Ever looked up at the night sky and wondered about the stars? I love to stargaze, but that’s about as deep as my interest in astronomy went. One of my first reference questions here at MLC led me to look in an astronomy encyclopedia. I came across this quote:
“Stars are, in fact, a temporary halting point in the process of collapse” (414).
How poetic! I had never thought of stars that way before—something so beautiful, formed from chaos. Apparently, stars are made up of clouds of gas that are about to dissipate. Sometimes, before the gas has a chance to collapse, they bundle together in a balancing act to form what we call stars.
Scientists refer to the stages that a star goes through as its “life.” Stars go through many changes from the time they are formed to the time they disappear. Each stage of a star’s life affects how we see it. Depending on how old the star is, it may look brighter or appear to burn a color, such as red or blue.
Stars move, too—star streaming refers to their movement around the Galaxy. According to The International Encyclopedia of Astronomy, “…stars move in parallel groups called star streams, whose paths cross so that the stars intermingle like marching bandsmen in a military display” (415). (Again, more poetry mixed with astronomy!) When a star reaches the end of its life, it goes through a dying process. The death of a star is actually a violent explosion, where the star is “…ripped apart as a supernova” (415).
If all this information has you a little more interested about what’s going on above us, check out skyandtelescope.com or stardate.org. Both of these sites give you info about what’s happening in the night sky each night of the year. Enjoy!
Moore, Patrick. The International Encyclopedia of Astronomy. New York: Orion Books, 1987.