What is the life cycle of a star?
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The life of a star depends heavily on the size (the mass) of the star. All stars are initially formed by clouds of dust, that come together by forces of gravity to form a protostar. Once temperature is high enough, the star starts to fuse hydrogen into helium in what is called the “main-sequence” phase of the star’s life. However, after all hydrogen is fused into helium the path of stars’ lives diverges in two. Smaller stars, that have a mass up to approximately 1.4 times the mass of our sun will become red giants and start fusing higher elements until they obtain a carbon core, where fusion will stop and the star will expel its outer layers of hydrogen and helium in an explosion called “planetary nebula”. What remains from this is a white dwarf that still emits light until its temperature drops and it becomes a black dwarf. However, if a star is heavier than the 1.4 solar masses limit (known as the Chandrasekhar limit) the path differs significantly. The star becomes a red supergiant, where temperatures are significantly increased which allows the fusion of higher mass elements, until iron. The star will then explode in a massive explosion called a supernova. What remains after that also depends on the mass of the star. If its core is less than about 2-3 solar masses (known as the Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit) the star will become a neutron star, but if it is heavier, the star will become a black hole.
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