Questions tagged [stars]

Stars are astronomical bodies that are (usually) mainly composed of Hydrogen, Helium, and Lithium. They are massive enough that their gravity compresses the matter to the point where nuclear fusion occurs, which creates a lot of heat and tends to make stars output radiation along a blackbody curve. Typically the radiative output is significant in the visible spectrum making stars very bright objects.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
107
votes
8answers
19k views

Why does the Sun's (or other stars') nuclear reaction not use up all its “fuel” immediately?

The temperature and pressure everywhere inside the Sun reach the critical point to start nuclear reactions - there is no reason for it to take such a long time to complete the reaction process. Just ...
60
votes
4answers
7k views

Do solar systems typically spin in the same direction as their galaxy?

Is the net angular momentum vector of our solar system pointing in roughly the same direction as the Milky Way galaxy's net angular momentum vector? If yes or no, is that common for most stars in the ...
52
votes
7answers
6k views

Photons from stars--how do they fill in such large angular distances?

It would seem that far-away stars are at such a distance that I should be able to take a step to the side and not have the star's photons hit my eye. How do stars release so many photons to fill in ...
47
votes
5answers
11k views

When a star becomes a black hole, does its gravitational field become stronger?

I've seen in a documentary that when a star collapses and becomes a black hole, it starts to eat the planets around. But it has the same mass, so how does its gravitational field strength increase?
46
votes
2answers
8k views

Does a star need to be inside a galaxy?

Must a star belong to a galaxy, or could it be completely isolated? In case it can be isolated (not belong to a galaxy), could it have a planet orbiting around it?
35
votes
6answers
13k views

Could there be a star orbiting around a planet?

I wonder if there ever could be a star (really small) which may orbit around a planet (really big)?
34
votes
4answers
4k views

Are neutrino stars theoretically possible?

Since neutrinos have a small mass and are affected by gravity, wouldn't it be theoretically possible to have such a large quantity of them so close to each other, that they would form a kind of a ...
32
votes
4answers
18k views

Why are stars white?

That is may be an easy question, but I am not a professional. The sun is a star, and when I look at the sun it is usually yellow. Why are stars in the night white? I suppose it is for the distance. ...
29
votes
3answers
4k views

Do supernovae push neighboring stars outward?

I know that a supernova can mess up the heliosphere of nearby stars, but I'm wondering if it could physically push neighboring stars off their trajectories. It's fun to imagine all the stars ...
29
votes
4answers
826 views

Metal-rich star formation

While discussing star formation on cosmological scales with some classmates, we mentioned the breakdown between the different stellar populations via metallicity: Population III: $Z = [{\rm Fe/H}] \...
28
votes
5answers
11k views

Why is the Sun called an “average star”?

This is a statement (presumably in mass, longevity, energy output) many people that I've met have heard in school, and it is known in pop culture. However, according to Wikipedia, about 75% of the ...
28
votes
5answers
3k views

Can elements heavier than iron be present in a star's core?

My understanding is that elements heavier than iron and nickel are not formed in a star but, can heavy elements such as lead and others be present/found in a star's core ? I ask because the following ...
28
votes
5answers
10k views

Can there be Electron and/or Proton Stars?

What happens to all of the electrons and protons in the material of a neutron star? Could there ever be an electron star or a proton star?
26
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the smallest distance possible between two stars?

If two stars of any type were to form near each other, how closely can they form before something prevents them from being two distinct stars?
26
votes
2answers
21k views

Is Jupiter a failed star?

In my physics lessons, my teachers have always been keen to tell my class that Jupiter is considered a 'failed star' by scientists. Is this true? In my own effort I wondered if maybe this could just ...
24
votes
4answers
5k views

Where will the Goldilocks zone be when the Sun becomes a red giant?

In about 5 billion years, when our Sun expands into a red giant making our planet uninhabitable, where will the new Goldilocks zone be? Could life form on a new planet in the Goldilocks zone? ...
23
votes
1answer
2k views

If a photon goes up, does it come down?

