Question:

# How long does a star stay in the sky?

## The smallest stars burn their fuel so slowly they can last 100 billion years. The larger stars can last tens of millions of years.

A light-year, also light year or lightyear (symbol: ly), is an astronomical unit of length equal to just under 10 trillion kilometres (or about 6 trillion miles). As defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a light-year is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year. The light-year is mostly used to express distances to stars and other distances on a galactic scale, especially in non-specialist and popular science publications. The preferred unit in astrometry is the parsec (approximately 3.26 light-years), because it can be more easily derived from, and compared with, observational data. Note that the light-year is a measure of distance. It is not a measure of time, for which it is sometimes mistaken. 1 light-year = metres (exactly) The figures above are based on a Julian year (not Gregorian year) of exactly 365.25 days (each of exactly SI seconds, totalling seconds) and a defined speed of light of  m/s, both included in the IAU (1976) System of Astronomical Constants, used since 1984. Before 1984, the tropical year (not the Julian year) and a measured (not defined) speed of light were included in the IAU (1964) System of Astronomical Constants, used from 1968 to 1983. The product of Simon Newcomb's J1900.0 mean tropical year of ephemeris seconds and a speed of light of  km/s produced a light-year of (rounded to the seven significant digits in the speed of light) found in several modern sources was probably derived from an old source such as C. W. Allen's 1973 Astrophysical Quantities reference work, which was updated in 2000. Other high-precision values are not derived from a coherent IAU system. A value of found in some modern sources is the product of a mean Gregorian year of 365.2425 days ( s) and the defined speed of light ( m/s). Another value, , is the product of the J1900.0 mean tropical year and the defined speed of light. The first successful measurement of the distance to a star other than our Sun was made by Friedrich Bessel in 1838. The star was 61 Cygni, and he used a 6.2-inch (160 mm) heliometer designed by Joseph von Fraunhofer. The largest unit for expressing distances across space at that time was the astronomical unit (AU), equal to the radius of the Earth's orbit In those terms, trigonometric calculations based on 61 Cygni's parallax of 0.314 arcseconds, showed the distance to the star to be 660,000 astronomical units (9.91013 km; 6.11013 mi). Bessel realised that a much larger unit of length was needed to make the vast interstellar distances comprehensible. James Bradley stated in 1729 that light travelled times faster than the Earth in its orbit. In 1769, a transit of Venus revealed the distance of the Earth from the Sun, and this, together with Bradley's figure, allowed the speed of light to be calculated as , very close to the modern value. Bessel used this speed to work out how far light would travel in a year, and announced that the distance to 61 Cygni was 10.3 light-years.][ This was the first appearance of the light-year as a unit of distance,][ and, although modern astronomers prefer the parsec, it is popularly used to gauge the expanses of interstellar and intergalactic space. Distances measured in fractions of a light-year (or in light-months) usually involve objects within a star system. Distances measured in light-years include distances between nearby stars, such as those in the same spiral arm or globular cluster. One kilolight-year, abbreviated "kly", is one thousand light-years (about 307 parsecs). Kilolight-years are typically used to measure distances between parts of a galaxy. One megalight-year, abbreviated "Mly", is one million light-years (about 307 kiloparsecs). Megalight-years are typically used to measure distances between neighbouring galaxies and galaxy clusters. One gigalight-year, abbreviation "Gly", is one billion light-years (about 307 megaparsecs)—one of the largest distance measures used. Gigalight-years are typically used to measure distances to supergalactic structures, including quasars and the Sloan Great Wall. Other units of length can similarly be formed by multiplying units of time by the speed of light. For example, the light-second, useful in astronomy, telecommunications and relativistic physics, is exactly metres or of a light-year. Units such as the light-minute, light-hour and light-day are sometimes used in popular science publications. The light-month, roughly one-twelfth of a light-year, is also used occasionally for approximate measures. The Hayden Planetarium specifies the light month more precisely as 30 days of light travel time. A light-foot is not a related unit, since its a measure of time. ( commonly referred to as a nano-second ).

