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Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.

ExploraTour: A Peek into the Lives of the Stars


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Prof. Robert Walker, McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Where are Stars Born?

New stars are formed in clouds of gas and dust that are in outer space between the stars.

If you're picturing a dense fog cloud, think again. Typically in a dust cloud, you would have to search long and hard to find a single dust grain in a space the length of a football field on each side.

And then the dust grain is very small. About 4000 dust grains could fit across a sucker stick.

But dust clouds in space are incredibly large. A typical cloud contains about 8 million trillion trillion trillion trillion tiny dust particles.

The picture on the left shows a dust particle from outer space, which researchers have named Florianus. The dust particle is so small we could not see it with only our eyes. It was collected by a high-flying airplane in our own atmosphere.

Dust grains like this become part of new stars.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA