Human beings all throughout time have been fixated by of the cosmos, always looking up at the night sky and trying to figure out who we are, where we come from, and how we fit into the grand scheme of things.
Even today, with all of our advanced tools and technologies, we still have barely scratched the surface of understanding space, stars, and our universe at large – and it’s likely that we will never know all of the secrets that this incredible subject has hidden away.
At the same time, we have extrapolated a tremendous amount of information and knowledge about stars – both our own as well as those that are trillions and trillions of light years away – and here are just a few of the most exciting, interesting, and wild facts about stars that you may have never heard before!
The stars you see at night likely lead dual lives
Even though most of the stars you see at night of peer to be a single speck of light, most of them represent binary star systems (two stars relatively close together) but are just so far away from our vantage point that they look like they are linked together.
Like every other living thing, stars are born, they live, and they die
Though we do not frequently think of stars as living beings, they go through the same lifecycles that the rest of us do – and yes, one day our own star (the sun) will die as well.
Stars are always going through nuclear fission, but before they go “supernova” and they go through an incredible chain of events
Once a star burns through the most readily available fuel source, it begins to go through a tremendous change physically and molecularly, transforming it from one type of star into a white dwarf
White dwarves that are a little on the heavy side can become black holes
Yes, if a star goes supernova while it has a tremendous amount of mass, it can transform into a gravity and liked sucking black hole.
Black holes do not operate like a vacuum
At least not in the more “traditional” sense. Black holes do not suck other objects into some type of vortex, but instead bend the physical layer of space that pull things towards it.
Smaller stars last much longer than larger stars
Again, this seems at least a little bit counterintuitive, but larger stars – with large mass – burn through their fuel sources much more quickly than smaller stars. Larger stars also have a better chance of going supernova as a white dwarf as well.
Neutron stars degenerate differently than “traditional” stars, and are easily recognized
Basically the opposite of black holes (which are, naturally, difficult to spot in the blackness of space), neutron stars are easy to spot because they bend light around them
The largest stars measured are around 100 times bigger than our sun
Scientists predict that there are stars even larger than the ones we have currently discovered and measured, the biggest of the bunch have been measured at over 100 times larger than our own star!
The largest star in our galaxy is known as a hyper giant
Spotted by the Hubble telescope, the largest star in our galaxy is classified as a hyper giant and has been designated Eta Carinae. This is one big, bad superstar.
Though not as large as Eta Carinae, another hyper star in our galaxy burns 10 million times brighter than our own sun
Designated Pistol, this sun emits so much radiation that it is scientifically impossible (at least with what we know) for life to live throughout that entire solar system!
The closest star to earth (our sun) is 4.2 light years away
According to calculations based on our most highly advanced space travel technology today, as this would only take about 70,000 years – YEARS – to make the journey. Oh, and it would be a one-way trip.
Give or take a handful or so, scientists have estimated that there are about 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy
Think about that for a moment. 400 billion stars (give or take a few billion – but what’s a few billion between friends) make up the Milky Way galaxy, and that’s only one of thousands and thousands of galaxies that we know of in the universe!
… And we can only see a fraction of them!
Even on the clearest night, you’ll only be able to see a fraction of those 400 billion stars. The human eye can only see light from 19,000,000,000,000,000 miles away. Maybe we should check out some Lasik surgery.
No matter how large (or small) almost all stars have the same chemical makeup
In an interesting little anomaly, almost all stars throughout the universe – at least the ones we know of, anyways – are created out of the same chemical composition. Hydrogen burns first during the fusion reaction that occurs in the core, and the helium is pulled by gravity deeper and deeper into the center.
Scientists postulate that the original construction materials for stars were all created and formed during the Big Bang – but we cannot account for how it all “organized” so intelligently
Think of stars like a rubber ball is that you can press and deformed before it “snaps back”
Because they are so large, the naked eye cannot perceive these changes in shape for composition, but stars all over the universe – including our own – are continuously changing their shape around the clock.
Red dwarves represent the most common type of star in our galaxy
These are relatively small stars in the grand scheme of things, and live for a lot longer than larger stars that eventually go supernova and transform into white dwarves or black holes.
Scientists gain a tremendous amount of information about a star just by looking at its color
Different colored stars have different characteristics and features, and after years and years of study scientists can compare red dwarfs to yellow stars, blue dwarves, and other stars to determine where they are in their life cycle, their mass, and so many other critical details.
The coldest stars in the universe burn red…
… But the warmest stars run blue!
I know this seems a little bit crazy on the surface (after all, almost all of us would lead to the conclusion of something being red-hot and another object being ice blue cold), but the red stars burn at a temperature of around 3500 Kelvin with the blue stars burning their super mass at around 6000 Kelvin (or almost twice as hot)!
Sometimes though, at the end of a star’s life, different fusion reactions can occur where red dwarves will start to burn at blue star rates – speeding up their fuel consumption and internal temperatures dramatically.
We’ve yet to discover any green stars whatsoever
Even though scientists, astronauts, and even amateur astronomers have long spoken about “green” stars, researchers have discovered that this effect is caused by looking through a telescope that has a very particular wavelength – as the same “green” stars do not register this color when looked at with different technology.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall
The largest stars in the universe are the ones that lead the hardest, fastest, and hottest lifestyles of them all – running out of fuel 1000 times (or even more) faster than red dwarves.
There’s never been a twinkling star
No matter what you may have heard in that oh so popular nursery rhyme, there are no twinkling stars. Stars burn continuously until they eventually burn out, and the only reason that they look like they twinkle is because the light is interrupted as it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere and is slightly deflected before we can register it!