The life cycle of a star

Image by NASA: The life cycle of a low mass star (left oval) and a high mass star (right oval).

For the last few weeks I have been following the scientific goals of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The third main goal of JWST is to study the life-cycle of a star. According to NASA’s JWST website, “Webb will be able to see right through and into massive clouds of dust that are opaque to visible-light observatories like Hubble, where stars and planetary systems are being born.”

This is, of course, making a major assumption that the Universe formed over a long period of time and is still forming today. There is an expectation that we will be observing the history of star development as views of younger stars will be farther away from us and older stars will be nearer.

JWST will use spectroscopy to calculate precise amounts of elements within stars. Spectroscopy is a well formed scientific theory of using reflected light to determine the elementary composition of burning objects; every element produces a different color of light when burned. These theories can be used to calculate how long a star will burn based on the fuel available and how a particular star will change over time. While these theories have wide spread laboratory proof, their application to star formation has a number of unproven assumptions.

The first of these assumptions, and the only one I plan to talk about, is that clouds of gas and dust collapse down to dense cores and form stars. Astronomy researchers still do not know the details of this process, nor can they explain why most stars seem to have formed in groups. There is also very little information on how the dust clouds not only collapse into stars, but planetary systems around the stars. B.W. Carroll and D.A. Ostlie, in “An Introduction to modern Astrophysics,” admits, “One area where the picture is far from complete is in the earliest stage of evolution, the formation of pre-nuclear-burning objects known as protostars from interstellar molecular clouds.”

The main problem with proving such a theory is a shared problem with the study of evolution; the process cannot be repeated in a laboratory, nor has it even been observed. Of course it is impossible to observe or reproduce a process that is said to have taken millions of years. So, you may ask, what do we have to support this theory? We have a collection of gas cloud images with different densities and temperatures. The scientific community tells us that these images are at different stages of the stellar formation process, but could they actually be a variety of created cosmic objects?

Biblical history tells us that it is not necessary for stars to form via observed physical processes; the big bang time-line demands that they have formed naturally following these observed physical laws. Their estimated time-line of 13.8 billion years is longer than the calculated life-cycle of most stars. This puts a major flaw in the theory because this would mean most of the sextillion (1022) stars we see in the sky must have been created at a minimum rate of one star per day over the course of 13.8 billion years.

Because we are told that stars form in these giant molecular clouds, one of the main interests in astronomy is to use infrared telescopes like JWST to peer into these dust clouds and observe the internal workings of the clouds. They are hoping to observe Nucleosynthesis, which is the formation of elemental nuclei forged by the nuclear furnaces of dying stars in the ancient universe. It is the theory that all elements in the universe were formed by the nuclear reactions within stars fusing the light elements (hydrogen, deuterium, and helium) to form all the heavier elements. Up until the first observation of a neutron star merger (GW170817) in 2017, it was thought that the heaviest elements were produced by Supernovae. However when GW170817 gave light decay curves consistent with the production of heavy radioactive elements, the nucleosynthesis theory shifted from Supernovae element formation to neutron star merger. The only element observed was strontium, because the technology being used was not capable of observing the heavy elements which emit light in the infrared spectrum. It is hopeful that we will be able to observe another neutron star merger with JWST and identify spectral signatures of heavier elements, proving the theory.

The leading theory of planet formation is an extension of the star formation theories. Basically it is believed that rings of dust remain around the newly formed stars and slowly merge, through condensation, to form giant planets; over time all the gas in the disc is either absorbed or dissipates, leaving only the planet in orbit around the newly formed star. NASA’s JWST website admits, “The continual discovery of new and unusual planetary systems has made scientists rethink their ideas and theories about how planets are formed.”

In my opinion the only viable theory is that of the creation scientist, that the stars were created supernaturally, not through known physical laws, and we will never be able to observe the formation of new planets and stars except through simulation, and these simulations will be based upon our own creation.

We may never know how the universe was created, but the more we observe it, the less likely it becomes that it was naturally formed. Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.

Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to shamilton@techshepherd.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org.

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