Evolution Of Stars Essay Contest

Four Pittsylvania County high school students have won the annual Congressional Essay Contest, sponsored by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. A total of 55 winners were chosen from across the country.

Sam Hedrick and Kay Lightfoot of Chatham High and Molly Hughes and Lauren Jackson of Tunstall High won the right to represent Virginia at a weeklong session June 23-29 of the Washington Workshops Congressional Seminar in Washington, D.C.

Two second place winners and an honorable mention were also chosen from the two schools. Ethan Stewart from Chatham High and Alexis Toufas from Tunstall High received second place, and Kaitlyn Brinkley of Tunstall High received an honorable mention.

“The Southern Virginia Committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America is pleased to have all four winners from Pittsylvania County,” said representative Alice Coles. “One of the core values of the Colonial Dames is educating the public about our history, especially the young people.

This is third consecutive year that the Southern Virginia Committee has had winners,” said representative Elizabeth Whitehead. “It is a great honor for us. It fills us with pride to have winners from Pittsylvania County.”

The winning essays came from the classes of Chatham High history teacher Henry Walker and Tunstall High English teacher Patrick Touart.

This year’s topic was “Why did the authors of the United States Constitution give Presidents the power to issue Executive Orders? How did Congress and the Judicial Branch limit these orders?”

On Monday, an awards program was held at each of the high schools.

Mary Catherine Plaster, president of Pittsylvania Historical Society, told students that the Pittsylvania Historical Society meets on the third Monday of each month. Membership for students is only $5 per year and includes four packets of local history, which are published quarterly.

Southern Virginia Committee member Dr. Jane Wiseman, a retired English professor from Averett University, spoke on the importance of clear writing and presented the awards.

The National Society of Colonial Dames of America annually sponsors the national essay contest for students in grade 10-12.

Winners get to travel to Washington in June to attend a congressional seminar.

While there, students have an opportunity to visit the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and executive agencies; meet their local representatives; and tour Capitol Hill.

They also participate in a model congress and visit historical highlights of the nation’s capital.

Stellar Evolution - The Birth, Life, and Death of a Star


The Milky Way Galaxy contains several hundred billion stars of all ages, sizes and masses. A typical star, such as the Sun, radiates small amounts of X-rays continuously and larger bursts of X-rays during a solar flare.

The Sun and other stars shine as a result of nuclear reactions deep in their interiors. These reactions change light elements into heavier ones and release energy in the process. The outflow of energy from the central regions of the star provides the pressure necessary to keep the star from collapsing under its own weight.

Pressure out=Gravity in
A star collapses when the fuel is used up and the energy flow from the core of the star stops. Nuclear reactions outside the core cause the dying star to expand outward in the "red giant" phase before it begins its inevitable collapse.

If the star is about the same mass as the Sun, it will turn into a white dwarf star. If it is somewhat more massive, it may undergo a supernova explosion and leave behind a neutron star. But if the collapsing core of the star is very great -- at least three times the mass of the Sun -- nothing can stop the collapse. The star implodes to form an infinite gravitational warp in space -- a black hole.
The Fate of a Star Depends on its Mass

The brightest X-ray sources in our galaxy are the remnants of massive stars that have undergone a catastrophic collapse -- neutron stars and black holes. Other powerful sources of X-rays are giant bubbles of hot gas produced by exploding stars. White dwarf stars and the hot, rarified outer layers, or coronas, of normal stars are less intense X-ray sources.

To summarize, this tableau illustrates the ongoing drama of stellar evolution, and how the rate of evolution and the ultimate fate of a star depends on its weight, or mass.

Table Illustrates the Ongoing Drama of Stellar Evolution
Stars are formed in giant clouds of dust and gas, and progress through their normal life as balls of gas heated by thermonuclear reactions in their cores. Depending on their mass, they reach the end of their evolution as a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole. The cycle begins anew as an expanding supershell from one or more supernovas trigger the formation of a new generation of stars. Brown dwarfs have a mass of only a few percent of that of the Sun and cannot sustain nuclear reactions, so they never evolve.

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