Tip Center Category: Star Facts

How Old is the Star Light You See in Your Telescope?

When you buy a star, understand that this star has many amazing features, and learning more about them will enhance your star gazing experience. Astronomy is a seemingly endless source of new learning.

Did you know the light you see from the stars in your stargazing experience isn’t generated in the here and now? What you see from the stars in the sky is actually light which has traveled distances measured in the trillions of miles—it’s quite old by the time it becomes visible to telescopes or the naked eye.

One of the most distant objects humans can observe is 13 billion light years away from the Earth; it’s the light known as a gamma ray burst, which came from a star explosion thought to have happened 600 million years ago.

Unfortunately, the average telescope won’t be able to see that particular event, but the notion that such ancient observations are available somewhere is tantalizing to many new astronomers. What discoveries will you make when you're searching for the star listed on your star certificate?

Stargazing Weather Check

When planning a star gazing night to find the celestial body listed on your star certificate and its neighbors, the first thing you’ll want to ensure is that the conditions are ideal. Start by looking at the weather predictions for the week—are there clear skies forecasted for the next few days? Of course, weather predictions can be wrong, but there’s an old trick to tell if your night is going to be good for viewing different types of stars; check out the sky during the day. What does the afternoon sky look like?

As a general guide, if the afternoon skies are a deep blue, the night sky should be clean and dark—the deeper the afternoon blue, the better your night sky should look through the binoculars or telescope. If you do get unexpected rain or cloud cover blown in by evening winds, check the forecast for the following day and perform the “afternoon blue” check again.

Buying Your Own Star

If you want to buy your own star, there are a few star facts you should understand first. Buying a star is a symbolic gesture that makes an excellent gift. In truth, nobody actually “owns” a star. However, when you name your own star, you join a community of people all fascinated by those lights in the sky.

When you buy a star through Name a Star Live, you are asked to assign a name to it (with a 25-character limit) plus list the occasion; be it a birthday, holiday, or an occasion for honoring a relative or even an employee.

Your star will be located in or near a known constellation, which makes consulting a star map to find it much easier. Depending on the time of year you are studying the stars, the constellation might be easy to spot. However, outside the viewing season for a particular constellation, you may have difficulty finding it.

The good news is there are plenty of constellation guides to help you out. To make locating your constellation a snap, consider purchasing a Name a Star Live gift set that contains the Virtual Planetarium™ DVD. Also, pick up a copy of the Planisphere Constellation Finder, which is a handy guide to the constellations you can stash in a pocket or backpack.

Different Types of Stars

When you buy a star and start learning a bit about astronomy, you’ll discover a fascinating range of facts about star life cycles, including information on their age and behavior.

Supergiants are the largest and brightest stars around. They consume hydrogen at a rapid rate and often detonate as supernovae. Supergiants are so large, that if our Sun were a supergiant, it would extend close to Uranus.

Our own sun is a yellow star. In terms of the star lifecycle, yellow stars live a relatively short time. It’s estimated our sun will live to be 10 billion years old. The sun is about halfway through its lifecycle, which means it might have only 5 billion years of life left. Once it burns out and begins to cool, it will become a white dwarf.

White dwarfs are hot, dense and small, the cooling remains of stars in their last stages of life.

Black dwarfs are essentially cooled white dwarfs. All of the heat has been radiated into space. Scientists believe that our universe is so young, there are still no black dwarfs present.

How is the Sun Different From Other Stars?

Is our sun different from the rest of the stars in the sky? Our sun is known to scientists as a yellow dwarf; it’s also classified as a “main sequence star” with a surface temperature of almost six thousand degrees Kelvin. The sun’s energy comes from the nuclear fusion process as it converts hydrogen to helium.

The sun is a typical yellow dwarf; what makes it so different from all the other objects we can observe in the sky is essentially proximity. The sun is close enough to the Earth for us to view it as it truly is. We see a massive, burning orb in the sky rather than a pinpoint of light. The closer you get to any star, the more it will generally resemble our sun except in color and size.

White dwarf stars are smaller and fainter because they are near the end of their life cycle. Red giants are very old and their behavior is quite different—they expand in size and can explode into nebulae or go supernova.

When you buy a star, do a bit of research on the star type. It’s fascinating to learn about the lifecycle of these celestial objects.

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