20 Star Facts That Will Blow Your Mind
Stars are truly magical. They have mystified many over the world. From ancient cultures to modern society, there are many occasions and rituals where stars come into play. Just ask yourself if you've ever wished on a star before or whether you keep up to date with your zodiac sign. Even if you're not a fan of horoscopes, you're bound to know someone who is.
Many star enthusiasts will go camping as the view of the night sky is said to be spectacular.
Our fascination with stars even extends to the materialistic world and everyday life. With an abundance of star-themed merchandise available, from star blankets to star clothing, star maps and charts, and even star-themed cutlery, there are many things for any star fan. And let's not get started on the space and alien-themed fascination that has dominated the media in recent years. (Cough, Star Wars, cough).
So it's no secret that people from all around the world just can't seem to shake off the stardust. If you're finding yourself in the same boat, here are some cool star facts sure to blow your mind and impress everyone around you.
What Are Stars?
Okay, we know you know what stars are. They are the building blocks of the night sky - providing there aren't any clouds about, all you have to do is look up, and you'll see the stars in their multitudes.
But let's get technical for a moment.
Stars are made from hydrogen and helium. These huge celestial bodies have nuclear cores that produce light and heat. There are thousands upon thousands of stars in the sky, but they are light years away. To put it all into perspective, a light year is equivalent to 9.44 trillion km, or 5.88 trillion miles - that's a lot of distance. Proxima Centauri belongs to the Alpha Centauri star system and, if you exclude the sun, is the closest star to us. But it's still 40,208,000,000,000 km away.
1. The Sun is a Dwarf Star
Most people know that the sun is actually a star. (If you didn't know, you do now!) But what the majority of people won't know is that the technical name for the sun is actually a dwarf star.
There are three types of stars: dwarfs, giants, and supergiants. And, yep - that means that dwarf stars are actually the babies of the group, making our sun a lot smaller than we think - and a lot more prevalent in the sky, as dwarfs are the most common type of star out there!
2. All Stars Are Bigger Than the Sun
If you look up at the sky right now and get a glimpse of the sun, this fact might seem impossible. But it's true! Even Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, is actually 20x brighter than our sun - it's just much farther away. The sun appears the biggest because it's the closest star to us.
Some examples of well-known giant stars include Mira (Omicron Ceti) and Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri). In addition, many bigger main sequence stars in the Milky Way can expand more quickly to become red supergiants.
3. The Bigger the Star, the Shorter its Life
Considering the facts above, this is a comforting thought. Smaller stars might survive for hundreds of billions of years, outlasting the biggest stars in the night sky.
Bigger stars consume nuclear fuel because they are so hot, and they can only survive until that fuel runs out. Giants and supergiants may be so much bigger and brighter than the sun, but such stars die quicker, and in a massive supernova explosion.
We don't know about you, but now we know this fact, we're pretty happy with our small sun.
4. The Face of the Sun Could Fit 109 Earths
According to this post by Nasa, that is.
If you want a better way of understanding it, they even say that "if the sun were as tall as a typical front door, the Earth would be the size of a U.S. nickel." It's amazing to think how small the Earth is in comparison.
5. Stars Don't Twinkle
In fact, twinkling isn't even called twinkling. Stars actually "scintillate," which basically means they emit flashes of light. (We figure the song "scintillate, scintillate little star" doesn't have the same ring to it.)
When stars pass through the atmosphere, it's not an easy journey; they have to travel through layers of different densities. Thanks to the Earth's turbulent atmosphere, by the time the light reaches your eyes, the turbulence means it's changed in color and intensity, which makes it look like the star is twinkling.
6. A Shooting Star is Not Actually a Star
We're sorry to disappoint. But a shooting star is actually just dust or rock. It moves so fast that, by the time it reaches the Earth's atmosphere, it's super hot, giving it the whole shooting star look.
Astronomers call shooting stars by their proper names: meteors.
7. The Sun isn't Yellow - it's White!
The sun might look yellow to us when we catch a glimpse of it, but this is due to all the distortion caused by the atmosphere. Up in space, the sun actually appears white. Those lucky few who have taken a trip to the International Space Station can confirm that the sun is white and glowing. So don't believe all those space movies and TV shows that depict the sun as yellow. (We're looking at you, Doctor Who!)
You might have actually heard that the sun is a green star or a green blue star. Nasa gives a lengthy description about it here (which we highly suggest you check out), but to sum it up, it's all to do with this wavelength of light here:
The sun is just like you and me - sometimes it has to release a bunch of pent-up energy. Or, in the sun's case, this is called magnetic field energy. This causes massive explosions in the sun's atmosphere. During all these explosive, high-energy solar flare events, the sun emits a large amount of x-ray and gamma rays at all wavelengths.
Still with us?
It emits all its energy close to 500 nm, as shown by the graph above. This is what creates the blue green light.
However, if we were viewing this from space, the sun would still appear white.
8. There are Some Old Stars Out There
Astronomers believe the Southern Cross stars are between 10 to 20 million years old. Phew - what a number!
9. The Light from the Sun is 8 Minutes Away
That's right. This star's light takes about 8 minutes and twenty seconds to reach us. This translates to 152.08 million km and 0.00001581 light years from earth.
