Lagoon Nebula M8
Lagoon Nebula M8
Human beings were once fascinated with the concept of living under an infinite, unchanging blanket of stars. But like their audience of humans, stars are not immortal. Their fragile existence will be explained in free public lectures at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Thursday, Oct. 17, and at Pasadena City College on Friday, Oct. 18.

The lectures, entitled "A Billion Suns: The Lives and Deaths of the Stars," begin at 7 p.m. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. The lecture will also be webcast live on Thurs., Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. Pacific time at, and will be archived online for later viewing.

Presenting the lecture will be Dr. Michelle Thaller, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Thaller will discuss how new stars emerge from giant clouds of dust and gas in our galaxy, unravel into nebulae and often die in violent explosions. She will also talk about the mysterious afterlife of stars, including the fact that most of the atoms in the human body were originally formed in the nuclear furnace of a burning star. We are literally made of stardust!

Thaller has been involved with many NASA media and public outreach efforts. She currently does research for NASA's Space Infrared Telescope Facility, an orbiting observatory due to launch in January 2003. The JPL-managed mission will complete NASA's fleet of Great Observatories (the others are the Hubble, Chandra, and Compton Gamma Ray Telescopes). Among other things, it will observe planetary systems forming around other stars, and it will study the era when galaxies were just starting to form in the universe.

The lecture at JPL, located at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) freeway, will be held in the von Karman Auditorium. The Friday lecture will be held in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum at 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112 or see

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

News Media Contact

Contacts: JPL/Charli Schuler (818) 354-5011