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Early in the formation of the universe, stars coalesced out of clouds of hydrogen and helium and clumped together by gravitational attraction into galaxies. When heated to a sufficiently high temperature by gravitational attraction, stars begin nuclear reactions, which convert matter to energy and fuse the lighter elements into heavier ones. These and other fusion processes in stars have led to the formation of all the other elements. (NAEP 2009). All of the elements, except for hydrogen and helium, originated from the nuclear fusion reactions of stars (College Board Standards for College Success, 2009).
Stars are classified by their color, size, luminosity and mass. A Hertzprung-Russell diagram must be used to estimate the sizes of stars and predict how stars will evolve. Most stars fall on the main sequence of the H-R diagram, a diagonal band running from the bright hot stars on the upper left to the dim cool stars on the lower right.
A star’s mass determines the star’s place on the main sequence and how long it will stay there. Patterns of stellar evolution are based on the mass of the star. Stars begin to collapse as the core energy dissipates. Nuclear reactions outside the core cause expansion of the star, eventually leading to the collapse of the star.