When you look up at the sky at night, you’ll be mesmerized by loads of twinkling dots, these are stars. Stars shine upon us, and can even give our lives inspiration. Although they have existed for billions of years already, little is really known about them by most people. Read on to learn 50 facts about stars.
Fact 1: There are 10 billion trillion stars in the entire universe. That’s 1 followed by 22 zeros!
- That’s a lot of zeroes! It means, if you counted all the grains of sand on the entire world, it wouldn’t even be close to the number of stars that fill the universe.
- The Milky Way, the galaxy where the Earth is, has only 200-400 billion stars, thus making up less than 1% of 1% of 1% of 1% of the entire number of stars in the universe.
Fact 2: The colour of a star is determined by its temperature.
- Although it’s easy to assume that the colour red would mean the hottest temperature for a star, it’s actually the reverse.
- Blue-white stars are the hottest. Their surface temperature can reach up to 11,000 Kelvin, making it far hotter than other colours.
Fact 3: The North Star was very important to medieval alchemists.
- These medieval alchemists believed that the North Star had the answers to unlock all of the secrets of the universe.
- Due to its relatively permanent position, it was often used as a location reference point during medieval times too.
Fact 4: The Orion Nebula, the one we can see from Earth, has produced new stars 3 times in its history.
- A nebula (plural – nebulae) is the origin of the star. In a nutshell it is a dusty-cloud made up of different gases.
- Whatever materials are left behind, once a star has been created, is used to make new planets (like Earth!).
Fact 5: Ancient Greeks believed that stars actually revolved around the Earth.
- This belief was actually called geocentrism.
- It was the standard belief, so much so, the church used this idea until it was debunked.
Fact 6: In Astronomical Standards, if a star’s age is 2 million years old, it is still considered as young.
- It takes thousands of years before a star is born, and almost a million years before it settles in its actual form.
- Our Sun, is considered a young adult, when it comes to its age.
Fact 7: Our Sun is around 4.6 million years old.
- But don’t panic, it’s not even halfway through its expected life span, so there will be several generations before the sun burns out.
- Based on scientific estimates, the sun will survive for the next 10 million years.
Fact 8: There are ‘supergiants’ that are 100x larger than the Sun.
- Our sun is actually considered to be a dwarf, when it is compared to other stars.
- But its size is actually perfect. Being the size that it is has allowed life to flourish around it. If it was even a bit bigger, life on Earth would not exist.
Fact 9: One in every four Americans still believes that the Sun orbits the Earth.
- This finding demonstrates that about 25% of the American population, are wrong in how they think the Sun moves. This big number, could be down to some conspiracy theorists, who think differently to what science says.
- Some of these people use science to try and prove that their claim is right.
Fact 10: One in every five Americans doesn’t know the difference between Astrology and Astronomy.
- Astrology is a pseudoscience, it uses the stars and other heavenly bodies to make sense of events that happened in the past or will happen in the future.
- On the other hand, Astronomy is the study of heavenly bodies. Most Americans think that it is Astrology.
Fact 11: The Sun comprises 99.86% of the total mass of the entire solar system.
- The estimated mass of the sun is 1.989 x 1030 kg or 333,000 times heavier than the Earth.
- The mass of the Sun is also called solar mass, the unit of measurement used to measure the mass of other stars.
Fact 12: Scientists hypothesize that if you could taste the dust from a nebula, it would taste like raspberry.
- This is because raspberry and the dust from the nebulae, have almost the same chemical compounds.
- But, it also has more of an Earthy taste, almost like rust.
Fact 13: If a nebula has 6% less mass than the Sun, it will not become a star.
- The Sun, is the origin of the planets’ solar system.
- If the Sun lost 6% more mass, it would become just like the Earth.
Fact 14: Stars are given different meanings in Astrology and in different cultures.
- A star is synonymous to a ‘big dream’, that is difficult to achieve and only a few can do so.
- In Eastern culture, the star is a representation of love. Just like looking for a loved one who may not be near you, you can gaze up towards the star and feel its presence no matter how far it is away. You get an instant ease and comfort from doing so.
Fact 15: Every star that you see at night is part of the Milky Way.
- The Milky Way is our galaxy, and it is composed of billions of stars. We are only seeing a small percentage of it.
- Some galaxies are too far away to be seen by the naked eye. At times, depending on the weather, 1 or 2 stars from other galaxies can be seen.
