Lynn Atchison Beech

A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity

The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on the planet. Some other stars are visible from Earth during the night when they are not obscured by atmospheric phenomena, appearing as a multitude of fixed luminous points because of their immense distance. Historically, the most prominent stars on the celestial sphere were grouped together into constellations and asterisms, and the brightest stars gained proper names. Extensive catalogues of stars have been assembled by astronomers, which provide standardized star designations.

For at least a portion of its life, a star shines due to thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in its core, releasing energy that traverses the star's interior and then radiates into outer space. Once a star's hydrogen is nearly exhausted, almost all naturally occurring elements heavier than helium are created, either via stellar nucleosynthesis during their lifetimes or by supernova nucleosynthesis when very massive stars explode. Near the end of its life, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter.