The night sky is one of the best places to observe some of the amazing worlds in our solar system, and some astronomers are even calling space tourism the next big thing, with people boarding space flights to visit distant worlds and star systems. Astronomy is the study of the universe and is done through observations with the help of physical instruments, so the sky is filled with stars that people can’t see with their eyes. The brightest star, Sirius, is the brightest star visible to the naked eye, especially when you look for it away from the moonlight or from the bright lights of a town or city.
The universe is big, wild, and wonderful. And we humans, with our limited imaginations, can never quite touch that which is so vast. But as a species, we can observe what’s out there, which helps us to comprehend it. And by proxy, that helps us understand who we are.
You look at the sky at night and marvel at the beauty of the stars, but have you ever wondered how stars are born? How do stars begin as gigantic balls of gas and dust, eventually forming into constellations and then eventually dying?
Stars die in supernovas or stellar explosions. These explosions are caused when a star has so much mass and gravity that it can no longer sustain its fusion process, so it violently expels its outer, more dense layers and core, which contracts (densities get even higher). The heat generated by this core causes it to implode (the star explodes), and the star’s outer layers are ejected at high speeds into space.
Stars are born and die all the time. Once a star is 80 percent dead, it collapses into a super-dense neutron star. These neutron stars explode as a supernova, releasing energy and information about their birth. The supernova that created our galaxy, the Milky Way, happened 14.5 billion years ago.
When most people look up at the stars, they naturally tend to wonder what they see. While we can’t see most of the stars, thanks to the atmosphere, we can still learn a great deal about them. Not all stars are visible to the naked eye, but when we cast our eyes upward, we can see star clusters, nebulas, and galaxies. Regardless of the light levels, it’s been said that the universe is as brilliant at night as it is during the day, making it the perfect setting for stargazing.
Before we dig into how stars die, let’s first understand what stars are. A star is a ball of plasma made up mostly of protons and electrons. They also contain trace amounts of helium, carbon, neon, magnesium, and other heavy elements made when stars run out of hydrogen.
What Is It Called When A Star Dies?
When a star dies, we call it a white dwarf. Although the sun is a star, it’s much larger and burns much hotter. White dwarfs are much cooler and are even smaller than our sun. They’re just giant balls of matter that can no longer support their own weight, so they collapse in on themselves, this causes them to glow. And that’s why white dwarfs look white!
A supernova is a star that has run out of fuel, and its outer layers collapse inward, creating a stellar explosion that is usually visible from Earth. Stellar explosions are named after one of their effects, such as “nebular” after the dark patches that remain on its surface. These explosions sometimes leave behind neutron stars and black holes, which astronomers sometimes observe propagating through space. Scientists are not entirely sure how a star reaches the point of collapse, but they know supernovae only develop when a star is older and massive.
How Long Does A Star Live For?
Stars are born and die in space, in front of our eyes. And even in our own backyards, we can watch as stars rise and set every day. But how long do stars live? No matter the distance, stars have lifespans, and as with any living thing, their lifespans depend on their own bodies, their environment, and their actions. In our solar system, the sun is expected to live for another five billion years.
Our universe is vast, and so are the stars that inhabit it. There are billions of them, and for all we know, there may be more. And while stars don’t live as long as people, some are much older than others. Most are dead by now, but some are still burning, and when those stars die, they leave behind residues, and maybe from that, another star could be born.