Fact 16: There are only 2 elements that compose a star: Hydrogen and Helium.
- There is no solid component in a star, not even in its core.
- It is only made up of gas and plasma. Even its hot molten core is just a plasma.
Fact 17: In 4 billion years, the Milky Way will collide with Andromeda.
- Andromeda is the nearest galaxy to us and it is located millions of light-years away from our galaxy.
- Based on the movement of our galaxy and Andromeda, they are on a collision course which will form an even bigger galaxy.
Fact 18: A star is considered dying, if its energy production is slowing down at a steady rate.
- A star can take up to 4 billion years before it uses up its energy, and be considered as a dead star.
- There has been no recorded of a fully dead star yet. Most of the discoveries are only dying stars.
Fact 19: The first person who theorized that the earth was rotating on a star, which is the Sun, was Aristarchus of Samos.
- But he was ridiculed by other people, because this theory was considered absurd.
- Even the scholars at that time believed that the Earth was the centre of the universe, and all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth.
Fact 20: Annie Jump Cannon is the record-holder for discovering the most stars.
- She discovered more than 350,000 stars in her lifetime.
- She was actually deaf due to a childhood sickness, but it didn’t prevent her from doing great in the field.
Fact 21: The earliest recorded female astronomer is Hypatia of Alexandria.
- She was a well-known woman of the time, primarily because of her wide knowledge.
- She was also a great teacher, she taught scholars of different ages about Philosophy, Astronomy, and Math.
Fact 22: When Copernicus asserted that the Sun is the center of the solar system, he found unlikely allies within the Astrology field.
- The church branded Copernicus an antichrist, because the Church believed that his belief was against the teachings of the Bible.
- Astrologers, however found it easier to do their ‘fortune-telling’, with the new information regarding the solar system.
Fact 23: Do not be a victim of star-scamming. Naming a star should only be done through IAU.
- Although there are countless star naming sites, with some charging as little as $20 to do so, none of these are recognised by the scientific community. Hence your purchase is pointless, as you haven’t actually named a star.
- Only the International Astronomical Union or IAU is allowed to give names to heavenly bodies, and there is a scientific process that they follow when naming one.
Fact 24: The star with the smallest amount of mass has the longest life.
- This is because the larger the star, the faster they burn out their hydrogen core.
- But don’t fret, we are talking about millions of years before the largest star even reach its midlife.
Fact 25: There is a document listing all of the heavenly bodies observable by the naked eye.
- Although you might argue that you see thousands of stars at night, without a telescope most of these ‘objects’ are too small for you to know exactly what you’re looking at.
- There are only 109 heavenly objects that you can properly observe as an amateur.
Fact 26: According to a renowned (Astrophysicist) Carl Sagan, the Sun is just a mediocre Sun.
- Due to its size, relative to the majority of stars, it’s not small enough to be an actual dwarf, but its not actually big. But this mediocrity allowed life to flourish, and for the other planets to exist.
- He also thought that there was much more to galaxies than we know.
Fact 27: Pulsars are heavenly bodies that look like a star, but they’re not.
- Pulsars, pulse continuously. The pulsing effect is evident when you observe it through a telescope.
- It is the size of a city but it’s so dense that it has a mass equal to the mass of the Sun.
Fact 28: There is a black hole in the middle of our galaxy.
- It is because of the collapse of Sagittarius A, one of the largest stars in our galaxy.
- Based on the assumptions of scientists, it has a mass equal to 4.3 million times the mass of the Sun.
Fact 29: The nearest star to the Sun is 4.2 light years away.
- Proxima Centauri is the name of this star and it appears in the Southern constellation of Centaurus.
- This low-massed star was discovered by Robert Innes, in 1915.
Fact 30: The ‘supernova phase’ happens before the star becomes a ‘white dwarf’.
- Since the fuel at the core is almost depleted, it will burn faster until it explodes.
- It will then emit light one last time until it fades away to the darkness.
Fact 31: ‘Red dwarf’ stars are burning red coloured gases giving it its colour.
- Compared to other stars with different colours, ‘red dwarfs’ burn off their core at a much slower rate.
- Therefore, they live significantly longer than other stars in a different colour.
Fact 32: Hypergiants are a thousand times larger than supergiants.
- Eta Carinae is a hypergiant, and is the largest star in our galaxy.
- By comparison, if Eta Carinae was as big as a basketball, our Sun would be a tiny dot.
