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Secret Lives of Stars

Not all stars are created equal. Some are massive. Others are tiny; almost insignificant. The specific characteristics of a star will determine what type of life it will lead, how long it will live and even how it will die. For instance, massive stars have short lifetimes, while the smallest have amazingly long lives. Live fast; die young is the rule for the cosmos.

Sir Patrick Stewart of TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men films, guides your journey into the Secret Lives of the Stars.

Our own Sun will use up its fuel over eight to ten billion years. Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, with twice the Sun's mass and 26 times brighter, will last only hundreds of millions of years. Probably the largest well-known star is Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the shoulder of Orion. If placed in the center of the solar system, this star would engulf all the planets as far out as Jupiter. It's a star near the end of its life - a stellar time bomb - a future supernova.

But this is not the future for our sun. All over the heavens we can see the remnants of sunlike stars called planetary nebulas. Gases that once formed the star's atmosphere have made these spectacular formations. Deep inside are the scorched remnants of planets and a cosmic ash ball that was once the Sun. The life of our star will end with the creation of a magnificent stellar tomb, a fitting monument to the star that gives us life.

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