‘Life & Death Among The Stars’

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


To understand pulsars we need to understand stars. Pulsars emerge from the ashes of stars that have perished in spectacular explosions called supernovae and it is with these titanic events that this chapter will close. But before we go there, it is important to understand at least the basics of what makes stars shine, where they get their energy from, why they last so long and why they don’t last forever. Also fundamental to our story is why it is that not all stars produce pulsars: why it is that only the most massive stars produce them, and only in death. Our Sun is a hundred times the diameter of Earth, a gargantuan sphere of plasma that has and will produce enormous amounts of energy for billions of years. Despite the Sun’s immense dimensions, it is considered a dwarf among stars. The Sun will never produce a pulsar: it is simply too small. To produce a pulsar calls for a massive star many times larger than the Sun.


Heavy Element Massive Star Main Sequence Hydrogen Nucleus Cool Star 
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  1. 1.
    ‘Cool’ is a relative term here. The temperatures of the coolest stars are still measured in thousands of degrees.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    K is shorthand for Kelvin, the equivalent of degrees Celsius measured from absolute zero.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Possibly Earth as well, but in terms of human heritage it is a moot point: either way the entire surface of our blue green world will have been melted beyond recognition.Google Scholar

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© Praxis Publishing Ltd. 2008

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