Light Curves, Spectra, and Images
Tools for All Astronomers
Because most of the objects that astronomers observe are so far away, we
cannot touch them. Observing the light that they emit is often the only
means we have of understanding them. Studying the light that comes from
a source can tell us a great deal about what kind of object it is -- we can
measure the energy of the light coming from the source, we can measure the
amount of light coming from the source, and we can make an image of
the source. If we graph the amount of light at different
energies, we can make a spectrum. We can also measure the brightness
of the source over time, making what is called a light curve. By
making an image of the source, we see what it looks like.
The concept of an image is probably the most familiar -- telescopes
like the Hubble Space Telescope produce many beautiful images. But images can also be
made using light we can't see with our eyes, such as infrared or
ultraviolet. Graphical data, like spectra and
light curves, are very valuable to astronomers as well. Among other
things, a spectrum can give us information about an object's
composition, mass, and motion. A light curve can analyze short-term or
long-term changes in the brightness of a source -- useful for bursting objects,
binary systems of stars, and pulsars. Click on one of the below links
to learn more about light curves, spectra, and images!
Use Hera to analyze light
curves, spectra and images.