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By convention, astronomers grouped stars into constellations and used them to track the motions of the planets and the inferred position of the Sun.
A star with mass greater than 0.4 times the Sun's will expand to become a red giant when the hydrogen fuel in its core is exhausted.Other characteristics of a star, including diameter and temperature, change over its life, while the star's environment affects its rotation and movement.A plot of the temperature of many stars against their luminosities produces a plot known as a Hertzsprung–Russell diagram (H–R diagram).William Herschel was the first astronomer to attempt to determine the distribution of stars in the sky.During the 1780s he established a series of gauges in 600 directions and counted the stars observed along each line of sight.Plotting a particular star on that diagram allows the age and evolutionary state of that star to be determined.
A star's life begins with the gravitational collapse of a gaseous nebula of material composed primarily of hydrogen, along with helium and trace amounts of heavier elements.
In 1584 Giordano Bruno suggested that the stars were like the Sun, and may have other planets, possibly even Earth-like, in orbit around them, By the following century, the idea of the stars being the same as the Sun was reaching a consensus among astronomers.
To explain why these stars exerted no net gravitational pull on the Solar System, Isaac Newton suggested that the stars were equally distributed in every direction, an idea prompted by the theologian Richard Bentley.
Almost all naturally occurring elements heavier than helium are created by stellar nucleosynthesis during the star's lifetime, and for some stars by supernova nucleosynthesis when it explodes.
Near the end of its life, a star can also contain degenerate matter.
The Italian astronomer Geminiano Montanari recorded observing variations in luminosity of the star Algol in 1667.