Birth of the Stars

Week 8:  We burned paper to see the life cycle of a star, baked zucchini bread to show how elements are formed and watched the video Hubble's Amazing Universe.

In orbit since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured incredible images of the universe. Stars forming in nebula, the remains of a supernova explosion 1000 years after the fact, thousands of galaxies and a comet crashing into the planet Jupiter have all been seen in Hubble's images.

National Geographic's video Hubble's Amazing Universe explains how the universe works including how stars are born through the use of breathtaking images.

Scientists believe that the universe began as an extremely dense ball of matter which could be held in the hand. As it expanded it cooled and began spinning. Hydrogen and helium were the first elements to be created. As they swirled, atoms began to stick together forming clouds which became stars.

Inside the stars, the heat and pressure increased causing elements lighter than iron to be created. It struck me how the process of element creation inside the stars is much like the process of cooking.

In the stars Helium and Hydrogen are the ingredients that go in,
heat and pressure are added,
elements lighter than iron are created.

In baking bread flour, milk, eggs, salt, baking powder and zucchini are the ingredients that go in,
heat is added,
bread is created.

In both cases the new product looks much different than the initial ingredients.

Since a spiral is a common shape of galaxies, I asked the kids if they could find any spirals while we made zucchini bread. We found one.

Here's the spiral we found!

Next, we burned a ball of newspaper and compared it with the life cycle of a star.

Stars are balls of gas that shine for billions of years. Eventually they grow into huge stars called red giants. Then they follow one of two life paths. In one path the grow into super giants and then explode into supernovas. On the other path their outer layers escape into space and they become planetary nebula, then they cool down into white dwarfs and later become cold black globes.

Since we were pretty sure our paper wasn't going to explode, we concentrated on the second life cycle.

The kids waded up several balls of newspaper in preparation for this activity, but it turned out that one was enough.

Next we lighted our star on fire and watched the life cycle.

 Average Star
 Still an average star
 Red Giant
 Still a red giant
 Outer layers peel away - planetary nebula
 Still a planetary nebula
 Becoming a white dwarf
 White Dwarf
Eventually the ashes were blown away in the wind just like a star floats away into space dust.

To see more of our astronomy lessons please visit our Science Page.

This post is linked to: 
Joy Focused Learning
True Aim Education 


  1. I'm really enjoying this series of posts. I can't remember if I mentioned the Uncle Albert story books but I'm sure your kids would love them as much as mine. We just finished the first two (on special and general relativity) and started the last (quantum physics). The first is The Time and Space of Uncle Albert.

    1. The Uncle Albert series looks great. Thank you for the recommendation.

  2. So are you reading my mind because it's like you're doing our science about 6 months ahead of us. Our next science is astronomy.

    1. Awesome! I hope you find something you can use.

  3. Such a fun way to learn astronomy with some practical learning! Thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.


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