If light can be bent by gravity, does a mass as dense as a star pull any fraction of photons back towards itself?
22
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is the cut off mass for massive stars 8 solar masses? Why can't it be 10-11 solar masses or so?

I know that stars having a mass greater than or equal to 8 solar masses are termed "massive stars". But why is the cut-off 8 solar masses?
21
votes
3answers
2k views

How does the Pauli exclusion principle create a force in degenerate matter?

My understanding is that when it comes to forming a white dwarf, it is the electron degeneracy pressure, due to the Pauli Exclusion Principle, preventing collapse in of the white dwarf. If the ...
21
votes
5answers
86k views

Can the “Milky Way” galaxy be seen by the naked eye in a clear sky?

Is this photo "real"? Are the stars not super-imposed in the image?
21
votes
2answers
6k views

How many stars are in the Milky Way galaxy, and how can we determine this?

I have heard multiple estimates on the quantity of stars within our galaxy, anything from 100 to 400 billion of them. The estimates seem to be increasing for the time being. What are the main methods ...
20
votes
2answers
1k views

Why don't stars in globular clusters all orbit in the same plane?

Globular clusters like Omega Centauri certainly don't seem to be very coplanar at all. In other words, why doesn't the explanation at Why are our planets in the solar system all on the same disc/...
19
votes
5answers
6k views

Why does a star collapse under its own gravity when the gravity at its centre is zero?

The gravity at the centre of a star is zero as in the case of any uniform solid sphere with some mass. When a massive star dies, why does it give rise to a black hole at it's centre? I know how to ...
19
votes
3answers
3k views

Why is the sky dark at night? [duplicate]

The question is the well-known Olbers' paradox: If there are so many/infinite stars, in every direction, why is it dark at night? Where goes all the light we don't see? Discussing with a friend ...
19
votes
4answers
4k views

How can a star emit light if it is in Plasma state?

I understand that star is in Plasma state (all nucleus and electrons are not bound to each other and moving around freely) Photon is emitted when an excited electron moves back to lower orbit. So in a ...
18
votes
4answers
3k views

How is hydrostatic pressure overcome when a star is formed?

If stars are formed by the collapse of dust clouds under gravity, how is the pressure of the dust cloud overcome? As more material gathers together, gravity will increase, but pressure will also ...
17
votes
4answers
3k views

Can the Sun / Earth have a dark matter core?

If dark matter interacts with ordinary matter at all, it should most likely occur where ordinary matter is densest. Hence we have papers about neutron stars possibly containing dark matter cores (...
16
votes
8answers
9k views

How do stars from far away affect Earth?

I know that we obviously get light (or we wouldn't be able to see them), but are there any other ways that they affect Earth and maybe just our solar system in general?
16
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the probability that a star of a given spectral type will have planets?

There is a lot of new data from the various extrasolar planet projects including NASA's Kepler mission on extra-solar planets. Based on our current data what is the probability that a star of each of ...
16
votes
4answers
14k views

Explanation for negative specific heat capacities in stars?

I've just found out that a negative specific heat capacity is possible. But I have been trying to find an explanation for this with no success. Negative heat capacity would mean that when a system ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the farthest planetary body or star system object we have observed using visual light?

What is the farthest object which we can get a direct Detailed visual image of using visible light which appears more than just a dot and falls into one of the following categories: Planet Satellite ...
15
votes
3answers
11k views

What would be the characteristics of Jupiter if it shrank?

So, I've heard from various works of science fiction about the prospect of turning Jupiter into a star. From what I know about the physics of such a task, it would require somehow condensing Jupiter ...
15
votes
1answer
3k views

Why is the Sun made of light elements only?

Since the entire solar system inherits its heavy elements from supernovae unrelated to our star, I fail to understand why, while capturing most of said system's matter, the sun only contain light ...
15
votes
3answers
332 views

How are newly discovered objects (stars, planets, galaxies…) named?

