Lunar and Planetary Institute

Stellar Evolution

In Texas, teachers are expected to teach about the characteristics of stars. Stellar characteristics include a range of masses and sizes, temperatures, densities, and colors. These characteristics can be best understood in the context of how stars change over time: from protostars, to main-sequence stars of a variety of masses, to red giants and supergiants, then white dwarfs or neutron stars or black holes.

8.13 A The student is expected to describe characteristics of the universe such as stars and galaxies

The concepts involved with understanding the characteristics of stars and how they change through time greatly overlap other physical science concepts such as light and the electromagnetic spectrum, gravity, mass, nuclear fusion, etc.

Preliminary Concepts
Students need to understand the scale of how far away stars are before they can grasp how big stars are, and they need to understand what a plasma or ionized gas is before they can understand that stars are made of hydrogen and helium. Most data-driven activities on the characteristics of stars require the students to understand the properties of various wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Misconceptions and Educational Research

Activities about Stellar Evolution

Content Resources for the Pre-Service Educator

Potential Questions or Issues