Follow this link to skip to the main content

Life Cycles of Stars (Grades 9-12) - Page 6


Hey, Low Mass Star....This is your life!

This model shows the discrete stages that a low mass star goes through over billions of years, from its beginnings as a gas cloud, to its death as a black dwarf.


* tape

* tissue paper and cotton batting

* string of indoor Christmas lights with white, red, orange, and yellow bulbs

* different-sized spherical light globes either clear or white (ranging from 1 to 5 inches in

diameter; these can be found in any store selling light fixtures)

* opaque black ball (or you could paint a light globe)


1. Punch 6 holes in a piece of cardboard or cotton batting and insert one of the lights through each hole. You might need to tape them in place.

2. To show the birth of a star as a hot gas cloud, wrap the outside of a globe in cotton and place it over the first bulb of the string of lights.

3. For a newborn star, have an orange light inside a 3-inch globe.

4. For a steady star, have a yellow light inside a 2-inch globe.

5. For a red giant, have a red light inside a 5-inch globe.

6. For a planetary nebula, have a red light inside a 3-inch globe. Wrap crumpled tissue paper around the outside of the globe.

7. For a white dwarf, have a white light inside a 1-inch globe.

8. For a black dwarf, have a 1 inch black opaque globe. No lights should be used for the black dwarf.

The globes used for the various stages are not to scale. Do a simple calculation to see why...if a steady star is 1.4 million km in diameter (and represented by a 2-inch globe), how big would the red giant globe have to be on the same scale? You might need to refer back to the information in Section II to help you.

Back Index Next
Download a pdf version.


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

NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration