Why don't stars just burn forever?

Introductory Science Page

Today, most scientists support that the universe had a beginning. The laws of nature support their views. What are these scientific laws that require a beginning?

To start, you are always observing that physical things decay. For example, cars rust, engines wear out, people grow old, food spoils, buildings fall down, and on and on. All around us, we see things that have both a beginning and an ending. An example would be to wind up a clock that is spring driven, then watching it tick down to a complete stop. Or, you could use a clock with a battery, but the battery will run out of energy. The fact that all things wear out or run down is most often called the 2nd law of thermodynamics. To keep the idea simple, I will call this the "law of decay" from hereon. This law states that all physical things are subject to decay and death.

Does the law of decay also affect stars?

In the distant future the sun will run out of fuel and stop supplying heat to the earth. And no matter how far science may advance, it will not be possible to stop the sun from dying or to get the sun to refuel itself. When the sun runs out of fuel, it will not be possible for humans, animals, or plants to live on earth.

Long after the sun has died, every star in the universe will run down and cease to give light. And it would be frigid cold. Can you imagine that the universe is going to grow old just like people? In the end, there will be no chance at all for the universe to raise itself from the dead. Because of this, it appears that humans, as physical beings, are doomed.

The ever-steady decay of the universe is a proven fact. In spite of the advance of science, humans will never be able to stop the universe from dying. A famous astronomer, Arthur Eddington, spoke of the certainty of the law of decay, "To deny the universal tendency for physical things to wear out is akin to denying reality."1.

Since all stars are in the process of burning fuel until they die, they must have started burning fuel in the ancient past. And the earth must have been created too. For an eternal universe does not agree with stars that burn up all their fuel as time passes by.

What can we learn about the universe from the law of decay?

On the earth, we know that everything has a beginning and an end. And this appears to be certain for the universe. Based on the law of decay, we can reason that the universe probably had a beginning.

Let's review the way that scientists found out the universe had a beginning. If you lived more than 400 years ago, you would have relied on your eyes to look at the moon, the planets, and the stars. You would not be able to see the more distant stars due to your limited vision. But in 1608, the first crude telescope was used to look at the moon and the stars. Since then, humans have built larger and more precise telescopes for viewing the stars. The most advanced telescope used now is the Hubble Space Telescope.

Due to using highly evolved telescopes, scientists have found clues that show the universe had a beginning. The next four pages will review these discoveries.


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Scientific Evidence for the Beginning

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Supporting Evidence from the Hubble Space Telescope Web Site

"Dying star and the ultimate fate of Earth"

"Sun-like stars, like humans, are born, live their lives, and die"

"Projected future of the Sun

  1. Arthur Eddington: A second quote supporting the ever progressing decay of the universe. "If your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics, I give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation."