Hertzsprung–Russell diagram

The Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, abbreviated as H–R diagram, HR diagram or HRD, is a scatter plot of stars showing the relationship between the stars' absolute magnitudes or luminosities versus their stellar classifications or effective temperatures. More simply, it plots each star on a graph plotting the star's brightness against its temperature (color).

The diagram was created circa 1910 by Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell and represents a major step towards an understanding of stellar evolution.

The related color–magnitude diagram (CMD) plots the apparent magnitudes of stars against their color, usually for a cluster so that the stars are all at the same distance.

An observational Hertzsprung–Russell diagram with 22,000 stars plotted from the Hipparcos Catalogue and 1,000 from the Gliese Catalogue of nearby stars. Stars tend to fall only into certain regions of the diagram. The most prominent is the diagonal, going from the upper-left (hot and bright) to the lower-right (cooler and less bright), called the main sequence. In the lower-left is where white dwarfs are found, and above the main sequence are the subgiants, giants and supergiants. The Sun is found on the main sequence at luminosity 1 (absolute magnitude 4.8) and B−V color index 0.66 (temperature 5780 K, spectral type G2V).
Hertzsprung-Russel StarData
An HR diagram showing many well known stars in the Milky Way galaxy

Historical background

In the nineteenth-century large-scale photographic spectroscopic surveys of stars were performed at Harvard College Observatory, producing spectral classifications for tens of thousands of stars, culminating ultimately in the Henry Draper Catalogue. In one segment of this work Antonia Maury included divisions of the stars by the width of their spectral lines.[1] Hertzsprung noted that stars described with narrow lines tended to have smaller proper motions than the others of the same spectral classification. He took this as an indication of greater luminosity for the narrow-line stars, and computed secular parallaxes for several groups of these, allowing him to estimate their absolute magnitude.[2]

In 1910 Hans Rosenberg published a diagram plotting the apparent magnitude of stars in the Pleiades cluster against the strengths of the calcium K line and two hydrogen Balmer lines.[3] These spectral lines serve as a proxy for the temperature of the star, an early form of spectral classification. The apparent magnitude of stars in the same cluster is equivalent to their absolute magnitude and so this early diagram was effectively a plot of luminosity against temperature. The same type of diagram is still used today as a means of showing the stars in clusters without having to initially know their distance and luminosity.[4] Hertzsprung had already been working with this type of diagram, but his first publications showing it were not until 1911. This was also the form of the diagram using apparent magnitudes of a cluster of stars all at the same distance.[5]

Russell's early (1913) versions of the diagram included Maury's giant stars identified by Hertzsprung, those nearby stars with parallaxes measured at the time, stars from the Hyades (a nearby open cluster), and several moving groups, for which the moving cluster method could be used to derive distances and thereby obtain absolute magnitudes for those stars.[6]

Forms of diagram

There are several forms of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, and the nomenclature is not very well defined. All forms share the same general layout: stars of greater luminosity are toward the top of the diagram, and stars with higher surface temperature are toward the left side of the diagram.

The original diagram displayed the spectral type of stars on the horizontal axis and the absolute visual magnitude on the vertical axis. The spectral type is not a numerical quantity, but the sequence of spectral types is a monotonic series that reflects the stellar surface temperature. Modern observational versions of the chart replace spectral type by a color index (in diagrams made in the middle of the 20th Century, most often the B-V color) of the stars. This type of diagram is what is often called an observational Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, or specifically a color–magnitude diagram (CMD), and it is often used by observers.[7] In cases where the stars are known to be at identical distances such as within a star cluster, a color–magnitude diagram is often used to describe the stars of the cluster with a plot in which the vertical axis is the apparent magnitude of the stars. For cluster members, by assumption there is a single additive constant difference between their apparent and absolute magnitudes, called the distance modulus, for all of that cluster of stars. Early studies of nearby open clusters (like the Hyades and Pleiades) by Hertzsprung and Rosenberg produced the first CMDs, antedating by a few years Russell's influential synthesis of the diagram collecting data for all stars for which absolute magnitudes could be determined.[3][5]

Another form of the diagram plots the effective surface temperature of the star on one axis and the luminosity of the star on the other, almost invariably in a log-log plot. Theoretical calculations of stellar structure and the evolution of stars produce plots that match those from observations. This type of diagram could be called temperature-luminosity diagram, but this term is hardly ever used; when the distinction is made, this form is called the theoretical Hertzsprung–Russell diagram instead. A peculiar characteristic of this form of the H–R diagram is that the temperatures are plotted from high temperature to low temperature, which aids in comparing this form of the H–R diagram with the observational form.