In astronomy the main sequence is a continuous and distinctive band of stars that appears on plots of stellar color versus brightness. These color-magnitude plots are known as Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams after their co-developers, Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell. Stars on this band are known as main-sequence stars or "dwarf" stars. After a star has formed, it creates energy at the hot, dense core region through the nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium. During this stage of the star's lifetime, it is located along the main sequence at a position determined primarily by its mass, but also based upon its chemical composition and other factors. All main-sequence stars are in hydrostatic equilibrium, where outward thermal pressure from the hot core is balanced by the inward gravitational pressure from the overlying layers. The strong dependence of the rate of energy generation in the core on the temperature and pressure helps to sustain this balance. Energy generated at the core makes its way to the surface and is radiated away at the photosphere. The energy is carried by either radiation or convection, with the latter occurring in regions with steeper temperature gradients, higher opacity or both. The main sequence is sometimes divided into upper and lower parts, based on the dominant process that a star uses to generate energy. Stars below about 1.5 times the mass of the Sun (or 1.5 solar masses) primarily fuse hydrogen atoms together in a series of stages to form helium, a sequence called the proton–proton chain. Above this mass, in the upper main sequence, the nuclear fusion process mainly uses atoms of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen as intermediaries in the CNO cycle that produces helium from hydrogen atoms. Main-sequence stars with more than two solar masses undergo convection in their core regions, which acts to stir up the newly created helium and maintain the proportion of fuel needed for fusion to occur. Below this mass, stars have cores that are entirely radiative with convective zones near the surface. With decreasing stellar mass, the proportion of the star forming a convective envelope steadily increases, while main-sequence stars below 0.4 solar masses undergo convection throughout their mass. When core convection does not occur, a helium-rich core develops surrounded by an outer layer of hydrogen. In general, the more massive the star the shorter its lifespan on the main sequence. After the hydrogen fuel at the core has been consumed, the star evolves away from the main sequence on the HR diagram. The behavior of a star now depends on its mass, with stars below 0.23 solar masses becoming white dwarfs directly, while stars with up to ten solar masses pass through a red giant stage. More massive stars can explode as a supernova, or collapse directly into a black hole. In the early part of the 20th century, information about the types and distances of stars became more readily available. The spectra of stars were shown to have distinctive features, which allowed them to be categorized. Annie Jump Cannon and Edward C. Pickering at Harvard College Observatory developed a method of categorization that became known as the Harvard Classification Scheme, published in the Harvard Annals in 1901. In Potsdam in 1906, the Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung noticed that the reddest stars—classified as K and M in the Harvard scheme—could be divided into two distinct groups. These stars are either much brighter than the Sun, or much fainter. To distinguish these groups, he called them "giant" and "dwarf" stars. The following year he began studying star clusters; large groupings of stars that are co-located at approximately the same distance. He published the first plots of color versus luminosity for these stars. These plots showed a prominent and continuous sequence of stars, which he named the Main Sequence. At Princeton University, Henry Norris Russell was following a similar course of research. He was studying the relationship between the spectral classification of stars and their actual brightness as corrected for distance—their absolute magnitude. For this purpose he used a set of stars that had reliable parallaxes and many of which had been categorized at Harvard. When he plotted the spectral types of these stars against their absolute magnitude, he found that dwarf stars followed a distinct relationship. This allowed the real brightness of a dwarf star to be predicted with reasonable accuracy. Of the red stars observed by Hertzsprung, the dwarf stars also followed the spectra-luminosity relationship discovered by Russell. However, the giant stars are much brighter than dwarfs and so, do not follow the same relationship. Russell proposed that the "giant stars must have low density or great surface-brightness, and the reverse is true of dwarf stars". The same curve also showed that there were very few faint white stars. In 1933, Bengt Strömgren introduced the term Hertzsprung–Russell diagram to denote a luminosity-spectral class diagram. This name reflected the parallel development of this technique by both Hertzsprung and Russell earlier in the century. As evolutionary models of stars were developed during the 1930s, it was shown that, for stars of a uniform chemical composition, a relationship exists between a star's mass and its luminosity and radius. That is, for a given mass and composition, there is a unique solution for determining the star's radius and luminosity. This became known as the Vogt-Russell theorem; named after Heinrich Vogt and Henry Norris Russell. By this theorem, once a star's chemical composition and its position on the main sequence is known, so too is the star's mass and radius. (However, it was subsequently discovered that the theorem breaks down somewhat for stars of non-uniform composition.) A refined scheme for stellar classification was published in 1943 by W. W. Morgan and P. C. Keenan. The MK classification assigned each star a spectral type—based on the Harvard classification—and a luminosity class. The Harvard classification had been developed by assigning a different letter to each star based on the strength of the hydrogen spectra line, before the relationship between spectra and temperature was known. When