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Distances To The Stars

Stars are separated by vast distances. Astronomers use units called light years to measure the distance of stars A light-year is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in a year Proxima Centauri, is the closest star to the sun.


Astronomers have developed various methods of determining the distance of stars. The change in position of an object with respect to a distant background is called parallax. As Earth moves in its orbit, astronomers are able to observe stars from two different positions. Astronomers measure the parallax of nearby stars to determine their distance from Earth

Properties of Stars
Astronomers classify stars by their color, size, and brightness. Other properties of stars are chemical composition and mass. Color and Temperature a stars color indicates the temperature of its surface. The hottest stars appear blue The cooler stars appear red The spectrum of color in a star is from blues to greens to yellows and reds.


The brightness of a star as viewed from Earth is dependent on many factors such as color intensity and distance. Apparent Brightness is the brightness of a star as it appears from Earth. The apparent brightness decreases as its distance from you increases Absolute Brightness is how bright a star really is. The absolute brightness is a characteristic of the star and is not dependent on its distance from Earth.

Each star has its own spectrum. Most stars have a chemical makeup that is similar to the sun, with hydrogen and helium together making up to 96 to 99.9 % of a stars mass.

How Stars Form

A nebula is a large cloud of gas and dust spread out over a large volume of space. Some nebulas are glowing clouds lit from within by bright stars. A star is formed when a contacting cloud of gas and dust becomes so dense and hot that nuclear fusion begins.


Life Cycles of Stars

Adult Stars A stars mass determines the stars place on the main sequence and how long it will stay. The amount of gas and dust available when a star forms determines the mass of each young star. The larger the star the more energy produce. Since blue stars burn brightly, they use up their fuel quickly and are short lived.


The Death of a Star

The dwindling supply of fuel in a stars core leads to the stars death as a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole.

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Groups of Stars
Astronomers have determined that more than half of all stars are members of star systems. There are three basic kinds of star clusters: open clusters, associations, and globular clusters. Astronomers classify galaxies into four main types: spiral, barred-spiral, elliptical, and irregular.

Expanding Universe
The observed red shift in the spectra of galaxies shows that the universe is expanding. Astronomers theorize that the universe came into being in an event called the big bang. Dark matter can only be detected by observing its gravitational effects on visible matter.