Although the two types of diagrams are similar, astronomers make a sharp distinction between the two. The reason for this distinction is that the exact transformation from one to the other is not trivial. To go between effective temperature and color requires a color–temperature relation, and constructing that is difficult; it is known to be a function of stellar composition and can be affected by other factors like stellar rotation. When converting luminosity or absolute bolometric magnitude to apparent or absolute visual magnitude, one requires a bolometric correction, which may or may not come from the same source as the color–temperature relation. One also needs to know the distance to the observed objects (i.e., the distance modulus) and the effects of interstellar obscuration, both in the color (reddening) and in the apparent magnitude (where the effect is called "extinction"). Color distortion (including reddening) and extinction (obscuration) are also apparent in stars having significant circumstellar dust. The ideal of direct comparison of theoretical predictions of stellar evolution to observations thus has additional uncertainties incurred in the conversions between theoretical quantities and observations.


An HR diagram with the instability strip and its components highlighted

Most of the stars occupy the region in the diagram along the line called the main sequence. During the stage of their lives in which stars are found on the main sequence line, they are fusing hydrogen in their cores. The next concentration of stars is on the horizontal branch (helium fusion in the core and hydrogen burning in a shell surrounding the core). Another prominent feature is the Hertzsprung gap located in the region between A5 and G0 spectral type and between +1 and −3 absolute magnitudes (i.e. between the top of the main sequence and the giants in the horizontal branch). RR Lyrae variable stars can be found in the left of this gap on a section of the diagram called the instability strip. Cepheid variables also fall on the instability strip, at higher luminosities.

The H-R diagram can be used by scientists to roughly measure how far away a star cluster or galaxy is from Earth. This can be done by comparing the apparent magnitudes of the stars in the cluster to the absolute magnitudes of stars with known distances (or of model stars). The observed group is then shifted in the vertical direction, until the two main sequences overlap. The difference in magnitude that was bridged in order to match the two groups is called the distance modulus and is a direct measure for the distance (ignoring extinction). This technique is known as main sequence fitting and is a type of spectroscopic parallax. Not only the turn-off in the main sequence can be used, but also the tip of the red giant branch stars.[8][9]

Diagram's role in the development of stellar physics

Open cluster HR diagram ages
HR diagrams for two open clusters, M67 and NGC 188, showing the main-sequence turn-off at different ages

Contemplation of the diagram led astronomers to speculate that it might demonstrate stellar evolution, the main suggestion being that stars collapsed from red giants to dwarf stars, then moving down along the line of the main sequence in the course of their lifetimes. Stars were thought therefore to radiate energy by converting gravitational energy into radiation through the Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism. This mechanism resulted in an age for the Sun of only tens of millions of years, creating a conflict over the age of the Solar System between astronomers, and biologists and geologists who had evidence that the Earth was far older than that. This conflict was only resolved in the 1930s when nuclear fusion was identified as the source of stellar energy.

Following Russell's presentation of the diagram to a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1912, Arthur Eddington was inspired to use it as a basis for developing ideas on stellar physics. In 1926, in his book The Internal Constitution of the Stars he explained the physics of how stars fit on the diagram.[10] The paper anticipated the later discovery of nuclear fusion and correctly proposed that the star's source of power was the combination of hydrogen into helium, liberating enormous energy. This was a particularly remarkable jump of insight, since at that time the source of a star's energy was still unsolved, thermonuclear energy had not been proven to exist, and even that stars are largely composed of hydrogen (see metallicity), had not yet been discovered. Eddington managed to sidestep this problem by concentrating on the thermodynamics of radiative transport of energy in stellar interiors.[11] Eddington predicted that dwarf stars remain in an essentially static position on the main sequence for most of their lives. In the 1930s and 1940s, with an understanding of hydrogen fusion, came an evidence-backed theory of evolution to red giants following which were speculated cases of explosion and implosion of the remnants to white dwarfs. The term supernova nucleosynthesis is used to describe the creation of elements during the evolution and explosion of a pre-supernova star, a concept put forth by Fred Hoyle in 1954.[12] The pure mathematical quantum mechanics and classical mechanical models of stellar processes enable the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram to be annotated with known conventional paths known as stellar sequences — there continue to be added rarer and more anomalous examples as more stars are analysed and mathematical models considered.

