When I first began learning about stars, I expected them to be violent and chaotic places. And to an extent, they certainly are.
Pressures are unbelievably high in their cores—high enough to smash protons together, and this is no small feat. And near their surfaces, magnetic field loops twist and tangle and a number of eruptions disrupt satellite function on Earth from time to time.
Beyond the obvious, though, stars are actually surprisingly…peaceful.
While stable, they only produce enough energy to sustain their own mass. Their way of maintaining homeostasis is beautiful in its simplicity.
But this can’t last forever. Eventually, stars exhaust their hydrogen fuel. Their cores begin to contract and their outer envelope expands to enormous proportions.
What’s next for a star—and why?
Have you ever seen something like this?
I’m going to venture a wild guess and say you haven’t, since scientists have only recently been able to take this kind of image. I learned about it in my biology class this semester, and the professor said that it was a landmark achievement.
You’re looking at an atom.
Yes, that’s right. You’re looking at a single, microscopic building block of matter.
Let me give you an idea of just how small this is. Millions of the smallest atom in the universe can fit lined across the diameter of a single pinhead.
But I’ll ask you another question. If I showed you an image like the one below, would you immediately think, “atom”? Continue reading