ordered by temperature and when duplicate classes were removed, the spectral types of stars followed, in order of decreasing temperature with colors ranging from blue to red, the sequence O, B, A, F, G, K and M. (A popular mnemonic for memorizing this sequence of stellar classes is "Oh Be A Fine Girl/Guy, Kiss Me".) The luminosity class ranged from I to V, in order of decreasing luminosity. Stars of luminosity class V belonged to the main sequence. When a protostar is formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud of gas and dust in the local interstellar medium, the initial composition is homogeneous throughout, consisting of about 70% hydrogen, 28% helium and trace amounts of other elements, by mass. The initial mass of the star depends on the local conditions within the cloud. (The mass distribution of newly formed stars is described empirically by the initial mass function.) During the initial collapse, this pre-main-sequence star generates energy through gravitational contraction. Upon reaching a suitable density, energy generation is begun at the core using an exothermic nuclear fusion process that converts hydrogen into helium. Once nuclear fusion of hydrogen becomes the dominant energy production process and the excess energy gained from gravitational contraction has been lost, the star lies along a curve on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram (or HR diagram) called the standard main sequence. Astronomers will sometimes refer to this stage as "zero age main sequence", or ZAMS. The ZAMS curve can be calculated using computer models of stellar properties at the point when stars begin hydrogen fusion. From this point, the brightness and surface temperature of stars typically increase with age. A star remains near its initial position on the main sequence until a significant amount of hydrogen in the core has been consumed, then begins to evolve into a more luminous star. (On the HR diagram, the evolving star moves up and to the right of the main sequence.) Thus the main sequence represents the primary hydrogen-burning stage of a star's lifetime. The majority of stars on a typical HR diagram lie along the main-sequence curve. This line is pronounced because both the spectral type and the luminosity depend only on a star's mass, at least to zeroth-order approximation, as long as it is fusing hydrogen at its core—and that is what almost all stars spend most of their "active" lives doing. The temperature of a star determines its spectral type via its effect on the physical properties of plasma in its photosphere. A star's energy emission as a function of wavelength is influenced by both its temperature and composition. A key indicator of this energy distribution is given by the color index, B − V, which measures the star's magnitude in blue (B) and green-yellow (V) light by means of filters. This difference in magnitude provides a measure of a star's temperature. Main-sequence stars are called dwarf stars, but this terminology is partly historical and can be somewhat confusing. For the cooler stars, dwarfs such as red dwarfs, orange dwarfs, and yellow dwarfs are indeed much smaller and dimmer than other stars of those colors. However, for hotter blue and white stars, the size and brightness difference between so-called dwarf stars that are on the main sequence and the so-called giant stars that are not becomes smaller; for the hottest stars it is not directly observable. For those stars the terms dwarf and giant refer to differences in spectral lines which indicate if a star is on the main sequence or off it. Nevertheless, very hot main-sequence stars are still sometimes called dwarfs, even though they have roughly the same size and brightness as the "giant" stars of that temperature. The common use of dwarf to mean main sequence is confusing in another way, because there are dwarf stars which are not main-sequence stars. For example, white dwarfs are a different kind of star that is much smaller than main-sequence stars—being roughly the size of the Earth. These represent the final evolutionary stage of many main-sequence stars. By treating the star as an idealized energy radiator known as a black body, the luminosity L and radius R can be related to the effective temperature $T_{\rm eff}$ by the Stefan–Boltzmann law: where σ is the Stefan–Boltzmann constant. As the position of a star on the HR diagram shows its approximate luminosity, this relation can be used to estimate its radius. The mass, radius and luminosity of a star are closely interlinked, and their respective values can be approximated by three relations. First is the Stefan–Boltzmann law, which relates the luminosity L, the radius R and the surface temperature Teff. Second is the mass–luminosity relation, which relates the luminosity L and the mass M. Finally, the relationship between M and R is close to linear. The ratio of M to R increases by a factor of only three over 2.5 orders of magnitude of M. This relation is roughly proportional to the star's inner temperature TI, and its extremely slow increase reflects the fact that the rate of energy generation in the core strongly depends on this temperature, while it has to fit the mass–luminosity relation. Thus, a too high or too low temperature will result in stellar instability. A better approximation is to take $\epsilon = L / M$, the energy generation rate per unit mass, as ε is proportional to TI15, where TI is the core temperature. This is suitable for stars at least as massive as the Sun, exhibiting the CNO cycle, and gives the better fit RM0.78. The table below shows typical values for stars along the main sequence. The values of luminosity (L), radius (R) and mass (M) are relative to the Sun—a dwarf star with a spectral classification of G2 V. The actual values for a star may vary by as much as 20–30% from the values listed below. All main-sequence stars have a core region where energy is generated by nuclear fusion. The temperature and density of this core are at the levels necessary to sustain the energy production that will support the remainder of the star. A reduction of energy production would cause the overlaying mass to compress the core, resulting in an increase in the fusion rate because of higher temperature and pressure. Likewise an increase in energy production would cause the star