When a new astronomical object (star, planet, galaxy, comet, etc.) is discovered, what is the official procedure to name it? Who decides about the name of it? Can they be changed in time? Extra ...
14
votes
2answers
4k views

Why do black holes warp spacetime so much more than stars that have the same mass? [duplicate]

If I have a black hole with a mass that's exactly the same mass as a star, why does the black hole warp spacetime so much more (light can’t escape) than a star (light can escape) with the exact same ...
14
votes
1answer
1k views

What could explain the measurements that the Methuselah star is older than the universe?

So there has been talk in the news of a star named Methuselah that is "older than the universe". Moreover, this star happens to belong to our very own Milky Way. The article mentions that Methuselah ...
14
votes
1answer
2k views

Are the electrons at the centre of the Sun degenerate or not?

Trying to find an answer to this question, I came across two different methods of determining whether electrons at the center of the sun are degenerate or not. The first method, used here, calculates ...
14
votes
2answers
53k views

How could scientists know how far a star or galaxy is from us?

How do astronomers measure how far a star (or galaxy) is away from the earth? How would they know that it has taken 13 million years for light to travel in space before it reaches us?
14
votes
4answers
7k views

Calculations of apparent magnitude

I was attempting to do some calculations of apparent magnitude to help solidify my understanding of the topic, but have been running into some confusion. According to Wikipedia, the apparent ...
13
votes
2answers
6k views

What is the Sun's core made of?

The obvious answer is hydrogen and helium plasma but the nuclear fusion can also create heavier elements. Are these heavier elements a significant portion of the core? Do the heavier elements "sink" ...
13
votes
1answer
361 views

How many naked-eye stars have 'died' since they emitted the light we are seeing?

This question is sort of in the spirit of this xkcd: The light we get from stars was emitted many years in the past, but the distances to stars which are bright enough to be visible to the naked ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Why don't stars have Keplerian orbits?

In a comment to Rob Jeffries' answer to this question on spherical galaxies, Incnis Mrsi commented There should exist the entire range of orbits in a spherically symmetric system: near-circular, ...
12
votes
3answers
14k views

Why can't Iron fusion occur in stars?

It is said that iron fusion is endothermic and star can't sustain this kind of fusion (not until it goes supernova). However star is constantly releasing energy from fusion of elements like Hydrogen ...
12
votes
3answers
606 views

Does the Virial Theorem apply to degenerate matter?

I am trying to understand how the degenerated He core progressively increases its temperature as the star moves up through the Red Giant Branch. A well-known property of the degenerate He core is ...
12
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the percentage of stars that are massive enough to end their lives in a supernova?

I have been searching for the percentage of stars that are massive enough to end their lives as a supernova but couldn't get any result. As far as I know, a star has to be at least 8 times more ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

Is Dyson Sphere a stable construction?

Suppose that a star is encompassed by a Dyson Sphere. Do we need a position control system for the Dyson Sphere to keep its origin always aligned with the center of the star? Will it stay aligned ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it possible to increase temperature of sun using radiation of sun itself?

We know that we can focus radiation of sun and can burn a paper. If we think of this thought experiment, will that happen? If someone constructs a concave mirror on the sun and concentrate radiation ...
11
votes
3answers
5k views

If I were standing on the surface of the sun, how far could I see?

Assuming it would be possible to handle the intense heat... Is the surface even? If not, would average surface elevation be an appropriate definition of "surface"?Does the sun have an atmosphere that ...
11
votes
2answers
767 views

Where does a star's angular momentum go as its spin slows down?

So we know that stars slow down as they age. But total angular momentum must be conserved. Where does that angular momentum go? The dissipation of Earth's tides somehow transfers Earth's angular ...
11
votes
3answers
3k views

Is it possible to see satellites with the naked eye?

Every now and then I notice some very bright "stars" in the sky. They tend to be very few (one or two, usually), and are quite much brighter than any other star out there. Often they're perfectly ...