temperature, but no definitive patterns were observed over the relatively short period of observation. Through examing the variablility it was also found that Wien's Law holds for relatively cool stars.

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.