It’s known that stars generally last for billions of years, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come and go on a fairly regular basis. But what about burning out? Here is everything you are going to want to know.
So, do stars actually burn out? It isn’t as simple as losing their heat, but stars can eventually burn out due to a particular catastrophic event. For any star to reach burnout, it would need to enter the stage of supernova, which is when a star explodes and ejects a majority of its mass.
Aside from reaching a supernova state, stars go through numerous stages before leading to burnout.
So let’s take a look at this, shall we?
What Causes A Star To Burn Out?
Every star has its own life that lasts much longer than our own, and they consistently burn the contents of its core. Once it reaches the point where it can’t burn anymore, the star will eventually collapse on itself. This causes the core to become hotter as the star shrinks down, which eventually leads to a supernova event.
Leading up to this event can take many years, but once the supernova is in effect, it only takes about 100 seconds for the star to explode.
Considering that each star comes with its own size and lifecycle, supernova events are happening at different intervals all throughout the universe.
After a star burns out, it either leaves behind a neutron star or even a black hole.
From our perspective, it can be hard to grasp how much force goes into a supernova event, and we should be thankful our Sun won’t enter that stage any time soon.
Not only do stars last for billions of years, but once they burn out, it takes billions of years for the material to come together and form new stars.
Even if it seems like a time-consuming process, there are so many stars in our universe that when one star burns out, others are forming and thriving for many more years.
Of course, these stars may not have an effect on our planet, but it goes to show what we can expect our Sun to go through at some point down the road.
Currently, experts believe our Sun is around 4.6 billion years old, so we don’t have anything to worry about, as it’ll continue to burn bright for a very long time.
Moreover, more than one cause leads to a supernova event. One is due to nuclear fusion, which is when atomic nuclei fuse to create a heavier nucleus.
Another cause is a star’s core that collapses under the weight of gravitation. Regardless of how it happens, burnout only happens once the star explodes.
This event may be the end of that star’s lifespan, but the material it blasts out into the universe leads to the creation of new stars, and the cycle continues.
What Happens To A Star When It Burns Out?
Once stars run out of their hydrogen gas and eventually die, it usually either leaves behind a neutron star or a black hole. In the same vein, there are different outcomes for ordinary and massive stars.
When an ordinary star dies out, a white dwarf can be created from an ionized nebula that’s formed from the expelled gas that’s generated by the Sun losing its mass.
If we’re referring to a massive star, they go through a much more destructive process.
To get an idea of what a massive star looks like, this label is usually attached to stars that are ten times larger than our Sun.
Once a star this size burns out its helium core, the carbon core reaches temperatures that are able to burn a variety of elements such as oxygen, silicon, sulfur, iron, and more.
Once the star cannot provide a source of heat to balance the weight of gravity, the iron core will continue to collapse inward until it reaches a nuclear density.
Even as the high-density core resists its continual collapse, energetic neurons are released from the core, which leads to matter bouncing off the core.
At this point, it’s only a matter of time before a supernova event takes place. Once the star explodes, the light it emits will be brighter than an entire galaxy of stars.
The gases that are emitted are rich in a wide variety of elements and end up being the building blocks of future stars.
Although a supernova can be a devastating event for any celestial object near the star, the elements that come from exploding stars are a big part of what makes existence possible in our universe.
Here on Earth, we can rest assured that a supernova event won’t happen in our solar system until billions of years have passed. That’s also part of the beauty of a star’s lifecycle, as it goes to show how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
Although it may take billions of years for a star to reach the end of its lifecycle, there are so many within our universe that these events are occurring more often than you might think.
How Often Does A Star Burn Out?
You may be surprised to learn that a supernova event occurs every ten seconds within our universe. That definitely sounds destructive, but the elements that supernovas produce are vital for the continuation of our universe and the creation of new celestial objects. Supernovas only occur at this rate due to the sheer number of stars that are out there.
This starts to make sense if you just look up at the night sky in a rural area, as you’ll be able to see thousands of stars, each in their own unique place within the universe.
We may not be too concerned about stars burning out as all of them except for the Sun are very far away, and their supernova events don’t really affect us.
At some point, though, it’ll be the Sun’s turn, and if the Earth is still standing by then, it’ll be the end of our beloved planet.
It’s likely that humanity will have moved beyond Earth at that point, but it’ll be a cataclysmic event in human history.
What’s interesting about this topic is that we’ve been able to view supernova events and their aftermath with the help of the world’s most powerful telescopes.
They’ve provided a visual to an event that’s otherwise hard to fathom.
Earth is only able to exist peacefully due to its perfect distance from the Sun, but if it were to head toward supernova, Earth and everything on it would be long gone before it actually explodes.
For now, we can marvel at distant stars and their lifecycles from the comfort of our planet and gather data to learn more about what their existence has to offer.
Considering the intricacies of a star’s lifecycle, it leads to many more questions about happenings none of us may experience in our life at any point.
No matter how many stars end up burning out, many new stars will always be on the horizon.
Nevertheless, it makes many experts and astronomy enthusiasts wonder what would happen to the fate of our universe if every star ceased to exist.
Even if this never comes to fruition, it’s interesting to think about the potential ramifications.
What Happens When All Stars Burn Out?
Not only would our universe seem extremely empty, but it would be catastrophic for life as we know it. Then again, this is only if every star burned out at the same time. When every star burns out at varying intervals, the cycle of new stars being formed will continue. Considering the hypothetical event that every star burns out at the same time, the universe would be a dark and lifeless place for billions of years.
Based on what we know about the universe, we won’t have to worry about every star burning out in unison.
Thankfully, this means we can expect a healthy cycle of new stars being born and the universe getting the elements it needs to thrive. It’s due to supernova events that allow us to be where we are today.
The universe is so vast that life will always find a way to continue, no matter how many supernova events take place.
Celestial objects have a knack for working together to ensure life continues, and there’s always a bittersweet blend of destruction and creation when supernovas occur.
There are many different events happening throughout the universe that can be seen as massively destructive. When one star dies, another is on its way to being born.
Even if the drawn-out process of a dying star can cause many years of uncertainty for life within its vicinity, it’ll eventually lead to life having the chance to thrive for billions of years.
All the information in this article is beyond fascinating for us to ponder from a distance. The universe can be a violent place, yet dying stars offer a beauty that can’t be ignored.
Other star guides you may want to check out:
- Do Stars Move At Night?
- Why Do Stars Appear To Move Across The Sky?
- Why Do Stars Twinkle Red And Blue?
- Can Astronauts See Stars In Space?
- How Many Stars Are Visible From Earth Without A Telescope?
- Why Do Planets Look Like Stars?
- What Happens When Two Stars Collide?
- Can You See The North Star From The Southern Hemisphere?
- Telescope or Binoculars For Stargazing?
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.