Star Types

When in 1872 Dr. Henry Draper placed a very small wet plate in the camera of his spectroscope and, by careful following, on account of the necessarily long exposure, secured the first photographic spectrum of a star ever taken, he could hardly have anticipated the wealth of the new field of research which he was opening. His wife, Anna Palmer Draper, was his enthusiastic assistant in both laboratory and observatory, and on his death in 1882, she began to devote her resources very considerably to the amplification of stellar spectrum photography. At first with the cooperation of Professor Young of Princeton, and later through extension of the facilities of Harvard College Observatory, whose director, the late Professor Edward C. Pickering, devoted his energies in very large part to this matter, all the preliminaries of the great enterprise were worked out, and a comprehensive program was embarked upon, which culminated in the "Henry Draper Memorial," a catalogue and classification of the spectra of all the stars brighter than the ninth magnitude, in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

One very remarkable result from the investigation of large numbers of stars according to their type is the close correlation between a star's luminosity and its spectral type. But even more remarkable is the connection between spectral type and speed of motion. As early as 1892 Monck of Dublin, later Kapteyn, and still later Dyson, directed attention to the fact that stars of the Secchi type II had on the average larger proper motions than those of type I. In 1903 Frost and Adams brought out the exceptional character of the Orion stars, the radial velocities of twenty of which averaged only seven kilometers per second.

Soon after, with the introduction of the two-stream hypothesis, a wider generalization was reached by Campbell and Kapteyn, whose radial velocities showed that the average linear velocity increases continually through the entire series B, A, F, G, K, M, from the earliest types of evolution to the latest. The younger stars of early type have velocities of perhaps five or six kilometers per second, while the older stars of later type have velocities nearly fourfold greater.

The great question that occurs at once is: How do the individual stars get their motions? The farther back we go in a star's life history, the smaller we find its velocity to be. When a star reaches the Orion stage of development, its velocity is only one-third of what it may be expected to have finally. Apparently, then, the stars at birth have no motion, but gradually acquire it in passing through their several types or stages of development.

More striking still is the motion of the planetary nebulæ, in excess of 25 kilometers per second, while type A stars move 11 kilometers, type G 15 kilometers, and type M 17 kilometers per second. Can the law connecting speed of motion and spectral type be so general that the planetary nebula is to be regarded as the final evolutionary stage? Stars have been seen to become nebulæ, and one astronomer at least is strongly of the opinion that a single such instance ought to outweigh all speculation to the contrary, as that stars originate from nebulæ. In his discussion of stellar proper motions, Boss has reached a striking confirmation of the relation of speed to type, finding for the cross linear motion of the different types a series of velocities closely paralleling those of Kapteyn and Campbell.

Concerning the marked relation of the luminosities of the stars to their spectral types, there is a pronounced tendency toward equality of brightness among stars of a given type; also the brightness diminishes very markedly with advance in the stage of evolution. There has been much discussion as to the order of evolution as related to the type of spectrum, and Russell of Princeton has put forward the hypothesis of giant stars and dwarf stars, each spectral type having these two divisions, though not closely related. One class embraces intensely luminous stars, the other stars only feebly luminous. When a star is in process of contraction from a diffused gaseous mass, its temperature rises, according to Lane's law, until that density is reached where the loss of heat by radiation exceeds the rise in temperature due to conversion of gravitational energy into heat. Then the star begins to cool again. So that if the spectrum of a star depends mainly on the effective temperature of the body, clearly the classification of the Draper catalogue would group stars together which are nearly alike in temperature, taking no note as to whether their present temperature is rising or falling.

Another classification of stars by Lockyer divides them according to ascending and descending temperatures. Russell's theory would assign the succession of evolutionary types in the order, M1, K1, G1, F1, A1, B, A2, F2, G2, K2, M2, the subscript 1 referring to the "giants," and 2 to the dwarf stars. In large part the weight of evidence would appear to favor the order of the Harvard classification, independently confirmed as it is by studies of stellar velocities, Galactic distribution, and periods of binary stars both spectroscopic and visual, where Campbell and Aiken find a marked increase in length of period with advance in spectral type. At the same time, a vast amount of evidence is accumulating in support of Russell's theory. Investigations in progress will doubtless reveal the ground on which both may be harmonized.

The publication of the new Henry Draper Catalogue of Stellar Spectra is in progress, a work of vast magnitude. The great catalogue of thirty years ago embraced the spectra of more than ten thousand stars, and was a huge work for that day; but the new catalogue utterly dwarfs it, with a classification much more detailed than in the earlier work, and with the number of stars increased more than twenty-fold. This work, projected by the late director of the Harvard Observatory, has been brought to a conclusion by the energy and enthusiasm of Miss Annie J. Cannon through six years of close application, aided by many assistants. The catalogue ranges over the stars of both hemispheres, and is a monument to masterly organization and completed execution which will be of the highest importance and usefulness in all future researches on the bodies of the stellar universe.

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