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The Nebula Theory

In the Beginning

The whole Solar System developed from a cloud of dust and gas called a nebula. Scientists believe that  all the stars in the Universe formed from a nebula that collects together through the force of gravity.

Astronomers believe that at the beginning of the Universe most of the matter that existed was in the form of hydrogen.

hydrogen atom

The hydrogen atom is the simplest atom that exists: it has one proton and one electron .

Element Factory

If most of the matter that existed was once hydrogen how did oxygen, nitrogen, iron, calcium and the rest of the elements develop? Good question!

Star Astronomers believe stars are the factories that made all of the other elements and that they use hydrogen as the fuel and the raw material to make them.

Hour Glass Stars may not be alive in the same way that we are, but they do have a beginning, a middle and an end to their existence. It just happens that a star’s lifetime is measured in many millions or billions of years. Since we tend to hang out around in life for less than a century, stars seem unchanging to us.

The Power of Attraction

In the beginning, the universe was a bunch of gas and dust spreading out in space. Over a very long time, this gas and dust started gathering together into clumps, or clouds through the force of gravity. In everything that exists, every atom has a gravitational pull that wants to attract something to it. As matter collects together, its gravitational pull gets stronger and it can reach out farther to grab more matter. That increases its gravitational pull even more.  This process continues until there is nothing more to grab.

A Star is Born

Eagle Nebula This image from the Hubble Telescope is of the Eagle Nebula. The large pillars are called "elephant trunks." They are light-years in length and are so dense that the gas in them contracts gravitationally and forms stars!
(Click on the image for a closer look.)
Image Credit: J. Hester, P. Scowen (ASU), HST, NASA

Supernova 1987a

Supernova In February 1987, light reached Earth from a star more than 170 thousand  light years from Earth. The light was from a star that exploded in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. Named Supernova 1987a, it is the closest supernova since the invention of the telescope. The exlposion of the star shot huge amouts of gas, light, and neutrinos out into space.
(Click on the image for a closer look.)
Image Credit: C. S. J. Pun (GSFC) & R. Kirshner (CfA), WFPC2, HST, NASA

Get the picture?

This gravity feeding frenzy will continue until there is no more matter nearby to pull in.

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