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Star

Star

A star is a hot, roughly spherical ball of gas that shines as a result of nuclear fusion reactions in its core. Stars are one of the fundamental objects in the universe. Starsand indeed the entire universeare made mostly of hydrogen, the simplest and lightest element. By contrast, our bodies are composed of many complex elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and iron. These elements are created in the cores of stars, and the final act in the lives of many stars is a massive explosion that distributes the elements it has created into the galaxy. Eventually these elements may form another star, or a planet, or life on that planet.

Star birth

Stars are born in the interstellar medium, the region of space between stars. Drifting through this region are vast, dark clouds of gas and dust. Certain celestial events, like the nearby explosion of a massive star at the end of its life (supernova), cause these clouds to begin to contract. After a supernova, a shock wave sweeps through the interstellar medium. When it slams into the cloud, the gas and dust is violently compressed by the shock. As the particles are squeezed together, their mutual gravitational attraction grows and a blob of gas forms, giving off energy.

As the temperature in a contracting blob of gas becomes higher, the gas exerts a pressure that counteracts the inward force of gravity. At this point, perhaps millions of years after the shock wave slammed into the dark cloud, the contraction stops. If the blob of gas has become hot enough at its center to begin thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium, it has become a star. It will remain in this stable state for millions or billions of years.

An interstellar cloud does not always have to be disturbed by a shock wave to form stars, however. Sometimes a cloud may be hot and dense enough to break up and contract spontaneously under its own gravity. Large clouds can break up into numerous cloudlets this way, and this process leads to the formation of star clustersgroups of stars close to each other in space. Often, two stars will form very close to one another, orbiting around a common center of gravity. This two-star system is called a binary star. Both star clusters and binary stars are more common than single stars.

Until recently, astronomers thought the collision of two stars forming a new star occurred very rarely in the universe. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, however, they had gathered enough observational

Words to Know

Binary star: Double-star system in which two stars orbit each other around a central point of gravity.

Black hole: Remains of a massive star that has burned out its nuclear fuel and collapsed under tremendous gravitational force into a single point of infinite mass and gravity.

Core: The central region of a star, where thermonuclear fusion reactions take place that produce the energy necessary for the star to support itself against its own gravity.

Interstellar medium: Space between the stars, consisting mainly of empty space with a very small concentration of gas atoms and tiny solid particles.

Nebula: Cloud of interstellar gas and dust.

Neutron star: Extremely dense, compact, neutron-filled remains of a star following a supernova.

Nuclear fusion: Merging of two or more hydrogen nuclei into one helium nucleus, accompanied by a tremendous release of energy.

Pulsar: Rapidly spinning, blinking neutron star.

Red giant: Stage in which an average-sized star spends the final 10 percent of its lifetime; its surface temperature drops and its diameter expands to 10 to 1,000 times that of the Sun.

Star cluster: Groups of stars close to each other in space that appear to have roughly similar characteristics and, therefore, a common origin.

Supernova: Explosion of a massive star at the end of is lifetime, causing it to shine more brightly than the rest of the stars in the galaxy put together.

White dwarf: Cooling, shrunken core remaining after an average-sized star ceases to burn.

information to know that such collisions are not uncommon within dense clusters of stars. These new stars, called "blue stars," contain more hydrogen than smaller stars, but burn hotter and burn out more quickly. They result from the collision of two (or even three) small, old stars in globular clusters (a tight cluster of tens of thousands to one million very old stars). Astronomers estimate that several hundred such collisions occur every hour. With 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe and each galaxy containing an average of 30 globular clusters, most of the collisions occur far away from the Earth. Over the lifetime (about 10 billion years) of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, astronomers believe there have been at least 1 million collisions within its globular clusters, or about 1 every 10,000 years.

Internal structure of a star

Stars generate energy in their cores, their central and hottest part. The Sun's core has a temperature of about 27,000,000°F (15,000,000°C), and this is hot enough for thermonuclear fusion reactions to take place. Accompanying the transformation of hydrogen to helium is an enormous release of energy, which streams out from the star's core and supplies the energy needed to heat the star's gas. The Sun converts about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, yet it is so massive that it has

been maintaining this rate of fuel consumption for five billion yearsand will continue to do so for another five billion years.