See also


  1. ^ A.C. Maury; E.C. Pickering (1897). "Spectra of bright stars photographed with the 11-inch Draper Telescope as part of the Henry Draper Memorial". Annals of Harvard College Observatory. 28: 1–128. Bibcode:1897AnHar..28....1M.
  2. ^ Hertzprung, Ejnar (1908). "Über die Sterne der Unterabteilung c und ac nach der Spektralklassifikation von Antonia C. Maury". Astronomische Nachrichten. 179 (24): 373–380. Bibcode:1909AN....179..373H. doi:10.1002/asna.19081792402.
  3. ^ a b Rosenberg, Hans (1910). "Über den Zusammenhang von Helligkeit und Spektraltypus in den Plejaden". Astronomische Nachrichten. 186 (5): 71–78. Bibcode:1910AN....186...71R. doi:10.1002/asna.19101860503.
  4. ^ Vandenberg, D. A.; Brogaard, K.; Leaman, R.; Casagrande, L. (2013). "The Ages of 95 Globular Clusters as Determined Using an Improved Method Along with Color-Magnitude Diagram Constraints, and Their Implications for Broader Issues". The Astrophysical Journal. 775 (2): 134. arXiv:1308.2257. Bibcode:2013ApJ...775..134V. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/775/2/134.
  5. ^ a b Hertzsprung, E., 1911, Uber die Verwendung Photographischer Effektiver Wellenlaengen zur Bestimmung von Farbenaequivalenten, Publikationen des Astrophysikalischen Observatoriums zu Potsdam, 22. Bd., 1. Stuck = Nr.63
    Hertzsprung, E. (1911). "On the Use of Photographic Effective Wavelengths for the Determination of Color Equivalents". Publications of the Astrophysical Observatory in Potsdam. 1. 22 (63).
  6. ^ Russell, Henry Norris (1914). "Relations Between the Spectra and Other Characteristics of the Stars". Popular Astronomy. 22: 275–294. Bibcode:1914PA.....22..275R.
  7. ^ Palma, Dr. Christopher (2016). "The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram". ASTRO 801: Planets, Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe. John A. Dutton e-Education Institute: College of Earth and Mineral Sciences: The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 2017-01-29. The quantities that are easiest to measure... are color and magnitude, so most observers ... refer to the diagram as a 'Color–Magnitude diagram' or 'CMD' rather than an HR diagram.
  8. ^ Da Costa, G. S.; Armandroff, T. E. (July 1990). "Standard globular cluster giant branches in the (MI,(V–I)O) plane". Astronomical Journal. 100: 162–181. Bibcode:1990AJ....100..162D. doi:10.1086/115500. ISSN 0004-6256.
  9. ^ Müller, Oliver; Rejkuba, Marina; Jerjen, Helmut (July 2018). "Tip of the Red Giant Branch Distances to the Dwarf Galaxies Dw1335-29 and Dw1340-30 in the Centaurus Group". A&A. 615. A96. arXiv:1803.02406. Bibcode:2018A&A...615A..96M. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201732455.
  10. ^ Eddington, A. S. (Oct 1920). "The Internal Constitution of the Stars". The Scientific Monthly. 11 (4): 297–303. Bibcode:1920SciMo..11..297E. JSTOR 6491.
  11. ^ Eddington, A. S. (1916). "On the radiative equilibrium of the stars". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 77: 16–35. Bibcode:1916MNRAS..77...16E. doi:10.1093/mnras/77.1.16.
  12. ^ Hoyle, F. (1954). "On Nuclear Reactions Occurring in Very Hot Stars. I. the Synthesis of Elements from Carbon to Nickel". Astrophysical Journal Supplement. 1: 121. Bibcode:1954ApJS....1..121H. doi:10.1086/190005.


