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Unit: Stars, black holes and galaxies

Stars begin when material drifting in space condenses due to gravity to be dense enough for fusion to occur. Depending on the volume and make-up of this material, the star could then develop into very different things--from supernovae, to neutron stars, to black holes. This tutorial explores the life of stars and will have you appreciating the grand weirdness of our reality.
Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe. The gamma rays from them could sterilize a solar system (i.e. obliterate life). What do we think these objects are? Why don't we see any close by (which we should be thankful for)? Could they tell us what our own galaxy may have been like 1 billion or so years ago?
We've talked a lot about distances to stars, but how do we know? Stellar parallax--which looks at how much a star shifts in the sky when Earth is at various points in its orbit--is the oldest technique we have for measuring how far stars are. It is great for "nearby" stars even with precise instruments (i.e, in our part of our galaxy). To measure distance further, we have to start thinking about Cepheid variables (other tutorial).
Stellar parallax can be used for "nearby" stars, but what if we want to measure further out? Well this tutorial will expose you to a class of stars that helps us do this. Cepheids are large, bright, variable stars that are visible in other galaxies. We know how bright they should be and can gauge how far they are by how bright they look to us.

About this unit

Our universe is defined by stars. This topic explores how they came to be and where they end up. This includes a discussion of black holes and galaxies.