Fact 33: On a clear night, you can see approximately 19,000,000,000,000,000 stars.
- Due to the clouds and the lights coming from buildings, and other structures, it significantly decreases the number of stars we can see at night.
- However, if you go near the equator during the summer in a remote area far from the cities, you can see a sky full of stars.
Fact 34: A star’s temperature is measured in Kelvin.
- 1 Kelvin is equal to -272.12 Celsius.
- The lowest temperature is 0 Kelvin, also called absolute zero. It is the point where molecules stop moving.
Fact 35: Most of the stars we are seeing now are memories of the past.
- It takes millions of years for a star’s light to reach the Earth.
- Therefore, if we observe a star right now, that light has been travelling to us for millions of years, from a different time.
Fact 36: Contrary to the popular nursery rhyme, stars do not twinkle at all.
- Just like our Sun, they just continuously emit light. The twinkling effect is due to our atmosphere, and the distance of the stars from our planet.
- Planets do not twinkle either. They are not affected by our atmosphere.
Fact 37: 90% of the stars are named after Greek or Arabic people, mythological creatures, or Astronomers.
- It was mainly because, most early Astronomers were either Greek or Arabic.
- It’s only in modern times, with the establishment of space governing bodies, that we have modern names for stars.
Fact 38: While we have mentioned ‘stars burning off their cores’, we don’t mean that it literally burn its core. It actually transmutes hydrogen into helium.
- This transmutation varies from one star to another, the transmutation process is dependent on the star’s colour and size.
- After transmuting to helium, it will then transmute it to other elements, forming other heavenly bodies in the process.
Fact 39: Only big stars can produce a black hole when they die.
- A black hole is a region in space where the gravitational field is so strong that even light can’t escape.
- 3.5 billion light-years away, the binary pair OJ 287 has the recorded largest black hole up to this date.
Fact 40: It is impossible to extinguish a star.
- In theory, if you use water to extinguish a star, it will only shine brighter.
- It is because you’re not extinguishing an actual fire, what you want to do is release its hydrogen before it collapses.
Fact 41: There are no green stars!
- Although green is part of the colour spectrum, it is usually mixed with other colours, so there’s no established star yet that emits a pure green colour.
- Some claim to have seen one, but it is primarily because of other factors such as the atmosphere, and its position relative to other heavenly bodies.
Fact 42: New Stars are actually called protostars.
- They are born in nebulae nurseries, or a dense cloud until little clumps are formed that eventually become a star.
- The Orion Nebula is one of the most observed nebulae that can be seen using an amateur telescope.
Fact 43: Galaxies are moving away from us.
- It is observed that galaxies, especially those farthest from us, are moving further at a much faster pace.
- Galaxies are moving away from us but their light is still coming to us.
Fact 44: Although it might look like stars are sitting next to each other, there are actually millions of light years of space between them
- Most stars exist in a binary system, but their so-called twin star is actually far away.
- For example, if the Sun is in New York and is the size of a golf ball, the next star is in Atlanta, or 1200 kilometres away.
Fact 45: There are tiny star-like heavenly bodies that are so dense called Neutrons.
- By comparison, a teaspoon of a neutron’s component is as heavy as 900 pyramids of Gaza.
- They are also hotter than most stars. A neutron, although way smaller than the Sun, is 1000 times hotter.
Fact 46: Before a star dies, it will go through an explosive process.
- First, it will explode to form a supernova.
- Then it will be reborn into a white dwarf. It will emit its final light until it fades away into darkness.
Fact 47: There is a star that can be seen by the naked eye located 19 quadrillion light years away.
- Deneb in Cygnus galaxy, is the farthest star that is visible at night. But only at set times of the year.
- Given the perfect night condition, Andromeda and Triangulum Galaxies can also be seen in some parts of the world.
Fact 48: The most common stars are the ‘red dwarfs’.
- They make up ¾ of the stars in the Milky Way.
- They also do not explode when they die.
Fact 49: A brown dwarf is actually a failed star.
- It didn’t become a proper star, because it didn’t reach the required temperature to become one.
- It is also not considered as a planet, because it emits its own dim light just like an actual star.
Fact 50: A group of stars that form an image is called a constellation.
- There are 88 official constellations recognized by the IAU.
- The earliest mention of the constellation was in a poem written by the Greek Poet Aratus in 270 BC.