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Update on the spectral riddle in the "Rocking Horse"

I would like to thank Jim Kaler (Prof. Emeritus of Astronomy, University of Illinois), for helping me with my “spectral riddle” in NGC 6910, the Rocking Horse cluster. Here’s why the B1 supergiant looks yellow visually instead of bluish-white what you would expect from a B-type star.

As you know it is in the middle of Cygnus, near Gamma Cygni, not far off the galactic plane (you can see my wide angle picture at  As such it is subject to a great deal of interstellar extinction and reddening from interstellar dust. The dust selectively absorbs and scatters blue light (roughly 1/wavelength), so when you look at a star thru dust it will appear redder than it really is (basically the same reason the sun is reddened at sunset).  The intrinsic B-V color of a B1.5 Ia supergiant is -0.2. The observed color is 0.83, about the color of a K0 dwarf or a G5 giant, so the star appears yellowish to the eye.

The whole cluster is highly reddened in fact by about the same amount. The “color excess” (E) is the observed minus true color, which is about 1.0 for this cluster. The absorption at V is usually taken as 3.2E, so Av (abs at V) is 3 magnitudes. If there were not dust, a 7th magnitude star would appear 4th magnitude, and the cluster would be visible to the naked eye. Good observing on your part to notice that. You can see the effect in many other distant clusters near the galactic plane.

Jim Kaler

Thanks again!

Posted by Math on 08/03 at 09:28 AM
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