AAS 197, January 2001
Session 87. Innovations in Teaching Astronomy II
Joint Display, Wednesday, January 10, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[87.25] Bringing Pulsating Stars Into the Physics Classroom

B. W. Carroll, D. A. Ostlie (Weber State University)

Undergraduate physics students at many institutions are never exposed to any aspect of theoretical astrophysics. This is doubly unfortunate because students then miss the opportunity to integrate their knowledge of several disciplines and apply it to interesting astrophysical phenomena. Students find pulsating stars inherently interesting, even more so when the role of these stars in determining cosmological distances is explained. Delta Cephei is such a star, with a pulsation period of 5 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes. Introductory physics students can combine the equations of gravitation and adiabatic gas processes with Newton's 2nd law to produce a simple numerical model of Delta Cephei that precisely reproduces its period. Graphs of the oscillations are distinctly nonsinusoidal. Student curiosity about where the period is ``hiding'' in the equations can lead to the technique of linearization and a discussion of how small departures from stable equilibrium result in simple harmonic motion.

This work is supported by the Department of Physics at Weber State University.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://physics.weber.edu/carroll/. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: bcarroll@weber.edu

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