That means, if the sun magically disappeared, we wouldn't start reaching for our scarves and coats until a whole eight minutes had passed. We're unsure whether that's a comforting thought or not, to be honest.
10. The Brightest Stars Have Significant Names
Most of the brightest stars have names that originated with Ancient Arabic or Ancient Greek astronomers. For example, the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, comes from the Greek for "scorcher" - a pretty apt name choice if you ask us.
But it wasn't just the Ancient Greeks who were obsessed with stars. Ancient Egyptian Astronomy is one of the reasons why we know so much about how these cultures used to view stars today - we only have access to the oldest records thanks to the Ancient Egyptians, who painted their findings on the walls of caves.
11. Canopus is the Second Brightest Star in the Universe
As we mentioned above, Sirus has claimed the top spot. But in terms of the second brightest star, Canopus takes the cake, and only by a slight difference.
In fact, if you're wondering about the other brightest stars in the sky, check out the top six:
10. Stars Are Made From Dust
This is probably where the term 'star dust' comes from. When it comes to star formation, the process is a delicate one. Gas and dust start to accumulate, and if enough gas and dust pile up, it will collapse due to its own gravity. This is how stars form.
11. The Truth About White Dwarfs:
White dwarfs are actually burnt-out star cores of stars like the sun. White dwarfs are exposed when a dying red star sheds its outer layers, revealing the hot white core beneath. Since the star no longer has nuclear fusion to support it, the star's core will collapse under its own weight.
12. Neutron Stars Exceed the Mass of the Sun by 1.4 Times
Neutron stars are born from the death of a giant star. These massive stars die in supernovas, and like the white dwarf above, their cores start to collapse. The protons and electrons combine to form neutrons, and a neutron star is born.
13. WR 102 is the Hottest Star in the Universe
WR 102 is a Wolf-Rayet star. Wolf-Rayet stars are known as the hottest stars in the universe, featuring a blazing surface temperature 35 times hotter than the sun.
14. There are Many Different Types of Stars
In the early 1900s, a team of astronomers at Harvard College Observatory began to examine the spectra of hundreds of stars so they could develop a classification system. They assigned different types of stars a letter from A to O.
This classification was devised to understand the different absorption lines in the spectra. B-type stars will have a temperature range of over 30,000 K, whereas g-type stars will range between 5,000 K - 6,000 K in temperature.
15. About 90% of Stars are Main Sequence Stars
That accounts for most stars in the sky. Our sun is also known as a main sequence star. These stars range between a 10th of the sun's mass to up to 200 times the mass of the sun. A main sequence star will form helium atoms at its core.
16. The Truth About Brown Dwarf Stars:
Brown dwarfs are made the same way other stars are - they condense from a gaseous cloud. However, brown dwarfs are stars that were unable to fuse because they didn't have enough material. Some scientists refer to them as 'failed stars.' (Yep, we think that's pretty sad too.)
Although dwarf stars have been spotted around the solar system, they're pretty rare and difficult to find. As mentioned above, almost all the stars are main sequence stars, so brown dwarfs only fit into 10% of the star population.
17. A Lot of Stars Come in Pairs
These are known as binary stars. In fact, the majority of the stars we see in the night sky are actually multiple stars, usually at least two stars. These stars shine together, making it look like we're only viewing one star. The brighter star is known as the primary star, whereas the second is known as the secondary star.
There are different types of binary classification, including:
- Wide binaries
- Close binaries
- Visual binaries
- Spectroscopic binaries
- Eclipsing binaries
- Astrometric binaries
18. There are 100 Thousand Stars in the Milky Way Galaxy
That's what astronomers estimate. But remember that there are millions upon millions of other galaxies outside our Milky Way. So if you're wondering how many stars there are in the entire Universe, the answer would probably be too big to comprehend.
19. The Low Down on Red Dwarfs:
Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the Milky Way, coming in at three-fourths of all stars in the sky, according to Britannica. These stars have masses that are so much bigger than the sun, at 0.08 to 0.6 times. They have a surface temperature of 2,000–3,500 K and a spectral type of M.
They're also the dimmest stars in the sky, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for them, as they're probably likely to last much longer than other stars. They have a huge supply of hydrogen fuel to keep them going. After that, they'll turn into blue stars and, eventually, into a white dwarf.
Unlike bigger stars in the sky, such as supergiant and giant stars, red dwarfs will not explode.
20. Some Stars Can Change Their Brightness
This is known as a variable star. These changes can happen in seconds - or they might take years. Astronomers have cataloged over 100,000 variable stars, but there are thousands more stars out there that we suspect might be variables, too. The first identified variable star was called Omicron Ceti but was later renamed Mira.
In fact, the sun is a variable star.
There's no doubt that stars are magical things. From the amazing way they are created to the way they look in the night sky, there is something undeniably otherwordly about them - even if we're viewing them from the comforts of Earth.
Imagine if you could see exactly what the night sky looked like on a specific date. Have you ever wondered how the stars aligned on your birthday or what the night sky looked like on your wedding day?
Here at Printed Memories, we create stunning star maps that are completely accurate to how the stars would have looked on that specific date. They make the perfect personalized gift for any star or space lover.