In the majority of stars, the energy created at the core is carried close to the surface by slow-moving gas currents. As these currents or cells reach the surface atmosphere, they release this energy, which is radiated into space as visible light and other forms of radiation of the electromagnetic spectrum. Once cooled, the currents fall back toward the core where they become heated and rise once again. This organized churning is called convection.

A star's mass (the total amount of matter in contains) directly influences its size, temperature, and luminosity, or rate of energy output (brightness). The more massive a star is, the stronger its gravity. Mass therefore determines how strong the gravitational force is at every point within the star. This in turn dictates how fast the star has to consume its fuel to keep its gas hot enough to maintain stability everywhere inside it. This controls the temperature structure of the star and the methods by which energy is transported from the core to the surface. It even controls the star's lifetime, since the rate of fuel consumption determines lifetime.

The smallest stars are about 0.08 times the mass of the Sun. If a ball of gas is any smaller than that, its internal temperature will not be high enough to ignite the necessary fusion reactions in its core. It would instead be a brown dwarf, a small, dark, cool ball of dust and gas that never quite becomes a star. The largest stars are about 50 times more massive than the Sun. A star more massive than that would shine so intensely that its radiation would start to overcome gravity; the star would shed mass from its surface so quickly that it could never be stable.

Star deaths

All stars eventually exhaust their hydrogen fuel. At this point, the gas pressure within the star goes down and the star begins to contract under its own gravity. The fate awaiting a star at this point is determined by its mass.

An average-sized star like the Sun will spend the final 10 percent of its life as a red giant. In this phase of a star's evolution, the star's surface temperature drops to between 3,140 and 6,741°F (1,727 and 3,727°C) and its diameter expands to 10 to 1,000 times that of the Sun. The star takes on a reddish color, which is what gives it its name.

Buried deep inside the star is a hot, dense core, about the size of Earth. Helium left burning at the core eventually ejects the star's atmosphere, which floats off into space as a planetary nebula (a cloud of gas and dust). The remaining glowing core is called a white dwarf. Like a dying ember in a campfire, it will gradually cool off and fade into blackness. Space is littered with such dead suns.

A star up to three times the mass of the Sun explodes in a supernova, shedding much of its mass. Any remaining matter of such a star ends up as a densely packed neutron star or pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star that emits varying radio waves at precise intervals.

A star more than three times the mass of the Sun will also explode in a supernova. Its remaining mass becomes so concentrated that it shrinks to an indefinitely small size and its gravity becomes completely over-powering. This single point in space where pressure and density are infinite is called a black hole.

[See also Binary star; Black hole; Brown dwarf; Constellation; Galaxy; Gamma-ray burst; Gravity and gravitation; Neutron star; Nova; Nuclear fusion; Orbit; Red giant; Solar system; Starburst galaxy; Star cluster; Stellar magnetic fields; Sun; Supernova; Variable stars; White dwarf ]

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star

star, hot incandescent sphere of gas, held together by its own gravitation, and emitting light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation whose ultimate source is nuclear energy.

Properties of Stars

Stars differ widely in mass, size, temperature, and total energy output, or luminosity. The sun has a mass of about 2 × 1033 grams, a radius of about 7 × 1010 cm, a surface temperature of about 6,000°C, and a luminosity of about 4 × 1033 erg/sec. More than 90% of all stars have masses between one tenth and 50 times that of the sun; the majority are relatively dim dwarf stars. Other stellar quantities vary over a much larger range. The most luminous stars (excluding supernovas) are about ten million times more powerful than the sun, while the least luminous are only one hundredth as powerful. Red giants, the largest stars, are fifteen-hundred times greater in size than the sun; if one were placed at the sun's position, it would stretch to halfway between Jupiter and Saturn. At the opposite extreme, white dwarfs are no larger than the earth, and neutron stars are only a few kilometers in radius.

