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mass-luminosity relation

mass-luminosity relation, in astronomy, law stating that the luminosity of a star is proportional to some power of the mass of the star. More massive stars are in general more luminous. For stars on the main sequence of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, it is found empirically that the luminosity varies as the 3.5 power of the mass. This means that if the mass is doubled, the luminosity increases more than tenfold. The law can be derived theoretically and was confirmed by independently measuring the masses of many visual binary stars, all at approximately the same distance. A more exact formulation of the law takes into account the chemical composition of the star. One important use of the mass-luminosity relation is in estimating the mass of a star of known luminosity that is not in a binary system.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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