External links

Black dwarf

A black dwarf is a theoretical stellar remnant, specifically a white dwarf that has cooled sufficiently that it no longer emits significant heat or light. Because the time required for a white dwarf to reach this state is calculated to be longer than the current age of the universe (13.8 billion years), no black dwarfs are expected to exist in the universe now, and the temperature of the coolest white dwarfs is one observational limit on the age of the universe.The name "black dwarf" has also been applied to substellar objects that do not have sufficient mass, less than approximately 0.08 M☉, to maintain hydrogen-burning nuclear fusion. These objects are now generally called brown dwarfs, a term coined in the 1970s. Black dwarfs should not be confused with black holes or black stars.

Blue giant

In astronomy, a blue giant is a hot star with a luminosity class of III (giant) or II (bright giant). In the standard Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, these stars lie above and to the right of the main sequence.

The term applies to a variety of stars in different phases of development, all evolved stars that have moved from the main sequence but have little else in common, so blue giant simply refers to stars in a particular region of the HR diagram rather than a specific type of star. They are much rarer than red giants, because they only develop from more massive and less common stars, and because they have short lives in the blue giant stage.

The name blue giant is sometimes misapplied to other high-mass luminous stars, such as main-sequence stars, simply because they are large and hot.

Blue supergiant star

Blue supergiant stars are hot luminous stars, referred to scientifically as OB supergiants. They have luminosity class I and spectral class B9 or earlier.Blue supergiants (BSGs) are found towards the top left of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram to the right of the main sequence. They are larger than the Sun but smaller than a red supergiant, with surface temperatures of 10,000–50,000 K and luminosities from about 10,000 to a million times the Sun.

Bright giant

The luminosity class II in the Yerkes spectral classification is given to bright giants. These are stars which straddle the boundary between ordinary giants and supergiants, based on the appearance of their spectra.

Ejnar Hertzsprung

Ejnar Hertzsprung (Danish: [aɪ̯nɐ ˈhæɐ̯tspʁɔŋ]; 8 October 1873 – 21 October 1967) was a Danish chemist and astronomer born in Copenhagen. In the period 1911–1913, together with Henry Norris Russell, he developed the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram.

In 1913 he determined the distances to several Cepheid variable stars by statistical parallax, and was thus able to calibrate the relationship, discovered by Henrietta Leavitt, between Cepheid period and luminosity. In this determination he made a mistake, possibly a slip of the pen, putting the stars 10 times too close. He used this relationship to estimate the distance to the Small Magellanic Cloud. From 1919 to 1946, Hertzsprung worked at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, from 1937 as director. Among his graduate students at Leiden was Gerard Kuiper.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to astronomy was the development of a classification system for stars to divide them by spectral type, stage in their development, and luminosity. The so-called "Hertzsprung–Russell Diagram" has been used ever since as a classification system to explain stellar types and stellar evolution. He also discovered two asteroids, one of which is 1627 Ivar, an Amor asteroid.His wife Henrietta (1881–1956) was a daughter of the Dutch astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn. Hertzsprung died in Roskilde in 1967. The asteroid 1693 Hertzsprung was named in his honour.

Giant star

A giant star is a star with substantially larger radius and luminosity than a main-sequence (or dwarf) star of the same surface temperature. They lie above the main sequence (luminosity class V in the Yerkes spectral classification) on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram and correspond to luminosity classes II and III. The terms giant and dwarf were coined for stars of quite different luminosity despite similar temperature or spectral type by Ejnar Hertzsprung about 1905.Giant stars have radii up to a few hundred times the Sun and luminosities between 10 and a few thousand times that of the Sun. Stars still more luminous than giants are referred to as supergiants and hypergiants.

A hot, luminous main-sequence star may also be referred to as a giant, but any main-sequence star is properly called a dwarf no matter how large and luminous it is.

Henyey track

The Henyey track is a path taken by pre-main-sequence stars with masses >0.5 Solar mass in the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram after the end of Hayashi track. The astronomer Louis G. Henyey and his colleagues in the 1950s, showed that the pre-main-sequence star can remain in radiative equilibrium throughout some period of its contraction to the main sequence.

The Henyey track is characterized by a slow collapse in near hydrostatic equilibrium. They are approaching the main sequence almost horizontally in the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram (i.e. the luminosity remains almost constant).

Hertzsprung gap

The Hertzsprung Gap is a feature of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram for a star cluster. It is named after Ejnar Hertzsprung, who first noticed the absence of stars in the region of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram between A5 and G0 spectral type and between +1 and −3 absolute magnitudes (i.e. between the top of the main sequence and the red giants for stars above roughly 1.5 solar mass. When a star during its evolution crosses the Hertzsprung gap, it means that it has finished core hydrogen burning, but has yet to start hydrogen shell burning.

