Question Sheet: The most popular stars


Before reading:

  1. What is a star? Name at least one.
  2. What is a star made from? (Hint: It helps explain why we can see stars.)
  3. What color is a star?

During reading:

  1. How old is the star closest to Earth?
  2. What size classes do stars generally fall into?
  3. Give several characteristics of a brown dwarf.
  4. What did Shiv Kumar try to call these objects in the 1960s?
  5. What “color” are brown dwarfs — and how do astronomers see them?
  6. Why can’t people see red dwarfs?
  7. How big is a white dwarf, and how many stars in our galaxy will become white


After reading:

  1. What does this story tell you about the life cycle of stars?
  2. Why do you think astronomers care so much about the age and evolution of


  3. To date, astronomers have identified more than 300 planets outside our solar

    system. Why is it so hard to find such planets and how have scientists begun

    doing so?


  1. Astronomers are planning to build new billion-dollar telescopes to see

    deeper into space. This will allow scientists to find fainter objects. The

    United States plans to pay at least one-third of the cost for one or two of

    these. What would the average family of four’s share be for one of these big

    telescopes? And in four paragraphs, explain why you believe that is — or is not

    — a good investment in science.

  2. Many people are fascinated by stars, but few study them. What kind of

    training does an astronomer have?

  3. Most astronomers are affiliated with universities or government centers —

    often in big cities. But most scientists actually observe stars and other

    celestial objects using telescopes located in largely uninhabited regions around

    the globe (such as atop mountains in Chile). Why?


    • Write a small poem about the different colored dwarf objects in the sky —

      and what distinguishes them.

    • Write a small essay explaining what you would want to discover or study if

      you were an astronomer — and why.

    • Describe the differences between a moon, planet, star, and galaxy — and

      their relationships to one another.

    • Ancient people used to look up at the night sky and imagine lines connecting

      certain stars. These lines would depict animals, objects or people. Take a map

      of some stars from the Internet and even if it has hundreds or thousands of

      points on it, mark five to eight of the brightest ones and invent your own

      constellation. Explain what character or thing these stars depict. Create your

      own fable about how this object or living thing got stuck in the sky. Also

      explain the significance of it being there (as part of your fable).