## Limb Darkening and Luminosity

The photosphere of our Sun and most other stars exhibit a phenomenon called limb darkening where the disk is brighter at the center than at the edges at optical wavelengths. This effect is more pronounced towards the violet end of the visible spectrum than it is towards the red end.

Limb darkening occurs because there is a strong temperature gradient within the photosphere (deeper is hotter) and we see deeper into the Sun at the center of the disk then we do toward the edges. The deeper, hotter regions of the photosphere produce more visible light than do the shallower, cooler regions.

Does this non-uniformity of light emitted from the disk of a star mean we are “missing” some light in measuring a star’s brightness that would then affect our ability to accurately calculate the star’s total luminosity? Not at all. Here’s why.

Stars are almost always isotropic emitters of light. That means they emit light uniformly in all directions. At a given distance from the star, an observer would measure the same brightness of the star no matter what their direction from it. Even though the edges of the stellar disk are darker, the center is brighter, and the total integrated brightness is the same as it would be if all parts of the disk were emitting uniformly.

We calculate the luminosity of the star by measuring the amount of light we receive across our collecting area (whether that be the human eye or the telescope aperture), and then dividing this collecting area into the total surface area of a sphere centered on the star and having a radius that is our distance from the star. We then take that quotient times the amount of light we detect in our small collecting area to get the total amount of light emitted by the star in all directions.

## Counting Stars

Looking in all directions, how many stars are there brighter than a particular visual magnitude? Here’s an empirical formula that gives an approximation. It can be used over the range mv = +4.0 to +25.0.

$\textup{S} = 10^{-0.0003\,\textup{m}^{3} + 0.0019\,\textup{m}^{2} + 0.484\,\textup{m} + 0.795}$

where S is the approximate number of stars brighter than apparent visual magnitude m in the entire sky

Apparent Visual Magnitude# of Stars
4.0552
4.1618
4.2690
4.3772
4.4863
4.5964
4.61,077
4.71,204
4.81,345
4.91,503
5.01,679
5.11,875
5.22,094
5.32,338
5.42,611
5.52,914
5.63,253
5.73,631
5.84,051
5.94,520
6.05,042
6.15,623
6.26,271
6.36,992
6.47,794
6.58,687
6.69,681
6.710,786
6.812,015
6.913,382
7.014,900
7.116,588
7.218,464
7.320,547
7.422,860
7.525,428
7.628,278
7.731,441
7.834,949
7.938,839
8.043,152
8.147,932
8.253,229
8.359,096
8.465,592
8.572,784
8.680,743
8.789,549
8.899,287
8.9110,055
9.0121,955
9.1135,104
9.2149,627
9.3165,662
9.4183,362
9.5202,891
9.6224,431
9.7248,181
9.8274,358
9.9303,200
10.0334,965
10.1369,938
10.2408,426
10.3450,768
10.4497,330
10.5548,514
10.6604,755
10.7666,528
10.8734,349
10.9808,780
11.0890,430
11.1979,963
11.21,078,096
11.31,185,610
11.41,303,349
11.51,432,229
11.61,573,241
11.71,727,456
11.81,896,035
11.92,080,230
12.02,281,392
12.12,500,983
12.22,740,574
12.33,001,863
12.43,286,675
12.53,596,976
12.63,934,877
12.74,302,651
12.84,702,734
12.95,137,742
13.05,610,480
13.16,123,951
13.26,681,371
13.37,286,180
13.47,942,053
13.58,652,916
13.69,422,957
13.710,256,640
13.811,158,721
13.912,134,260
14.013,188,640
14.114,327,575
14.215,557,134
14.316,883,749
14.418,314,236
14.519,855,805
14.621,516,082
14.723,303,122
14.825,225,420
14.927,291,933
15.029,512,092
15.131,895,815
15.234,453,520
15.337,196,142
15.440,135,142
15.543,282,516
15.646,650,811
15.750,253,128
15.854,103,131
15.958,215,053
16.062,603,700
16.167,284,449
16.272,273,253
16.377,586,632
16.483,241,673
16.589,256,016
16.695,647,847
16.7102,435,879
16.8109,639,337
16.9117,277,932
17.0125,371,840
17.1133,941,667
17.2143,008,417
17.3152,593,453
17.4162,718,451
17.5173,405,353
17.6184,676,315
17.7196,553,644
17.8209,059,737
17.9222,217,010
18.0236,047,823
18.1250,574,401
18.2265,818,743
18.3281,802,538
18.4298,547,061
18.5316,073,074
18.6334,400,717
18.7353,549,396
18.8373,537,665
18.9394,383,103
19.0416,102,189
19.1438,710,168
19.2462,220,923
19.3486,646,831
19.4511,998,631
19.5538,285,275
19.6565,513,790
19.7593,689,134
19.8622,814,048
19.9652,888,922
20.0683,911,647
20.1715,877,479
20.2748,778,904
20.3782,605,508
20.4817,343,852
20.5852,977,352
20.6889,486,170
20.7926,847,110
20.8965,033,523
20.91,004,015,228
21.01,043,758,439
21.11,084,225,707
21.21,125,375,873
21.31,167,164,044
21.41,209,541,573
21.51,252,456,065
21.61,295,851,393
21.71,339,667,742
21.81,383,841,658
21.91,428,306,130
22.01,472,990,684
22.11,517,821,499
22.21,562,721,546
22.31,607,610,744
22.41,652,406,140
22.51,697,022,107
22.61,741,370,568
22.71,785,361,232
22.81,828,901,853
22.91,871,898,516
23.01,914,255,925
23.11,955,877,722
23.21,996,666,815
23.32,036,525,723
23.42,075,356,932
23.52,113,063,265
23.62,149,548,260
23.72,184,716,557
23.82,218,474,290
23.92,250,729,483
24.02,281,392,450
24.12,310,376,189
24.22,337,596,778
24.32,362,973,766
24.42,386,430,550
24.52,407,894,751
24.62,427,298,570
24.72,444,579,131
24.82,459,678,812
24.92,472,545,544
25.02,483,133,105

