Kaler, James B. Department of Astronomy, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.
Last reviewed:April 2018
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- Sun as reference
- Magnitudes and colors
- Distribution and motions
- Absolute magnitudes
- Spectral classes
- Hertzsprung-Russell diagram
- White dwarf stars
- Stellar sizes
- Stellar frequency distribution
- Double and multiple stars
- Masses and main-sequence properties
- Carbon cycle
- Stellar convection
- Brown dwarfs
- Stellar rotation
- Variable stars
- Off the HR diagram
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A spherical, self-luminous, astronomical body that generates energy through thermonuclear fusion. Over 6000 stars can be seen in the night sky with the unaided eye, shining as fixed points due to their tremendous distances from Earth (Fig. 1). These stars, however, represent but a tiny, local portion of the hundreds of billions of stars within the Milky Way galaxy alone, which itself is just one amongst billions of galaxies. Astronomically, stars play a central role in the evolution of the universe. Stars represent the fundamental constituents of galaxies and are the makers, whether directly during their lives or as stellar remnants, of the elements heavier than lithium. In this way, stars are also integral to the formation of planets and the seeding of the universe with the chemical ingredients ultimately necessary for biological life. See also: Astrobiology; Astronomy; Element (chemistry); Exoplanet; Galaxy; Galaxy formation and evolution; Nuclear fusion; Periodic table; Planet; Solar system; Thermonuclear reaction; Universe
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