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Star Formation

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Can you see stars being born?

On a dark night you can practically watch stars being born. The fuzzy area in the sword in the constellation Orion is the Orion nebula. A close up shows the nebula with around 3,000 stars. New stars are being born there.

Star Lives

Stars have a life cycle, just like people. Stars are born, grow, change over time, and eventually grow old and die. Most stars change in size, color, and class at least once in their lifetime. What astronomers know about the life cycles of stars comes from data gathered from visual, radio, and X-ray telescopes.

Nebulae

Stars are born in a cloud of gas and dust called a nebula ( Figure below ). Our Sun and solar system formed out of a nebula.

Stars form inside the Rosette Nebula

Stars are forming in the Rosette Nebula.

The Pillars of Creation ( Figure below ) are within the Eagle Nebula. The pillars are thought to be a large region where stars are forming. The dark areas may be stars that are about to begin.

The Pillars of Creation is an active region of the Eagle Nebula where new stars are being formed

In the Pillars of Creation, gas and dust come together as a stellar nursery.

Star Formation

For a star to form, gravity pulls gas and dust into the center of the nebula. As the material becomes denser, the pressure and the temperature increase. When the temperature of the center becomes hot enough, nuclear fusion begins. The ball of gas has become a star!

Our Sun was probably born in a nebula, like Orion in the top image.

Vocabulary

  • nebula : Cloud of dust and gas where stars form.

Summary

  • Stars form in a nebula.
  • A nebula is a cloud of dust and gas.
  • Nebulae can be spotted with the naked eye or simple telescopes.

Explore More

Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. What is stellar evolution?
  2. Where are stars born?
  3. What is a nebula?
  4. What force compresses the dust and gas in nebulae?
  5. Which type of stars live the longest? Why?
  6. How long do most main sequence stars live? Which type of stars spends a long time on the main sequence?
  7. Our Sun is a medium-mass star. What is in its future?
  8. What happens to high-mass stars?
  9. What is a hypernova?
  10. What is a neutron star?
  11. What is a black hole?

Review

  1. What is a nebula?
  2. How do stars form?
  3. Why do scientists think the Pillars of Creation are where stars are forming?

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