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The Question

(Submitted January 05, 1998)

In a text book I have come across yellow giants. Which stars pass through the yellow giant stage? I know of the red giants. Are there other 'giants' too? What exactly is a yellow giant?

The Answer

Yes, there are many types of giant stars, blue-white, white, yellow, orange, and red. Yellow giants are a phase of stars with masses heavier than the Sun, but it is phase that doesn't last very long, so there aren't many of them. If you look at a standard Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (which plots spectral class or color vs. Absolute magnitude. See http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/teachers/lifecycles/LC_main_p8.html) there are blue-white and white giant stars on the main sequence, and red giant stars near the end of life of many stars. As heavy stars move off the main sequence towards their red giant stage, they can move through a yellow giant phase.

Thanks for your question.

Eric Christian
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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