Student Research Pages - Stars
Stars are really exploding balls of gases, which blow up and create light. Our very own sun is the star of our solar system! It's also the star that lives closest to us. It's only 93 million miles away, or 93,000,000. How long do you think it would take you to walk to there? NOT!
How long do you think it would take you to walk to the next closest star, Proxima Centauri – a mere 24,000,000,000,000 miles away – ? Yiker dikers! How do you even say that number?! (24 trillion, that's how!) And that's a CLOSE star!! Can you imagine how many zeros a faraway star might have?
Because of all those zeros, astronomers use "light-years" to measure distances in outer space.
But wait!!! Light-years aren't really years. Here's how that unit of measurement works:
Light travels at 186,000 miles per second
1 Light Second = 186,000 miles
Then through a bunch of complicated math, it turns out that...
1 Light-year = 5,865,696,000,000 miles
The closest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 4.2 light-years from Earth.
Our Milky Way Galaxy gives birth to about one new star per year. That’s a pretty slow birthrate when you figure that the Milky Way has over 200 billion stars in it! Whoa...it took a loooooong time for all those stars to be born, didn't it?
A new star will come to life in a cloud of dust and gas that usually spans
at least 8 light-years long. Remember that one light-year measures 5,865,696,000,000 miles? Wow! It sure takes a lot of room for one star to be born!