Kid Questions: Stars

by Deb on November 11, 2009

Lots of questions this week!

“What are stars made of?”

Stars are made out of a special type of air.  Air is a mixture of different things, some we breathe, some are good for plants.  Some of them are what stars are made of (mostly hydrogen and helium).  But there is a lot more than we have in air and they are much, much bigger than Earth is.

“How does the light come off the stars?”

The air in the stars is extremely, amazingly hot.  At the surface it is around 5,600 degrees C, in the middle it is 15,000,000 degrees C.  It is so hot that the gases are burning, which is what makes the heat and light.  The sun is a star, it’s very close to us so we can feel the heat and get lots of light from it.  Other stars are very far away, so we can’t feel the heat from them but they are so hot and so bright we can still see the light.

sun

“Are they really shaped like a star (shape)?”

No, they are round like a ball, you can see this with the sun.  Stars seem to have points and twinkle because of what happens to the light when it comes through our atmosphere or air.   All the gases in the atmosphere are moving around.  Sometimes there are clouds, or they get hot, or cold, or it’s windy.  So when the star light gets to earth and goes through the atmosphere we can see a bit of that movement and it makes the stars look like they’re twinkling.

“Why are they light in the sky but the bits of them that fall to earth don’t shine?”

What we call a falling star isn’t really anything to do with stars.  Out in space there are big rocks called asteroids.  Sometimes one of them comes very close to earth and it is caught.  When it is falling through the atmosphere it gets very hot because it is moving so fast.  This means we can see it and we call it a shooting star or falling star.

meteors_small

You can see in this picture how it is moving, and the rock at the end that is burning.

Sometimes they are little and they all burn while they are in the atmosphere, but sometimes they are big and some of them reach the ground.  When this happens it is moving so fast it makes a huge explosion and blows up a big hole in the ground called a crater.

Crater

There are some times of the year that there are lots of shooting stars (that are really rocks).  The next one is coming up in about a week, it is called the Leonid meteor shower and you should be able to see lots of shooting stars on the 17th and 18th of November.

Happy stargazing!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fiona November 11, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Deb – WOW! Thank you so much for these amazing answers! My little boy is in bed now but he will absolutely love this tomorrow! Thank you so much for your time & science knowledge!

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Deb November 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm

No problems! I’m having a ball answering the questions, I hope they are good answers for him 😀

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