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Answered 2012-02-27 05:42:25

The life cycle of a star is simply determined by what element said star is currently fusing. Our sun is currently burning through its vast supply of Hydrogen, and when that runs out it will switch to Helium, and so forth. Every time the mass of the element it's fusing increases, the energy given off by the fusion process also increases. This causes a star to swell, forming its red giant phase. Unfortunately any given star will eventually reach the point where the temperature and pressure within its core are not sufficient to fuse the element it's left with, and the star will die by either going supernova or shedding off it's gaseous outer layers and leaving behind a white dwarf.

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