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The life cycle of a star can follow a few different paths depending on the mass it starts out with. Really massive stars may live for only a few million years before going supernova, while low mass stars such as the Sun may take billions of years to use up their fuel and then die relatively quietly.

In star life cycles, a highmass star means a star with at least about 8 times the mass of our Sun

  • All stars are formed when a giant cloud of gas and dust, called a molecular cloud or nebula, begins to collapse under the influence of its own gravity
  • This may be triggered by a collision with another molecular cloud, the shockwave from a nearby supernova, or even the collision of galaxies
  • As the cloud contracts, it breaks apart. An individual fragment will condense into a hot, dense sphere known as a protostar
  • A new star is born when the protostar becomes hot enough to begin fusing hydrogen into helium. Now, the star will enter the main sequence, or adult, phase
  • If a star is too low in mass to initiate nuclear fusion it will become a brown dwarf
Main sequence
  • A star will remain in this state for most of its lifetime, fusing hydrogen to make helium and releasing energy in the process
  • A star may fall on different points on the main sequence depending on its mass. In general, the more massive the star the shorter its lifespan on the main sequence
  • Red dwarfs are small, dim stars that fuse hydrogen at a slow rate, and may remain on the main sequence for hundreds of billions of years.
  • Low massstars such as our Sun will be on the main sequence for several billion years
  • High massstars may only stay on the main sequence for a few million years
  • Eventually a star will run out of its hydrogen fuel, and begin fusing helium and other elements instead. At that point it will leave the main sequence phase
  • Red dwarf stars will use up all their hydrogen and collapse directly into white dwarfs
  • Low mass stars like our Sun will expand and become red giants.
  • This happens when a star runs out of hydrogen at its core. The core will collapse and begin fusing helium while hydrogen fusion is transferred to the outer layers
  • This causes the star to swell to many times its original size and become cooler as the heat is distributed over a larger area
  • More massive stars will grow into supergiants, which are among the largest stars in the Universe
  • In this stage a star will maintain hydrostatic equilibrium by fusing heavier and heavier elements as the lighter ones run out. The largest stars can produce elements up to iron
Death and stellar remnants
  • Low mass stars like our Sun will eventually die by shedding their outer layers as a planetary nebula
  • The core will collapse into a white dwarf,which will eventually cool into a black dwarf
  • More massive stars will die in a tremendous explosion called a supernova
  • This happens when a massive stars begins to fuse iron. This absorbs energy and caused the core to violently collapse while the outer layers are ejected
  • The extreme heat produced by supernovae is responsible for the nucleosynthesis of elements heavier than iron, up to uranium
  • After a supernova, the core may compress into a neutron star or a black hole.
  • Neutron stars are much denser than white dwarfs, to the point where protons and electrons combine to form neutrons (hence the name)
  • Black holes are denser still, so much so that they produce an extremely strong gravitational force that even light cannot escape.

For more information see "Sources and related links", below.
The life of a star varies from one star to another depending on the mass of the star ranging from a few million years to trillions of years.
The explanation varies depending on the type of star we're discussing.

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โˆ™ 2015-11-20 19:12:48
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Q: What is the life cycle of a star?
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Related questions

What is the life cycle of the star capella?

What is capella star life cycle

Where is the earth on the star life cycle?

The "star life cycle" refers to stars. Earth is not a star.

What is a good science fair title dealing with star life cycle?

Life Cycle of a Star

How is the life cycle of a star similar to the life cycle of a human?

The life cycle of a star is similar to the life cycle of a human because both humans and stars are born and die.

What is the life cycle of a medium star?

It depends on the star. The bigger the star, the less life it has.

Will a protostar form near the end of a star's life cycle?

No, a protostar is basically the BEGINNING of a star's life cycle.

The third stage in the life cycle of a star?

what is the third stage of the star cycle

What has a life cycle similar to a star?

A dog.

What determines the life cycle of a star?

its mass

What influences the life cycle of a star?


What do nebulae have to do with the life cycle of a star?

Nebulae are associated with the end of a star's life cycle, as they are shells matter that blown off a star, usually in a series of events, when a star is in its death throws.

Who invented the life cycle of a star?

Nobody "invented" it, the life cycle of stars happens naturally.

How does the life cycle of a star compare to the life cycle of a human?

Billions of years vrs a century.

How does a star's mass affect its life cycle?

The more massive a star is, the less its life time.

Does gravity have a part in the life cycle of a star?

no lol

How can you describe the life cycle of a star?

size and diameter

What is Sirius star life cycle?

it will go BOOM

What is the first part of a star's life cycle?


What is the earliest stage of the life cycle of a star?


What diagram shows the life cycle of a star?

The Hertzsprung-Russel diagram shows the life cycle of all stars.

How star are different stages in their life cycle appear on the H-R diagram?

cause its life cycle appearence

What is the life cycle of a sun like star?

Life cycle of a sun like star. A sun like star will start out as a nebula to a protostar to a main sequence star to a red giant and into a white dwarf and will simply fade out.

How does the life cycle of a massive star differ from the life cycle of an average star?

It will "burn" a lot hotter, have a shorter lifespan and will have a violent death. See related question.

Where do star begin their life cycle?

A star starts its life cycle as a Gaseous object giving of light, it then starts to build up and also gives off helium.

What is the first star in the life cycle of a star?

The "protostar". That's not classed as a true star, but I think that's the answer.