to expand, lowering the pressure at the core. Thus the star forms a self-regulating system in hydrostatic equilibrium that is stable over the course of its main sequence lifetime. Main-sequence stars employ two types of hydrogen fusion processes, and the rate of energy generation from each type depends on the temperature in the core region. Astronomers divide the main sequence into upper and lower parts, based on which of the two is the dominant fusion process. In the lower main sequence, energy is primarily generated as the result of the proton-proton chain, which directly fuses hydrogen together in a series of stages to produce helium. Stars in the upper main sequence have sufficiently high core temperatures to efficiently use the CNO cycle. (See the chart.) This process uses atoms of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen as intermediaries in the process of fusing hydrogen into helium. At a stellar core temperature of 18 million kelvins, the PP process and CNO cycle are equally efficient, and each type generates half of the star's net luminosity. As this is the core temperature of a star with about 1.5 solar masses, the upper main sequence consists of stars above this mass. Thus, roughly speaking, stars of spectral class F or cooler belong to the lower main sequence, while class A stars or hotter are upper main-sequence stars. The transition in primary energy production from one form to the other spans a range difference of less than a single solar mass. In the Sun, a one solar mass star, only 1.5% of the energy is generated by the CNO cycle. By contrast, stars with 1.8 solar masses or above generate almost their entire energy output through the CNO cycle. The observed upper limit for a main-sequence star is 120–200 solar masses. The theoretical explanation for this limit is that stars above this mass can not radiate energy fast enough to remain stable, so any additional mass will be ejected in a series of pulsations until the star reaches a stable limit. The lower limit for sustained proton-proton nuclear fusion is about 0.08 solar masses. Below this threshold are sub-stellar objects that can not sustain hydrogen fusion, known as brown dwarfs. Because there is a temperature difference between the core and the surface, or photosphere, energy is transported outward. The two modes for transporting this energy are radiation and convection. A radiation zone, where energy is transported by radiation, is stable against convection and there is very little mixing of the plasma. By contrast, in a convection zone the energy is transported by bulk movement of plasma, with hotter material rising and cooler material descending. Convection is a more efficient mode for carrying energy than radiation, but it will only occur under conditions that create a steep temperature gradient. In massive stars (above 10 solar masses) the rate of energy generation by the CNO cycle is very sensitive to temperature, so the fusion is highly concentrated at the core. Consequently, there is a high temperature gradient in the core region, which results in a convection zone for more efficient energy transport. This mixing of material around the core removes the helium ash from the hydrogen-burning region, allowing more of the hydrogen in the star to be consumed during the main-sequence lifetime. The outer regions of a massive star transport energy by radiation, with little or no convection. Intermediate mass stars such as Sirius may transport energy primarily by radiation, with a small core convection region. Medium-sized, low mass stars like the Sun have a core region that is stable against convection, with a convection zone near the surface that mixes the outer layers. This results in a steady buildup of a helium-rich core, surrounded by a hydrogen-rich outer region. By contrast, cool, very low-mass stars (below 0.4 solar masses) are convective throughout. Thus the helium produced at the core is distributed across the star, producing a relatively uniform atmosphere and a proportionately longer main sequence lifespan. As non-fusing helium ash accumulates in the core of a main-sequence star, the reduction in the abundance of hydrogen per unit mass results in a gradual lowering of the fusion rate within that mass. Since it is the outflow of fusion-supplied energy that supports the higher layers of the star, the core is compressed, producing higher temperatures and pressures. Both factors increase the rate of fusion thus moving the equilibrium towards a smaller, denser, hotter core producing more energy whose increased outflow pushes the higher layers further out. Thus there is a steady increase in the luminosity and radius of the star over time. For example, the luminosity of the early Sun was only about 70% of its current value. As a star ages this luminosity increase changes its position on the HR diagram. This effect results in a broadening of the main sequence band because stars are observed at random stages in their lifetime. That is, the main sequence band develops a thickness on the HR diagram; it is not simply a narrow line. Other factors that broaden the main sequence band on the HR diagram include uncertainty in the distance to stars and the presence of unresolved binary stars that can alter the observed stellar parameters. However, even perfect observation would show a fuzzy main sequence because mass is not the only parameter that affects a star's color and luminosity. Variations in chemical composition caused by the initial abundances, the star's evolutionary status, interaction with a close companion, rapid rotation, or a magnetic field can all slightly change a main-sequence star's HR diagram position, to name just a few factors. As an example, there are metal-poor stars (with a very low abundance of elements with higher atomic numbers than helium) that lie just below the main sequence and are known as subdwarfs. These stars are fusing hydrogen in their cores and so they mark the lower edge of main sequence fuzziness caused by variance in chemical composition. A nearly vertical region of the HR diagram, known as the instability strip, is occupied by pulsating variable stars known as Cepheid variables. These stars vary in magnitude at regular intervals, giving them a pulsating appearance. The strip intersects the upper part of the main sequence in the region