Stars do exist in the Hertzsprung gap region, but because they move through this section of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram very quickly in comparison to the lifetime of the star (thousands of years, compared to tens of billions of years for the lifetime of the star), that portion of the diagram is less densely populated. Full Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams of the 11,000 Hipparcos mission targets show a handful of stars in that region.

Hess diagram

A Hess diagram plots the relative density of occurrence of stars at differing color–magnitude positions of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram for a given galaxy or resolved stellar population. The diagram is named after R. Hess who originated it in 1924. Its use dates back to at least 1948.Hess diagrams are widely used in the study of discrete resolved stellar systems in and around the Milky Way. Specifically, in the analysis of globular clusters, satellite galaxies, and stellar streams.

Instability strip

The unqualified term instability strip usually refers to a region of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram largely occupied by several related classes of pulsating variable stars: Delta Scuti variables, SX Phoenicis variables, and rapidly oscillating Ap stars (roAps) near the main sequence; RR Lyrae variables where it intersects the horizontal branch; and the Cepheid variables where it crosses the supergiants.

RV Tauri variables are also often considered to lie on the instability strip, occupying the area to the right of the brighter Cepheids (at lower temperatures), since their pulsations are attributed to the same mechanism.

K-type main-sequence star

A K-type main-sequence star, also referred to as a K dwarf, is a main-sequence (hydrogen-burning) star of spectral type K and luminosity class V. These stars are intermediate in size between red M-type main-sequence stars ("red dwarfs") and yellow G-type main-sequence stars. They have masses between 0.5 and 0.8 times the mass of the Sun and surface temperatures between 3,900 and 5,200 K. These stars are of particular interest in the search for extraterrestrial life. Well-known examples include Alpha Centauri B (K1 V) and Epsilon Indi (K5 V).

Pre-main-sequence star

A pre-main-sequence star (also known as a PMS star and PMS object) is a star in the stage when it has not yet reached the main sequence. Earlier in its life, the object is a protostar that grows by acquiring mass from its surrounding envelope of interstellar dust and gas. After the protostar blows away this envelope, it is optically visible, and appears on the stellar birthline in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. At this point, the star has acquired nearly all of its mass but has not yet started hydrogen burning (i.e. nuclear fusion of hydrogen). The star then contracts, its internal temperature rising until it begins hydrogen burning on the zero age main sequence. This period of contraction is the pre-main sequence stage. An observed PMS object can either be a T Tauri star, if it has fewer than 2 solar masses (M☉), or else a Herbig Ae/Be star, if it has 2 to 8 M☉. Yet more massive stars have no pre-main-sequence stage because they contract too quickly as protostars. By the time they become visible, the hydrogen in their centers is already fusing and they are main-sequence objects.

The energy source of PMS objects is gravitational contraction, as opposed to hydrogen burning in main-sequence stars. In the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, pre-main-sequence stars with more than 0.5 M☉ first move vertically downward along Hayashi tracks, then leftward and horizontally along Henyey tracks, until they finally halt at the main sequence. Pre-main-sequence stars with less than 0.5 M☉ contract vertically along the Hayashi track for their entire evolution.

PMS stars can be differentiated empirically from main-sequence stars by using stellar spectra to measure their surface gravity. A PMS object has a larger radius than a main-sequence star with the same stellar mass and thus has a lower surface gravity. Although they are optically visible, PMS objects are rare relative to those on the main sequence, because their contraction lasts for only 1 percent of the time required for hydrogen fusion. During the early portion of the PMS stage, most stars have circumstellar disks, which are the sites of planet formation.

Red clump

The red clump is a clustering of red giants in the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram at around 5,000 K and absolute magnitude (MV) +0.5, slightly hotter than most red-giant-branch stars of the same luminosity. It is visible as a more dense region of the red giant branch or a bulge towards hotter temperatures. It is most distinct in many, but not all, galactic open clusters, but it is also noticeable in many intermediate-age globular clusters and in nearby field stars (e.g. the Hipparcos stars).

The red clump giants are cool horizontal branch stars, stars originally similar to the Sun which have undergone a helium flash and are now fusing helium in their cores.

