Life Cycle of a Massive Star
Updated: 1/4/2018
Life Cycle of a Massive Star
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Astronomy - Main Sequence Star

Life Cycle of a Star

Lesson Plans by Oliver Smith

Life as we know it wouldn’t exist without the Sun. This ball of gas emits huge amounts of radiation that has sustained life on Earth for millions of years, and it is categorized as a star. Our star is relatively insignificant, as it is one of millions of stars in our galaxy, and our galaxy is only one of the billions of galaxies in the universe. Each of these galaxies are made up of stars that follow similar life cycles. The following activities will introduce students to the cycles of main sequence and massive stars as well as nuclear fusion reactions.

Life Cycle of a Star

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Life Cycle of a Massive Star

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  • A nebula is a cloud of dust and gas that collapses under its own weight. As the cloud collapses, it gets warmer. When it reaches a certain temperature, nuclear fusion starts.
  • At this stage, the pressure from the nuclear fusion reactions are balanced by the force of gravity. The star will spend millions or billions of years in this stage, depending on its size.
  • When the nuclear fuel runs out, the star swells in size. As the star grows, the outer layers cool, giving the star a red color.
  • The star’s core collapses, causing a violent explosion, and throwing the outer layers of the star into space.
  • What is left after the explosion is a very dense core known as a neutron star.
  • If the star is extremely big, a very dense neutron star, known as a black hole, could form. A black hole is an area of space where the gravity is so strong that even light can’t escape.

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