of class A and F stars, which are between one and two solar masses. Pulsating stars in this part of the instability strip that intersects the upper part of the main sequence are called Delta Scuti variables. Main-sequence stars in this region experience only small changes in magnitude and so this variation is difficult to detect. Other classes of unstable main-sequence stars, like Beta Cephei variables, are unrelated to this instability strip. The total amount of energy that a star can generate through nuclear fusion of hydrogen is limited by the amount of hydrogen fuel that can be consumed at the core. For a star in equilibrium, the energy generated at the core must be at least equal to the energy radiated at the surface. Since the luminosity gives the amount of energy radiated per unit time, the total life span can be estimated, to first approximation, as the total energy produced divided by the star's luminosity. For a star with at least 0.5 solar masses, once the hydrogen supply in its core is exhausted and it expands to become a red giant, it can start to fuse helium atoms to form carbon. The energy output of the helium fusion process per unit mass is only about a tenth the energy output of the hydrogen process, and the luminosity of the star increases. This results in a much shorter length of time in this stage compared to the main sequence lifetime. (For example, the Sun is predicted to spend burning helium, compared to about 12 billion years burning hydrogen.) Thus, about 90% of the observed stars above 0.5 solar masses will be on the main sequence. On average, main-sequence stars are known to follow an empirical mass-luminosity relationship. The luminosity (L) of the star is roughly proportional to the total mass (M) as the following power law: This relationship applies to main-sequence stars in the range 0.1–50 solar masses. The amount of fuel available for nuclear fusion is proportional to the mass of the star. Thus, the lifetime of a star on the main sequence can be estimated by comparing it to solar evolutionary models. The Sun has been a main-sequence star for about 4.5 billion years and it will become a red giant in 6.5 billion years, for a total main sequence lifetime of roughly 1010 years. Hence: where M and L are the mass and luminosity of the star, respectively, $\begin{smallmatrix}M_{\bigodot}\end{smallmatrix}$ is a solar mass, $\begin{smallmatrix}L_{\bigodot}\end{smallmatrix}$ is the solar luminosity and $\tau_{\rm MS}$ is the star's estimated main sequence lifetime. Although more massive stars have more fuel to burn and might be expected to last longer, they also must radiate a proportionately greater amount with increased mass. Thus, the most massive stars may remain on the main sequence for only a few million years, while stars with less than a tenth of a solar mass may last for over a trillion years. The exact mass-luminosity relationship depends on how efficiently energy can be transported from the core to the surface. A higher opacity has an insulating effect that retains more energy at the core, so the star does not need to produce as much energy to remain in hydrostatic equilibrium. By contrast, a lower opacity means energy escapes more rapidly and the star must burn more fuel to remain in equilibrium. Note, however, that a sufficiently high opacity can result in energy transport via convection, which changes the conditions needed to remain in equilibrium. In high-mass main-sequence stars, the opacity is dominated by electron scattering, which is nearly constant with increasing temperature. Thus the luminosity only increases as the cube of the star's mass. For stars below 10 times the solar mass, the opacity becomes dependent on temperature, resulting in the luminosity varying approximately as the fourth power of the star's mass. For very low mass stars, molecules in the atmosphere also contribute to the opacity. Below about 0.5 solar masses, the luminosity of the star varies as the mass to the power of 2.3, producing a flattening of the slope on a graph of mass versus luminosity. Even these refinements are only an approximation, however, and the mass-luminosity relation can vary depending on a star's composition. Once a main-sequence star consumes the hydrogen at its core, the loss of energy generation causes gravitational collapse to resume. For stars with less than 0.23 solar masses, they are predicted to become white dwarfs once energy generation by nuclear fusion of hydrogen at the core comes to a halt. For stars above this threshold with up to 10 solar masses, the hydrogen surrounding the helium core reaches sufficient temperature and pressure to undergo fusion, forming a hydrogen-burning shell. In consequence of this change, the outer envelope of the star expands and decreases in temperature, turning it into a red giant. At this point the star is evolving off the main sequence and entering the giant branch. The path the star now follows across the HR diagram, to the upper right of the main sequence, is called an evolutionary track. The helium core of a red giant continues to collapse until it is entirely supported by electron degeneracy pressure—a quantum mechanical effect that restricts how closely matter can be compacted. For stars of more than about 0.5 solar masses, the core can reach a temperature where it becomes hot enough to burn helium into carbon via the triple alpha process. Stars with more than 5–7.5 solar masses can also fuse elements with higher atomic numbers. For stars with ten or more solar masses, this process can lead to an increasingly dense core that finally collapses, ejecting the star's overlying layers in a Type II supernova explosion, Type Ib supernova or Type Ic supernova. When a cluster of stars is formed at about the same time, the life span of these stars will depend on their individual masses. The most massive stars will leave the main sequence first, followed steadily in sequence by stars of ever lower masses. Thus the stars will evolve in order of their position on the main sequence, proceeding from the most massive at the left toward the right of the HR diagram. The current position where stars in this cluster are leaving the main sequence is known as the turn-off point. By knowing the main sequence lifespan of stars at this point, it becomes possible to estimate the age of the cluster.

