Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
Earth and Space

The Life Cycle of Stars: The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram

Practical Activity for 11-14 PRACTICAL PHYISCS

How to illustrate the life cycle of stars using a HertzsprungRussell diagram, a large sheet, and some students.

Apparatus and Materials

  • Large white sheet
  • Felt pens to colour in the sheet
  • Facts cards about stars
  • Weights to hold down the sheet

Health & Safety and Technical Notes

Read our standard health & safety guidance


Teaching Notes

  • The life cycle of a star can be a fairly dry subject, as there is no easy way to simulate it on the Earth. This interactive exercise allows students to think carefully about where a star might be on a Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagram at different times of its life.
  • By using a large sheet to make a H-R diagram, it is possible to create an interactive exercise that students can get physically involved with.
  • Although the H-R diagram is quite an advanced idea for some students, it can be relatively easily explained as a diagram that shows the relationship between the temperature and luminosity (brightness) of a star. This allows for a number of activities to be carried out.
  • As students walk on the H-R diagram, they are demonstrating an understanding of how a starʼs properties change throughout its life cycle. The use of fact cards allows one student to call out a pair of values relating to a star, while another student (or a group of students) decides where they should stand on the digram to represent that part of a stars life.
  • The fact cards can either be in the right order so that students can clearly see how a starʼs life is mapped out, or they can be mixed up so that they first have to be sorted in to the right order.
  • Allowing students to produce the diagram that they will use for this activity, or for another group who will do the activity, will also help them understand what happens to a star during its life cycle.

Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
can be used to represent Stellar Evolution

Disable node explorer

Off
IOP DOMAINS Physics CPD programme

New videos on forces

Our first collection of videos gives teachers and coaches of physics a preview of the training we offer ahead of this term's live support sessions.

Find out more