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You might wonder why the next major step in nuclear fusion in stars involves three helium nuclei and not just two. Although it is a lot easier to get two helium nuclei to collide, the product of this collision is not stable and falls apart very quickly. It takes three helium nuclei coming together simultaneously to make a stable nuclear structure. Given that each helium nucleus has two positive protons and that such protons repel one another, you can begin to see the problem. It takes a temperature of 100 million K to slam three helium nuclei (six protons) together and make them stick. But when that happens, the star produces a carbon nucleus.

Stars in your little finger

Stop reading for a moment and look at your little finger. It’s full of carbon atoms because carbon is a fundamental chemical building block for life on Earth. Each of those carbon atoms was once inside a red giant star and was fused from helium nuclei in the triple-alpha process. All the carbon on Earth—in you, in the charcoal you use for barbecuing, and in the diamonds you might exchange with a loved one—was “cooked up” by previous generations of stars. How the carbon atoms (and other elements) made their way from inside some of those stars to become part of Earth is something we will discuss in the next chapter. For now, we want to emphasize that our description of stellar evolution is, in a very real sense, the story of our own cosmic “roots”—the history of how our own atoms originated among the stars. We are made of “star-stuff.”

Becoming a giant again

After the helium flash, the star, having survived the “energy crisis” that followed the end of the main-sequence stage and the exhaustion of the hydrogen fuel at its center, finds its balance again. As the star readjusts to the release of energy from the triple-alpha process in its core, its internal structure changes once more: its surface temperature increases and its overall luminosity decreases. The point that represents the star on the H–R diagram thus moves to a new position to the left of and somewhat below its place as a red giant ( [link] ). The star then continues to fuse the helium in its core for a while, returning to the kind of equilibrium between pressure and gravity that characterized the main-sequence stage. During this time, a newly formed carbon nucleus at the center of the star can sometimes be joined by another helium nucleus to produce a nucleus of oxygen—another building block of life.

Evolution of a star like the sun on an h–r diagram.

Evolution of a Star like the Sun on an H–R Diagram. In this plot the vertical axis is labeled “Luminosity (LSun),” and goes from 1.0 near the bottom to 10,000 near the top. The horizontal axis is labeled “Surface Temperature (K),” and goes from 9000 on the left to 3000 on the right. The main sequence is drawn as a diagonal red line beginning at L ~ 40 on the left down to T ~ 4000 at the bottom. The evolutionary path of the star is drawn as a black line. Beginning at L = 1 and T = 5500, the line moves upward away from the main sequence. This portion of the line is labeled “(a),” and is described in the caption. The line continues upward to L ~ 1000 and T ~ 3000 to point “(b),” labeled “Core helium flash.” From point b, the line (now dashed) moves downward to L ~ 100 and T ~ 5000 and labeled “(c),” and is described in the caption. From c, the line moves upward again. This portion of the line is labeled “(d),” and is described in the caption. The line culminates in a series of waves near L = 5000 and T ~ 3500 and is labeled “Helium shell flashes.”
Each stage in the star’s life is labeled. (a) The star evolves from the main sequence to be a red giant, decreasing in surface temperature and increasing in luminosity. (b) A helium flash occurs, leading to a readjustment of the star’s internal structure and to (c) a brief period of stability during which helium is fused to carbon and oxygen in the core (in the process the star becomes hotter and less luminous than it was as a red giant). (d) After the central helium is exhausted, the star becomes a giant again and moves to higher luminosity and lower temperature. By this time, however, the star has exhausted its inner resources and will soon begin to die. Where the evolutionary track becomes a dashed line, the changes are so rapid that they are difficult to model.

Questions & Answers

why the dark side of moon never face us? because moon dont rotate? why tho
Rishabh Reply
im in 8th standard and my school teach us nothing about astronomy but i want to be an astronomer so i study from youtube and apps like this but sometimes i get language problems
Rishabh
dark**
Glory
side**
Glory
The Moon does actually rotate. It takes 27 days for the Moon to make a full rotation. Because it takes it so long and the Earth is rotating around the sun, it seems like the Moon is pretty much standing still. That's called "synchronous rotation".
steveh259
I ment to say "The Earth is orbiting around the sun"
steveh259
Tidal Locked.....
Adam
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
thats cool
Gospel
ya gives you a look at how the moon orbits around us too and a perspective of how fast we are going. also gives the moon phases for the year! enjoy 😁
Collins
yes you are absolutely correct, it just like something like the milk of heaven
Subhasish
the far side of the moon is not the dark side of the moon.
Shawn
what phases of the moon occurs when spring tide?
Florence Reply
the moon has a 28 day cycle. you can download a moon calander or follow the pattern and make your own calendar. 1st full moon of the year 21/22nd Jan, its also a blood moon and a wolf moon. if this info helps at all. 😊
Collins
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
How to determine the velocity of light?
PARTHIB Reply
using this formula c=1/√absolute permeability×absolute permittivity of free space i.e. c=1/√8.854×10^-12×4π×10^-7~3×10^8ms^-1
Vidyashankar
what is mean by Big Bang
block Reply
What it means by Big Bang is how the world was made and came in to exist
Glory
The Big Bang Is The Best Explanation For What We See Around Us, And For The Origin Of The Universe, All Our Evidence Points To The Big Bang Theory..... And Was Proposed By A Belgian Priest.....
Adam
if the big bang theory is really true than i would like to know what exploded and where did it came from and where did the energy came from and where come from for the matter to expand into amd where did the organization come from and where did the information come from.........
Gospel
Some say that on the otherside of the singularity was a black hole. They say that at the other end of all black holes is another universe. Hence the multiverse. It's all theoretical at this point but less than a 100 years ago people believed that there was only 1 galaxy in the universe. So why
Rafael
should there be only 1 universe?
Rafael
universe.
Rafael
is astronomy a hard subject to learn because i want to be an astronomer
FNAF Reply
No it not it just takes time and effort to learn
Glory
if your already interested/observing, your already an astronomer ! The more you look and read the more you'll learn.
Collins
I want to become a scientist but my knowledge is very low. How I can improve my knowledge?
Wwe
any form of science courses, there's free crash course channel on you tube. I've learned alot from this channel. covers most topics, science: biology chemistry physics, astronomy, ranges to anatomy, history and many many more. it's a never ending subject!
Collins
suggest a channel as a example
Wwe
CrashCourse is the name of the channel and there is a picture of an apple. look through their play lists. They will have other related channels they follow also.
Collins
thank you so much
Wwe
your very welcome
Collins
Why are they so far away that their light takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us on earth?
LadyCatTM Reply
what is comets , astroids ,
Sumit Reply
comets are broken pieces of dust frozen debris Asteroids are big soiled pieces of Ice that burst into flames when it in to earth's atmosphere
Glory
hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
Ken
very*
Ken
nice to meet u ken
yamini
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
Ken
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
Ken
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
yamini
than you can go free of cost
Arush
Yes, That's right!
Ken
how
yamini
Oh! Free of cost?
Ken
hello yamini nice to meet you
Burak
wow from NASA ur so lucky
FNAF
hello yamini nice to meet you
block
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
Ariana
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
Julius
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
guys listen we cannot ever find aliens because our technology is not that great.we don't know whether they exist or no because our universe is very large . Just for an example;even if we spot out aliens we cannot reach there because lot of time must have been passed and before us reaching there
Samuel
what if their species or existence might get vanished our have been extinct!! getting my point
Samuel
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
Practice Key Terms 3

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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