Do You Know Your Stars?
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage Ceylon Today Features
Stars may dot the sky in millions, but I’m sure you know each tiny dot that is a twinkling star in a starry night is tens and hundreds of times larger than the earth that we live in.
There is much more to learn about these brilliant little twinkling lights that make our night sky a truly breathtaking sight.
Sometimes, it may be hard to see stars up in the sky at night. However, your chance at seeing stars in the sky goes away as the sun rises. Just because you can’t see the stars at night or during the day doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Usually it’s tough to see stars in the night when there are either too many bright lights around you from the cities or there is a cloudy sky. While the sky may be blue and the sun bright in the sky during the day, the stars are always there. It’s just that the sun is so bright, it outshines them completely.
There’s a reason why stars give off such bright light. It’s because they are constantly on fire. Stars become so hot because they are made of really, really dense matter squished really hard to the point where it heats up to incredible levels. This matter is at its hottest in the very centre of the star, also called the core.
The core heats up so much that it reaches a point where a process called nuclear fusion happens. Unlike nuclear fission used in nuclear power plants that break apart atoms, fusion happens when atoms are moving at really fast speeds (you would too if it was that hot) and bump into each other, breaking apart and combining to create a completely new type of atom.
In stars like our Sun, Hydrogen is turned into Helium this way, with massive amounts of heat and light created. Scientists say the sun is up to 15 million degrees Celsius hot at the core. Compare that to boiling water, which goes up to only 100 degrees Celsius.
Heat and light aren’t the only things that the sun and other stars let out. Although there is no air in space, stars like our sun are powerful enough to push out what is called plasma, out into space. These ‘winds’ are strong enough to reach our earth and even past that.
Scientists are still trying to learn more about this and are making lots of progress.
Dwarves and giants
Stars come in all types of sizes. You might know that our sun is a huge star, but there are plenty of ones that are a lot smaller than it. There are also stars that make the sun look like a small baby.
Our sun isn’t the hottest sun either. Some stars in the universe make our sun seem like a warm cup of water instead of a blazing ball of nuclear fire.
The source of life
As hot as they may be, things wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for stars. Stars eventually run out of hydrogen to burn, which marks the start of a star dying. Although this won’t happen to our sun for many, many years to come, there are stars dying in our universe every day. These dying stars create elements such as iron, sulfur, copper and many others and scatter them across the galaxy with a big boom when they die. These elements then go to become the building blocks of all life, including you and me.
How does it feel to know that you were made from stardust?