(c) Stellar evolution

8.05 describe the differences in the orbits of comets, moons and planets

Comets have highly elliptical orbits, with the Sun at one focus. When they come in close to the Sun they speed up, due to the larger gravitational force on them. They also develop bright tails that point away from the centre of the Sun. These are caused by tiny ice crystals that melt and break off from the comet and reflect the bright light of the Sun.

Moons have circular orbits and planets orbit in slightly squashed circles, called ellipses. 

8.08 know that a star’s colour is related to its surface temperature

Stars are classified into 7 groups according to their colours (which is due to their surface temperature); O,B,A,F,G,K,M

O are hottest (> 33 000 K and blue), M are coolest (2000 – 3700K and red)

8.09 describe the evolution of stars of similar mass to the Sun through the following stages: nebula, star (main sequence) , red giant, white dwarf

• nebula

Stars form from large clouds of dust and gas particles (nebulae) that are drawn together by gravitational forces over millions of years. As the particles get closer the temperature and pressure becomes so large that nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei to helium nuclei occurs.  This releases enormous amounts of energy in the form of heat and light.


• star (main sequence)

Fusion produces forces that make the star expand outwards, but gravitational force is always pulling the particles within the star inwards. When these two opposing forces become balanced a star is stable and called a main sequence star. It should stay this way for millions of years, at a constant size and temperature.


• red giant

Eventually hydrogen fusion stops as the star runs out of fuel. Gravitational force is now bigger than the outward fusion force which causes the star to collapse inwards and compress. This causes it to heat up to even higher temperatures so that fusion of helium nuclei begins. The increased power output causes the star to expand greatly. The surface area is so large that it is cooler than before, so its colour changes to red and the star is called a red giant.


• white dwarf

Eventually fusion stops when the star runs out of helium nuclei and the gravitational force causes the star to collapse inwards and compress again. This heats it up so it changes colour to emit white light. The star is squashed so greatly by the gravitational force to become a small and very dense white dwarf. (They are so dense that a teaspoon full would weigh more than a cruise liner). A white dwarf eventually cools down and change colour as it does so, eventually becoming black.

8.10 describe the evolution of stars with a mass larger than the Sun

After the stable period, a giant star expands into red supergiant. (It produces all the elements up to iron during nuclear fusion). When it finally runs out of nuclei to fuse it collapses due to the gravitational force, and then explodes – an exploding star is called a supernova.


The explosion throws dust and gas back into space and so another nebula is formed. A dense core remains – called a neutron star, because it is made entirely from neutrons. If its mass is large enough it can compress further to become a black hole. (Their gravity is so strong that not even light can escape!)

8.11 understand how the brightness of a star at a standard distance can be represented using absolute magnitude

Apparent magnitude is simply how bright a star appears in the night sky.


But, the brightness of a star depends on its distance from Earth and its luminosity – how much power it produces. (A dim star could just be very far away, or very close but not very luminous).


Absolute magnitude enables us to compare the brightness of stars because it is a measure of how bright they would appear if they were all the same distance from the Earth. – 32.6 light years.

8.12 draw the main components of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram (HR diagram)

This diagram shows the relationship between a star’s luminosity (its brightness or power output) and its surface temperature. A star moves to different positions in the diagram during its life, as its internal structure and temperature change.


Important Note: the temperature scale is reversed. It is hotter towards the origin of the x axis.

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Section 1: Principles of chemistry

      a) States of matter

      b) Atoms

      c) Atomic structure

     d) Relative formula masses and molar volumes of gases

     e) Chemical formulae and chemical equations

     f) Ionic compounds

     g) Covalent substances

     h) Metallic crystals

     i) Electrolysis

 Section 2: Chemistry of the elements

     a) The Periodic Table

     b) Group 1 elements: lithium, sodium and potassium

     c) Group 7 elements: chlorine, bromine and iodine

     d) Oxygen and oxides

     e) Hydrogen and water

     f) Reactivity series

     g) Tests for ions and gases

Section 3: Organic chemistry

     a) Introduction

     b) Alkanes

     c) Alkenes

     d) Ethanol

Section 4: Physical chemistry

     a) Acids, alkalis and salts

     b) Energetics

     c) Rates of reaction

     d) Equilibria

Section 5: Chemistry in industry

     a) Extraction and uses of metals

     b) Crude oil

     c) Synthetic polymers

     d) The industrial manufacture of chemicals

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