Look up at the night sky, and you’ll see a twinkling display of thousands of stars. There are billions more that we can’t see, but they’re there nevertheless. Some of those points of light are entire galaxies with billions of stars themselves. How did all of those dots get there? What causes stars to form with such ease that they become commonplace? Here’s the process of star formation.
1. They’re born from clouds of gas and dust.
Galaxies are filled with gas and dust, some of which is concentrated in specific areas. We call these stellar nurseries because they’re the birthplaces of stars. When a cloud of dust is sufficiently dense, gravity begins to pull it together and the material accumulates into what could become a star.
2. As mass builds, the material begins to collapse.
Once there’s enough mass, it begins to collapse and heat up to create the central core. More material is collected as it begins to collapse, so it grows in size and heats up further. At this point, it is known as a protostar.
3. The core begins to accumulate more gas and dust.
The star isn’t finished once it forms a core. It will continue to grab up more gas and dust, growing larger and larger in size. Some of this dust won’t become part of the star, however. As was the case in our solar system, some of that surrounding gas and dust becomes planets that orbit the central star.