The solar mass ($\begin{smallmatrix}M_\odot\end{smallmatrix}$) is a standard unit of mass in astronomy that is used to indicate the masses of other stars, as well as clusters, nebulae and galaxies. It is equal to the mass of the Sun, about two nonillion kilograms: The above mass is about 332,946 times the mass of the Earth or 1,048 times the mass of Jupiter. Because the Earth follows an elliptical orbit around the Sun, its solar mass can be computed from the equation for the orbital period of a small body orbiting a central mass. Based upon the length of the year, the distance from the Earth to the Sun (an astronomical unit or AU), and the gravitational constant (G), the mass of the Sun is given by: The value of the gravitational constant was derived from measurements that were made by Henry Cavendish in 1798 from his using a torsion balance. The value he obtained differed only by about 1% from the modern value. The diurnal parallax of the Sun was accurately measured during the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769, yielding a value of 9″ (compared to the present 1976 value of 8.794148″). If we know the value of the diurnal parallax, we can determine the distance to the Sun from the geometry of the Earth. The first person to estimate the mass of the Sun was Isaac Newton. In his work Principia, he estimated that the ratio of the mass of the Earth to the Sun was about 1/28,700. Then later he determined that his value was based upon a faulty value for the solar parallax, which he had used to estimate the distance to the Sun (1 AU). So, he revised his result to obtain a ratio of 1/169,282 in the third edition of the Principia. The current estimated value for the solar parallax is smaller still, giving us a mass ratio of 1/332,946. As a unit of measurement, the solar mass came into use before the AU and the gravitational constant were precisely measured. This is because the determination of the relative mass of another planet in the Solar System or of a binary star in units of solar masses does not depend on these poorly known constants. So it was useful to express these masses in units of solar masses (see Gaussian gravitational constant). The mass of the Sun changes slowly, compared to the lifetime of the Sun. Mass is lost due to two main processes in nearly equal amounts. First, in the Sun's core hydrogen is converted into helium by nuclear fusion, in particular the pp chain. Thereby mass is converted to energy in correspondence to the mass–energy equivalence. This energy is eventually radiated away by the Sun. The second process is the solar wind, which is the ejection of mainly protons and electrons to outer space. The actual net mass of the Sun since it reached the main sequence remains uncertain. The early Sun had much higher mass loss rates than at present, so, realistically, it may have lost anywhere from 1–7% of its total mass over the course of its main-sequence lifetime. The Sun also gains mass when foreign bodies such as asteroids and comets crash into it. Because the Sun already holds 99.86% of the Solar System's total mass, foreign body impacts are not expected to offset its loss of mass by the two aforementioned processes. One solar mass, M, can be converted to related units: It is also frequently useful in general relativity to express mass in units of length or time.