Silicon-burning process

In astrophysics, silicon burning is a very brief sequence of nuclear fusion reactions that occur in massive stars with a minimum of about 8-11 solar masses. Silicon burning is the final stage of fusion for massive stars that have run out of the fuels that power them for their long lives in the main sequence on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. It follows the previous stages of hydrogen, helium, carbon, neon and oxygen burning processes.

Silicon burning begins when gravitational contraction raises the star's core temperature to 2.7–3.5 billion Kelvin (GK). The exact temperature depends on mass. When a star has completed the silicon-burning phase, no further fusion is possible. The star catastrophically collapses and may explode in what is known as a Type II supernova.

Stellar birthline

The stellar birthline is a predicted line on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram that relates the effective temperature and luminosity of pre-main-sequence stars at the start of their contraction. Prior to this point, the objects are accreting protostars, and are so deeply embedded in the cloud of dust and gas from which they are forming that they radiate only in far infrared and millimeter wavelengths. Once stellar winds disperse this cloud, the star becomes visible as a pre-main-sequence object. The set of locations on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram where these newly visible stars reside is called the birthline, and is found above the main sequence.

The location of the stellar birthline depends in detail on the accretion rate onto the star and geometry of this accretion, i.e. whether or not it is occurring through an accretion disk. This means that the birthline is not an infinitely thin curve, but has a finite thickness in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.

Stellar isochrone

In stellar evolution, an isochrone is a curve on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, representing a population of stars of the same age.The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram plots a star's luminosity against its temperature, or equivalently, its color. Stars change their positions on the HR diagram throughout their life. Newborn stars of low or intermediate mass are born cold but extremely luminous. They contract and dim along the Hayashi track, decreasing in luminosity but staying at roughly the same temperature, until reaching the main sequence directly or by passing through the Henyey track. Stars evolve relatively slowly along the main sequence as they fuse hydrogen, and after the vast majority of their lifespan, all but the least massive stars become giants. They then evolve quickly towards their stellar endpoints: white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes.

Isochrones can be used to date open clusters because their members all have roughly the same age. If the initial mass function of the open cluster is known, isochrones can be calculated at any age by taking every star in the initial population, using numerical simulations to evolve it forwards to the desired age, and plotting the star's luminosity and magnitude on the HR diagram. The resulting curve is an isochrone, which can be compared against the observational color-magnitude diagram to determine how well they match. If they match well, the assumed age of the isochrone is close to the actual age of the cluster.


A subdwarf, sometimes denoted by "sd", is a star with luminosity class VI under the Yerkes spectral classification system. They are defined as stars with luminosity 1.5 to 2 magnitudes lower than that of main-sequence stars of the same spectral type. On a Hertzsprung–Russell diagram subdwarfs appear to lie below the main sequence.

The term "subdwarf" was coined by Gerard Kuiper in 1939, to refer to a series of stars with anomalous spectra that were previously labeled as "intermediate white dwarfs".

Subdwarf B star

A B-type subdwarf (sdB) is a kind of subdwarf star with spectral type B. They differ from the typical subdwarf by being much hotter and brighter. They are situated at the "extreme horizontal branch" of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. Masses of these stars are around 0.5 solar masses, and they contain only about 1% hydrogen, with the rest being helium. Their radius is from 0.15 to 0.25 solar radii, and their temperature is from 20,000 to 40,000K.

These stars represent a late stage in the evolution of some stars, caused when a red giant star loses its outer hydrogen layers before the core begins to fuse helium. The reasons why this premature mass loss occurs are unclear, but the interaction of stars in a binary star system is thought to be one of the main mechanisms. Single subdwarfs may be the result of a merger of two white dwarfs. The sdB stars are expected to become white dwarfs without going through any more giant stages.

Subdwarf B stars, being more luminous than white dwarfs, are a significant component in the hot star population of old stellar systems, such as globular clusters, spiral galaxy bulges and elliptical galaxies. They are prominent on ultraviolet images. The hot subdwarfs are proposed to be the cause of the UV upturn in the light output of elliptical galaxies.

Turnoff point

The turnoff point for a star refers to the point on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram where it leaves the main sequence after the exhaustion of its main fuel. It is often referred to as the main sequence turnoff.

By plotting the turnoff point of the stars in star clusters, one can estimate the cluster's age.

Star systems
Related articles

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.