The visible stars are divided into six classes according to apparent brightness; the brightest are first magnitude and the faintest are sixth magnitude. The stars differ in apparent brightness both because they lie at different distances from us and because they vary in actual or intrinsic brightness. Variable stars do not shine steadily but fluctuate in either a regular or irregular fashion. The supernova, or exploding star, is the most spectacular variable star; the eclipsing binary, where the two stars alternately hide and then reinforce each other's light, is not a true variable.

Light received from a star consists of a spectrum of wavelengths; the hotter the star, the shorter the wavelength at which the light is most intense. The color of a star is closely related to its surface temperature. Red stars have surface temperatures around 3,000°C and blue-white stars have surface temperatures above 20,000°C (see spectral class).

Stellar Structure and Stellar Evolution

The theory of stellar structure applies the laws of physics to calculation of the equilibrium configurations of stars. According to this theory, the mass and chemical composition of a star determine all its other characteristics. Because most stars are more than 90% hydrogen, variations in chemical composition are small and have a small effect. Variation in mass is the main factor; a doubling in mass increases the luminosity more than 10 times. For a star to be stable, the compressive force of gravitation must be exactly balanced by the tendency of the gas to expand. Thus, the size and temperature of a star are important, interrelated factors.

Despite the tremendous pressure generated by the massive layers above it, the central region, or core, of a star remains gaseous. This is possible because the core has a temperature of millions of degrees. At this temperature, nuclear energy is released by the fusion of hydrogen to form helium; the principle is the same as that of the hydrogen bomb. By the time nuclear energy reaches the surface of the star, it has been largely converted into visible light with a spectrum characteristic of a very hot body (see blackbody). The theory of stellar evolution states that a star must change as it consumes its hydrogen in the nuclear reactions that power it. Ultimately each star must die, rarely in a supernova explosion, when its capability for nuclear reactions is exhausted. The heavy atoms created in supernovas (see nucleosynthesis) are spewed out to become part of the interstellar matter from which new stars are continuously formed.

Location and Motion of Stars

The universe contains billions of galaxies, and each galaxy contains billions of stars. The stars visible to the unaided eye are all in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Stars are not spread uniformly through a galaxy. They are frequently bunched together in star clusters of as many as 100,000 stars. Many stars that appear as single points of light in even the most powerful telescopes are actually systems of two or more stars orbiting one another or a common center of gravity, bound together by their mutual gravitational attraction; the binary stars are most common among these multiple star systems.

In ancient times, the stars were believed to be motionless; their fixed patterns in the sky were designated as the constellations. It is now known that the stars move through space, although their motion is too small to be detected during a human lifetime without exacting measurements. From the observed proper motion (change in apparent position on the celestial sphere), distance of the star from the earth, and radial velocity (motion along the line of sight), the true velocity of a star through space can be determined. See also brown dwarf.

Bibliography

See C. de Jager, The Brightest Stars (1980); G. O. Abell, Exploration of the Universe (5th ed. 1987); R. J. Taylor, The Stars: Their Structure and Evolution (1994); A. C. Phillips, The Physics of Stars (1994).

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star

star in allusive or proverbial use, a type of brightness and remoteness, or as representing an innumerable host or multitude.

A star is the emblem of St Dominic, St Thomas Aquinas, St Vincent Ferrer, and St Nicholas of Tolentino.