Stellar evolution is the process by which a star undergoes a sequence of radical changes during its lifetime. Depending on the mass of the star, this lifetime ranges from only a few million years for the most massive to trillions of years for the least massive, which is considerably longer than the age of the universe. All stars are born from collapsing clouds of gas and dust, often called nebulae or molecular clouds. Over the course of millions of years, these protostars settle down into a state of equilibrium, becoming what is known as a main-sequence star. Nuclear fusion powers a star for most of its life. Initially the energy is generated by the fusion of hydrogen atoms at the core of the main-sequence star. Later, as the preponderance of atoms at the core becomes helium, stars like the Sun begin to fuse hydrogen along a spherical shell surrounding the core. This process causes the star to gradually grow in size, passing through the subgiant stage until it reaches the red giant phase. Stars with at least half the mass of the Sun can also begin to generate energy through the fusion of helium at their core, whereas more massive stars can fuse heavier elements along a series of concentric shells. Once a star like the Sun has exhausted its nuclear fuel, its core collapses into a dense white dwarf and the outer layers are expelled as a planetary nebula. Stars with around ten or more times the mass of the Sun can explode in a supernova as their inert iron cores collapse into an extremely dense neutron star or black hole. Although the universe is not old enough for any of the smallest red dwarfs to have reached the end of their lives, stellar models suggest they will slowly become brighter and hotter before running out of hydrogen fuel and becoming low-mass white dwarfs. Stellar evolution is not studied by observing the life of a single star, as most stellar changes occur too slowly to be detected, even over many centuries. Instead, astrophysicists come to understand how stars evolve by observing numerous stars at various points in their lifetime, and by simulating stellar structure using computer models. Stellar evolution begins with the gravitational collapse of a giant molecular cloud. Typical giant molecular clouds are roughly 100 light-years (9.51014 km) across and contain up to 6,000,000 solar masses (1.21037 kg). As it collapses, a giant molecular cloud breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. In each of these fragments, the collapsing gas releases gravitational potential energy as heat. As its temperature and pressure increase, a fragment condenses into a rotating sphere of superhot gas known as a protostar. The further development heavily depends on the mass of the evolving protostar; in the following, the protostar mass is compared to the mass of the Sun: 1.0 M (2.01030 kg) means 1 solar mass. Protostars with masses less than roughly 0.08 M (1.61029 kg) never reach temperatures high enough for nuclear fusion of hydrogen to begin. These are known as brown dwarfs. The International Astronomical Union defines brown dwarfs as stars massive enough to fuse deuterium at some point in their lives (13 Jupiter masses, 2.5 × 1028 kg, or 0.0125 solar masses). Objects smaller than 13 Jupiter masses are classified as sub-brown dwarfs (but if they orbit around another stellar object they are classified as planets). Both types, deuterium-burning and not, shine dimly and die away slowly, cooling gradually over hundreds of millions of years. For a more massive protostar, the core temperature will eventually reach 10 million kelvin, initiating the proton-proton chain reaction and allowing hydrogen to fuse, first to deuterium and then to helium. In stars of slightly over 1 M (2.01030 kg), the carbon–nitrogen–oxygen fusion reaction (CNO cycle) contributes a large portion of the energy generation. The onset of nuclear fusion leads relatively quickly to a hydrostatic equilibrium in which energy released by the core exerts a "radiation pressure" balancing the weight of the star's matter, preventing further gravitational collapse. The star thus evolves rapidly to a stable state, beginning the main-sequence phase of its evolution. A new star will sit at a specific point on the main sequence of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, with the main-sequence spectral type depending upon the mass of the star. Small, relatively cold, low-mass red dwarfs fuse hydrogen slowly and will remain on the main sequence for hundreds of billions of years or longer, whereas massive, hot supergiants will leave the main sequence after just a few million years. A mid-sized star like the Sun will remain on the main sequence for about 10 billion years. The Sun is thought to be in the middle of its lifespan; thus, it is currently on the main sequence.

