Table of Contents for the
Star Life Cycle:


Special cameras are used to take pictures of stars like this one.

Stars are a fascinating component of our universe. They may seem like permanent objects in the sky, but technology has allowed us to photograph the heavens, and now we know more about stars than ever before. They are born, they live, and then they die. How does this happen?

That’s what this activity is all about! A star’s life is long compared to that of a human, but we can see the stages of stellar birth, aging, and death in the heavens. They follow a pattern similar to many of the life cycles we see here on earth. Stars are born, they “grow up,” exist many years, and then they die, and there’s an exciting battle between the force of gravity and gas pressure to that makes it exciting and potentially explosive!

Comparison Diagram of Human lifetime and Star lifetime - Stars and Humans share a similar phases in their lives

Space: What’s out there?

Space may seem empty, but actually it is filled with thinly spread gas and dust. This gas and dust is called interstellar medium. The atoms of gas are mostly hydrogen (H2), and the gas atoms are typically about a centimeter apart. The dust is mostly microscopic grains and comprises only a few percent of the matter between stars. The dust is mostly carbon and silicon. In some places, this interstellar medium is collected into a big cloud of dust and gas known as a nebula. This is the birthplace of stars because the gas and dust is what makes up a star. In fact, our sun was probably born in a nebula nearly 5 billion years ago.

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