In astrology, the stars denote the planets and zodiacal constellations which are supposed to influence human affairs or (from their position at the time of a person's birth) affect their destiny.
Star Chamber an English court of civil and criminal jurisdiction that developed in the late 15th century, trying especially those cases affecting the interests of the Crown. It was noted for its arbitrary and oppressive judgements and was abolished in 1641. The name may have come from decorative stars on the ceiling of the room in which the court was originally held.
star-crossed thwarted by bad luck; often with allusion to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet ‘a pair of star-crossed lovers’.
Star Dust the name of a British Lancastrian civil aircraft which in 1947 disappeared mysteriously in a flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago in Chile. Despite many searches nothing more was heard of the plane until January 2000, when wreckage was found in the Andes. It is now thought that the plane crashed into a glacier, from which its remains have finally begun to emerge. (See also Stendec.)
Star of Bethlehem a plant of the lily family with star-shaped flowers which typically have green stripes on the outer surface, found in temperate regions of the Old World.
Star of David a six-pointed figure consisting of two interlaced equilateral triangles, used as a Jewish and Israeli symbol; the Magen David.
Star of the Sea a title of the Virgin Mary, an English translation of Stella Maris.
the Star-spangled Banner a song written in 1814 with words composed by Francis Scott Key (1779–1843) and a tune adapted from that of a popular English drinking song, To Anacreon in Heaven. It was officially adopted as the US national anthem in 1931.
Star Trek the title of a cult science-fiction drama series created by Gene Roddenberry (1921–91); the series chronicled ‘the voyages of the starship Enterprise’, whose five-year mission was ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’, and which was commanded by Captain James Kirk.
Star Wars the title of the first (1977) of a trio of films by George Lucas; the films told the story of the young Luke Skywalker who with the training of Obi-Wan Kenobi, last of the Jedi knights, plays the key role in resisting the Imperial forces under the command of Darth Vader. Star Wars was also the popular name for Strategic Defense Initiative, a projected US system of defence against nuclear weapons, proposed by President Reagan in 1983, using satellites armed with lasers to intercept and destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

See also born under a lucky star, morning star, one's star is rising, shooting star, stars, yellow star.

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star

star / stär/ • n. 1. a fixed luminous point in the night sky that is a large, remote incandescent body like the sun. 2. a conventional or stylized representation of a star, typically one having five or more points: the walls were painted with silver moons and stars. ∎  a symbol of this shape used to indicate a category of excellence: the hotel has three stars. ∎  an asterisk. ∎  a white patch on the forehead of a horse or other animal. ∎  (also star network) [usu. as adj.] a data or communication network in which all nodes are independently connected to one central unit: computers in a star layout. 3. a famous or exceptionally talented performer in the world of entertainment or sports: a pop star| [as adj.] singers of star quality. ∎  an outstandingly good or successful person or thing in a group: a rising star in the party| [as adj.] Ellen was a star student. 4. Astrol. a planet, constellation, or configuration regarded as influencing someone's fortunes or personality: his golf destiny was written in the stars. ∎  (stars) a horoscope published in a newspaper or magazine: what do my stars say? • v. (starred , star·ring ) [tr.] 1. (of a movie, play, or other show) have (someone) as a principal performer: a film starring Liza Minnelli. ∎  [intr.] (of a performer) have a principal role in a movie, play, or other show: McQueen had starred in such epics as The Magnificent Seven | [as adj.] (starring) his first starring role. ∎  [intr.] (of a person) perform brilliantly or prominently in a particular endeavor or event: Vitt starred at third base for the Detroit Tigers. 2. decorate or cover with star-shaped marks or objects: thick grass starred with flowers. ∎  mark (something) for special notice or recommendation with an asterisk or other star-shaped symbol: the activities listed below are starred according to their fitness ratings| [as adj. , in comb.] (-starred) Michelin-starred restaurants. PHRASES: my stars! inf., dated an expression of astonishment. reach for the stars have high or ambitious aims. see stars see flashes of light, esp. as a result of being hit on the head. someone's star is risingsee rise. stars in one's eyes used to describe someone who is idealistically hopeful or enthusiastic about their future: a singer selected from hundreds of applicants with stars in their eyes.DERIVATIVES: star·less adj. star·like / -ˌlīk/ adj. ORIGIN: Old English steorra, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch ster, German Stern, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin stella and Greek astēr.

