How long does it take for a star to become 'lit'?

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Karen Miller

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Karen Miller  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hello, and thank you so much for this programme. I really appreciate the information and the format!

I just finished listening to the "Watching Worlds Wander" episode and I have a question about the birth of a star. The scientist describing the process said things like a few million years for enough material to gather, a half a million years for the material to do the next step, a million years or so for the next thing (I am paraphrasing), and then said that at some point, fusion can begin and the star is "lit." My question is how long it takes from the time that fusion first starts to the point where a star is considered "lit." Is this a matter of weeks? Millennia? Another million years? A couple of minutes? One year?

Now that I've formulated this question, I can't put it out of my mind.

One the one hand, stars are incredibly immense. On the other, nuclear reactions happen really, really fast. I don't even know how to start to make a  common-sense guess. Perhaps someone on your staff or among your contacts knows the answer. I would love to find out.

I always look forward to your programmes, and want to say thank you again for your time and your service. I hope you are all having a good week!

Karen Miller
San Diego, California

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 10/07/2010 00:30:04 by _system »