Galaxy

Stellar evolution is the process by which a star undergoes a sequence of radical changes during its lifetime. Depending on the mass of the star, this lifetime ranges from only a few million years for the most massive to trillions of years for the least massive, which is considerably longer than the age of the universe. The table shows the lifetimes of stars as a function of their masses. All stars are born from collapsing clouds of gas and dust, often called nebulae or molecular clouds. Over the course of millions of years, these protostars settle down into a state of equilibrium, becoming what is known as a main-sequence star.

Nuclear fusion powers a star for most of its life. Initially the energy is generated by the fusion of hydrogen atoms at the core of the main-sequence star. Later, as the preponderance of atoms at the core becomes helium, stars like the Sun begin to fuse hydrogen along a spherical shell surrounding the core. This process causes the star to gradually grow in size, passing through the subgiant stage until it reaches the red giant phase. Stars with at least half the mass of the Sun can also begin to generate energy through the fusion of helium at their core, whereas more massive stars can fuse heavier elements along a series of concentric shells. Once a star like the Sun has exhausted its nuclear fuel, its core collapses into a dense white dwarf and the outer layers are expelled as a planetary nebula. Stars with around ten or more times the mass of the Sun can explode in a supernova as their inert iron cores collapse into an extremely dense neutron star or black hole. Although the universe is not old enough for any of the smallest red dwarfs to have reached the end of their lives, stellar models suggest they will slowly become brighter and hotter before running out of hydrogen fuel and becoming low-mass white dwarfs.

Astronomy is a natural science that is the study of celestial objects (such as moons, planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies), the physics, chemistry, mathematics, and evolution of such objects, and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth, including supernovae explosions, gamma ray bursts, and cosmic background radiation. A related but distinct subject, cosmology, is concerned with studying the universe as a whole.

Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. Prehistoric cultures left behind astronomical artifacts such as the Egyptian monuments and Nubian monuments, and early civilizations such as the Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Iranians and Maya performed methodical observations of the night sky. However, the invention of the telescope was required before astronomy was able to develop into a modern science. Historically, astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, and the making of calendars, but professional astronomy is nowadays often considered to be synonymous with astrophysics.

Star Space

In journalism, a human interest story is a feature story that discusses a person or people in an emotional way. It presents people and their problems, concerns, or achievements in a way that brings about interest, sympathy or motivation in the reader or viewer.

Human interest stories may be "the story behind the story" about an event, organization, or otherwise faceless historical happening, such as about the life of an individual soldier during wartime, an interview with a survivor of a natural disaster, a random act of kindness or profile of someone known for a career achievement.

Environment

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