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The Life Of A Star Essay

1090 words - 5 pages

In the endless expanse of intergalactic space, stars are in every stage of being born, radiating huge amounts of energy, transforming and dying. When one finds out more about how stars are formed, what they are made of, and how they die one cannot help but to be awed by the complex processes and vast transformations that take place in the lifecycle of a star.
A star's life begins in a nebula, which is an interstellar cloud made up of dust, hydrogen and helium gas, and plasma. Nebulas have been called "Stellar nurseries" because they contain just the right conditions and materials for the formation of a star. These clouds are sometimes disturbed by turbulence caused by gravity from ...view middle of the document...

As a star nears the end of the main sequence stage, the hydrogen fuel in its core gets completely consumed by the fusion reaction that has kept it burning for so long. Finally, the primary fusion reaction ceases and the star begins a new type of reaction. Over the next several million years, the helium that was created by the primary fusion reaction fuses into carbon, still producing energy but less efficiently. Now that the main sequence of the star's life has come to a conclusion it begins a shorter but more dramatic period of its lifecycle. If the star is massive enough, it transforms into a giant and new exotic reactions take place in its core. Over the next 600 to 1000 years the carbon fuses into neon. After that, the neon fuses into oxygen in a reaction that takes only about a year. In the next six months, the oxygen fuses into silicon. It then only takes three to five days for the silicon to finally fuse and become iron! This last reaction consumes more energy from the star than it produces, causing the star's fuel to be depleted and the star to collapse and die.
The material that makes up a star doesn't just disappear when the star dies. The compact remnant of the star's core is called a compact object and the most common type of compact object is a white dwarf. A white dwarf is commonly formed from the remains of an average star with a mass less than 1.4 times the mass of our sun. During the star's collapse it sheds its outer layers and exposes the stellar core, which is roughly the size of the earth. Despite its small size, it still has almost all the mass of the collapsed star. A stable white dwarf is about ten million degrees kelvin but continues to cool almost indefinitely, for an estimated 1032 years. Stars larger than eight solar masses typically produce a violent explosion called a supernova. On average, supernovae occur in our galaxy about once a century. Because of the star's large mass, its collapse stops suddenly when the core gets too dense. The sudden stop causes a...

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