StarChild Question of the Month for January 2002


Do stars last forever?

shuttle divider


No. Stars are born, live, and die. This process is called the "life cycle of a star". Most of the time a star shines, it is in a stage of its life cycle called the main sequence. How long it stays in the main sequence phase depends on how much mass the star has. Very big stars have a lot of mass to use as nuclear fuel to make it glow. However, they use that fuel at a very big rate. So, even though they are big, they live the shortest lives. You can see the typical main sequence lifetimes of stars of various masses in the table below.

Mass of the Star Compared to our Sun

Typical Lifetime in Years









What happens to a star when it runs out of nuclear fuel also depends on how much mass it started out with. You can read more about this in the StarChild section on Stars.

shuttle divider

The StarChild site is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC.

StarChild Authors: The StarChild Team
StarChild Graphics & Music: Acknowledgments
StarChild Project Leader: Dr. Laura A. Whitlock
Responsible NASA Official: Phil Newman

DVD Table of Contents
Educator's Index