June 1, 2010 Issue

Physics To Go 98 - Life & death of stars

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Physics in Your World

Star Life Cycle image
image credit: ESO/S. Steinhöfel; image source; larger image

Star Life Cycle

This sequence of drawings shows what will happen to a star like our sun over its lifetime. To learn more about this stellar aging process, visit The Life of Sun-like Stars.

Our Sun is typical low-mass star in the galaxy, in the prime of its life, steadily fusing hydrogen into helium, as it will do for another five billion years. For an overview of a star's adult life, check out Main Sequence Stars.

You have probably heard that the Sun will one day expand and consume Earth.  In fact, the Sun might even expand to the orbit of Mars. Read about how this will happen here.

(This feature was updated on July 30, 2013.)

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Physics at Home

ESA Kids Our Universe: Stars and Galaxies

Visit ESA Kids Our Universe: Stars and Galaxies to learn about how stars are born, live, and die. Be sure to visit the sections Star Birth, Supernovas, and Dwarfs and Supergiants.

(This feature was edited on July 30, 2013.)


From Physics Research

Stellar Evolution image
image credit: NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI), R. Ciardullo (Penn State), and the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI); image source; larger image

Stellar Evolution

When the Sun reaches the end of its life, its outer layers will drift into space, an intricate cloud illuminated by its hot, dense core, as in this false-color image of a planetary nebula and white dwarf. For more details, see this page on the death of solar-mass stars.

How a star lives and dies depends upon its mass. For an overview of the lifetime of different types of stars, see The Life and Death of Stars. For very thorough explanations, see the Stellar Evolution pages from the Chandra website.

(This feature was updated on July 29, 2013.)

Worth a Look

Death Star: A Bad Day In the Milky Way

Another possible fate for especially massive stars is to explode in a hypernova, causing a gamma-ray burst. To learn about the effect a gamma-ray burst would have on Earth, check out Death Star: A Bad Day In the Milky Way.

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