How many stars are there in our Milky Way galaxy? Between 100 and 400 billion stars. Many stars are not very luminous, and can only be seen in the immediate solar neighborhood. That is one source of uncertainty.

How many galaxies are there in the observable universe? Something like two trillion (2 × 1012).

How many stars are in the observable universe? Something like a septillion (1024). A trillion trillion!

And, just so you know, our universe is probably much larger than the volume that we can observe.

How does the Universe love thee? Let us count the stars…

References

“How many stars are in the sky?”, Space Math, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, accessed February 29, 2020, https://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/weekly/6Page103.pdf.

Wikipedia contributors, “Galaxy,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Galaxy&oldid=942479372 (accessed February 29, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Milky Way,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Milky_Way&oldid=942977760 (accessed February 29, 2020).

## Emergence of Complexity

We continue our series of excerpts (and discussion) from the outstanding survey paper by George F. R. Ellis, Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology.

7.3 Emergence of complexity
As the universe evolves an increase of complexity takes place in local systems as new kinds of objects come into being that did not exist before—nuclei, atoms, stars and galaxies, planets, life, consciousness, and products of the mind such as books and computers.  New kinds of physical states come into being at late times such as Bose-Einstein condensates, that plausibly cannot exist without the intervention of intelligent beings.

The first atoms formed about 400 thousand years after the Big Bang.  The first stars, at about 100 million years.  The emergence of atoms, stars, planets, life, intelligence, humans, morality, a Brahms symphony, etc. are a natural consequence of all the physical laws that existed at the moment of the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago.  There is nothing supernatural about the unfolding of the universe, remarkable as it is.  It is a completely natural process.  The only possibility of anything supernatural, I believe, is the cause of the Big Bang itself.  And, without scientific evidence…

We may never know or be able to understand the Big Bang, but the parturient possibilities contained in that creative moment are truly mind boggling: all that we see around us, all that was and is yet to be, existed then in a nascent state.  The universe as it evolves is not merely moving the furniture around, but it is creating entirely new structures and entities that never existed before.

Through the emergence of intelligence across billions of years, the universe has, at last, become self-aware.  Our consciousness is its consciousness.

References
Ellis, G. F. R. 2006, Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology, Philosophy of Physics (Handbook of the Philosophy of Science), Ed. J. Butterfield and J. Earman (Elsevier, 2006), 1183-1285.
[http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0602280]