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Find out what makes stars what they are, and take a tour of some of the most extreme stars in space!

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Jessi: If you're like us here at the fort, you'll probably enjoy stargazing. The night sky is full of cool things to look at and I bet a lot of you have been looking up there and wondering about the same things that we do. We've gotten some really interesting questions from kids, like you, about what you see up there.

Eight year old Alice from New Zealand has been doing some sky watching and she recently emailed us to ask us, "What are start and how do they work?" Let me just say that's a stellar question.

If you look up at the night sky, all the stars that you see might look pretty similar, but don't let your eyes fool you. All of those stars have some important things in common but they're also all different.

They can be different colors like white, yellow, red, and blue. They can also be different sizes from about the size of a planet to something many many times bigger than the Sun. But before we meet some of the extreme stars, let's figure something out first.

What exactly is a star? Stars are just really huge balls of hot gas in space and deep in their centers, all stars are constantly generating an enormous amount of energy. This energy eventually travels out from the center of a start, where it's given off as heat and light. That's what give stars their glow.

So keeping in mind that all stars are giant balls of gas that come in all kinds of sizes and colors, wanna meet some for yourself?

Let's start with the most important star, at least for us here on Earth, the Sun. That's right, the Sun is a star and it's a specific kind of start called a yellow dwarf. While we think of our sun as being super huge and incredibly hot, which it definitely is compared to Earth, it's actually pretty average compared to other stars, meaning it's right in the middle, between the biggest and the smallest and the hottest and the coolest stars. 

So there are some stars that are much bigger than the Sun and way hotter. If you want to find one, just look for the constellation known as Orion. It's one of the easiest constellations to spot. If you look down to the right, to the star where Orion's knee is supposed to be, you'll find Rigel. 

Rigel is a good example of a kind of star called a blue supergiant. As you can guess from it's name, it's blue instead of yellow and it's enormous. Rigel is more than twice as hot as the Sun and it's also more than seventy times bigger. 

If you could put the Sun right next to Rigel, our big old sun would look like a tiny speck. In addition to all of the huge hot stars in the sky, there are plenty of smaller cooler ones too.

The smallest and coolest stars in space tend to glow with a dim red color and the Sun is more than twice as hot as most of them. A good example of this kind of star is right next door- at least in terms of space.

Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to our Sun and it's a kind called a red dwarf. It's in the constellation Centaurus in the southern sky, but even though it's closer to the Sun than any other star, it's so small that you can't even see it from Earth without a telescope. How small is it?

Well, you could fit seven Proxima Centauri inside the Sun from end to end. So while you're star gazing on the next clear night, keep in mind that the stars might look pretty much the same, but now you know they come in different colors and sizes, a lot like we do.

Thanks to Alice for asking such a great question and thanks to you for taking this trip with us to the stars. And remember if you have a question about anything you would like to learn more about, just let us know by getting help from a parent and leaving a comment below or emailing us at and we'll see you next time.