What do you call a giant ball full of the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen that is held together by gravity?

Every night, shining down from the sky above us is a sea of lights.  Stars.  It is absurd that every twenty-four hours, every single person on earth has had a field of these celestial wonders pass overhead, yet so few stop to marvel at their magnificence.

The word itself, "Star", is believed by etymologists to originate over 7000 years ago in Proto-Indo-European as "H₂stḗr", survivng largely unchanged.  From the dawn of our existence, we have gazed towards the heavens in wonder; And it was not until the last century did we finally begin to truly understand what stars are.

Born from a dramatic collision between galaxies or a massive stellar explosion, the Star forms in a collapsing mass of dense gas and dust.  Over 90% of a Star's lifespan is spent in a high-temperature, high-pressure state of nuclear fusion.  The gravity generated by a Star is constantly pulling in on it, trying to collapse it; Simultaneously the tremendous amount of force generated by the fusion reaction at the core holds the stellar-membrane in place.  It is this push-pull effect that eventually leads to the death of a star.  A star will either shrink down to a White Dwarf, burning away at its fuel for some 10 Trillion years, or blow-up into a huge Red Giant and eventually Supernovae!

Most Stars fall between one-billion, to ten-billion years old.  Now, cosmic proportioned amounts may be expected with cosmic subjects, but take a second to fathom how long that is.  5000 years go, there were no Pyramids.  Some of the earliest records of writing only dates back to 6600 BCE, or about 8600 years ago.  Most Stars are between 1,000,000,000 years and 10,000,000,000 years old.  All our history is like a speck of dust in the lifespan of a Star.

The biggest stars get as hot as 50,000 Kelvin, and our Sun is about 5777 Kelvin.  To again reference how incredibly hot that is, let us convert to more customary units to put these unreal balls of light into perspective.  Our Sun, a moderately small star, is about 5777 Kelvin.  That's also 6000°C or 11000°F.  100°F is a hot day in South Texas, and 140°F weather fries us like ants under a magnifying glass.  11000°F?

The light from a single Star will travel trillions of miles before it gets to our eyes.  The Star could have died eons before the dawn of civilization, yet we are still bathed in its posthumous glow.  Scientists estimate that there are between 200-400 billion Stars in our galaxy alone, 500 billion galaxies in the universe, and therefore some 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Stars in all (that's two-hundred sextillion for those who were counting).

So, the next time you walk outside at night, take a few minutes to look up, and appreciate the incredible marvels that are above your head every day.

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