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star

star Self-luminous ball of gas, the radiant energy of which is produced by fusion reactions, mainly the conversion of hydrogen into helium. The temperatures and luminosities of stars are prescribed by their masses. The most massive stars are about 100 solar masses (a mass a hundred times greater than the Sun). Large stars are luminous and hot, and therefore appear blue. Medium-sized stars are yellow, while small stars are a dull red. The smallest stars contain less than one-twentieth of a solar mass. Stars form when a cloud of gas and dust collapses under its own gravity. As the cloud collapses, atoms collide and generate heat. This process continues until the heat generated causes nuclear fusion reactions, converting hydrogen to helium. The reactions from the core throw out radiation, which prevents further collapse. This stage (the main sequence phase) is the longest in a star's lifetime. Eventually the mainly hydrogen core of the star is depleted, and fusion can no longer occur. With the central energy source removed, the core collapses under gravity, and heats itself further until hydrogen fusion is able to occur in a spherical shell surrounding the core. As this change takes place, the outer layers of the star expand considerably, and the star becomes either a red giant, or in the most massive stars, a supergiant. During this phase, the core can reach temperatures of 100 million K, hot enough for fusion of helium to carbon. When this second process of fusion finishes, the core collapses again and heats up. In low-mass stars, the temperature will not rise sufficiently for carbon fusion to take place and the red giant loses its outer layers, leaving a white dwarf. In high-mass stars, carbon fusion is initiated, converting the carbon into elements with relative atomic masses close to that of iron. At this stage, no further fusion is possible and the core collapses explosively, throwing off outer layers in a supernova explosion. The resulting super-dense core forms either a neutron star or black hole. See also binary star

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stars

stars Stars and Bars the flag of the Confederate States, which had two horizontal red bars separated by a narrow white bar, and in the top left-hand corner, a circle of eleven white stars on a blue background for the eleven states of the Confederacy.
Stars and Stripes the national flag of the US. When first adopted by Congress (14th June 1777) it contained 13 stripes and 13 stars, representing the 13 states of the Union; it now has 13 stripes and 50 stars. An informal name for the flag is Old Glory.

See also seven stars, star.

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STAR

STAR One of the early vector processors, manufactured by CDC and unique on several grounds: it is one of the large machines built by CDC that was not designed by Seymour Cray (the architect was Jim Thornton); it was noted for having very wide words that can be processed in parallel; it was the first machine marketed that was aimed at very rapid processing of vectors.

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star

star luminous celestial body OE., image or figure of one of them XIV. OE. steorra = OS. sterro (Du. ster, star), OHG. sterro :- WGmc. *sterran- (cf. OHG. sterno (G. stern), ON. stjarna, Goth stairnō), f. IE. *ster- *stēr-, repr by L. stēlla (:- *sterlā), Gr. astḗr (aster-), ástron.
Hence starry (-Y1 XIV. star-gazer XVI; see GAZE.

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star

staraargh, Accra, afar, ah, aha, aide-mémoire, ajar, Alcazar, are, Armagh, armoire, Artois, au revoir, baa, bah, bar, barre, bazaar, beaux-arts, Bekaa, bête noire, Bihar, bizarre, blah, Bogotá, Bonnard, bra, cafard, café noir, Calabar, car, Carr, Castlebar, catarrh, Changsha, char, charr, cigar, comme ci comme ça, commissar, coup d'état, de haut en bas, devoir, Dhofar, Directoire, Du Bois, Dumas, Dunbar, éclat, embarras de choix, escritoire, fah, famille noire, far, feu de joie, film noir, foie gras, Fra, galah, gar, guar, guitar, ha, hah, ha-ha, Halacha, hurrah, hussar, huzza, insofar, Invar, jar, je ne sais quoi, ka, kala-azar, Kandahar, Khorramshahr, knar, Krasnodar, Kwa, la-di-da, lah, Lehár, Loire, ma, mama, mamma, mar, Mardi Gras, ménage à trois, mirepoix, moire, Navarre, noir, objet d'art, pa, pah, Panama, papa, par, Pará, Paraná, pas, pâté de foie gras, peau-de-soie, pietà, Pinot Noir, pooh-bah, poult-de-soie, pya, rah, registrar, Saar, Salazar, Sana'a, sang-froid, scar, schwa, Seychellois, shah, Shangri-La, shikar, ska, sol-fa, spa, spar, star, Starr, Stranraer, ta, tahr, tar, tartare, tata, tra-la, tsar, Twa, Villa, voilà, waratah, yah

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