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We, humans, and anything around us, are made of 'star cooked stuff'

Stars in the night sky
Stock Adobe
Stars go through dramatic changes in their lifespan, transforming from stellar nurseries to objects like white dwarfs or black holes.

Stars do far more than simply decorate the night sky we look at. In fact, we are literally made of stars. And stars themselves go through dramatic changes in their lifespan — transforming from stellar nurseries to objects like white dwarfs or black holes.

Astronomy contributor Jean Creighton joins Lake Effect to share more about the life of a star.

"Literally, what makes our bodies—the carbon, the oxygen, those heavier elements, they cooked in a star. There aren't other places in the universe where they can form. So we are made of things that happened within a star," she explains.

Anything around us that is not made of simply hydrogen, helium, and lithium, essentially has elements that cooked in a star, Creighton adds.

It was an old belief that stars did not change — did not have a life, but the Chinese recorded the first shocking moment around a star exploding into a supernova or a new star. It was then that the thought of stars never changing was challenged, which was 400 years ago according to Creighton.

The star's lifespan correlates to its mass size: the less mass a star has, the longer its lifespan, and vice versa, the more mass, the shorter life it will have. And as a point of reference, a long life can be up to 100 billion years! Additionally, over time stars change in temperature, and scientists use temperatures to assess stars' luminosity, which is how bright it is and not how bright it appears to us. The temperature also allows for the stars to be studied and classified in what phase of their lives they're in.

"We can say 'Oh, look at all these stars, what different phases are they in?' and based on that, you can say, 'oh, they spend about 90% as adults burning hydrogen into helium, and then whatever other phases they go through," says Creighton.

To learn more about stars, the Life of a Star show will happen every Friday evening at the Manfred Olson Planetarium.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Dr. Jean Creighton has always been inspired by how the cosmos works. She was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Athens, Greece where her mother claims she showed a great interest in how stars form from the age of five.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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