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Stars are an important topic of astronomical research. Stars are balls of gas that shine or used to shine because of nuclear fusion in their cores. The most familiar star is the Sun. The nuclear fusion in stars produces a force that pushes the material in a star outward. However, the gravitational attraction of the star’s material for itself pulls the material inward. A star can remain stable as long as the outward pressure and gravitational force balance. The properties of a star depend on its mass, its temperature, and its stage in evolution.

Astronomers study stars by measuring their brightness or, with more difficulty, their distances from Earth. They measure the “color” of a star—the differences in the star’s brightness from one part of the spectrum to another—to determine its temperature. They also study the spectrum of a star’s light to determine not only the temperature, but also the chemical makeup of the star’s outer layers.


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