How do stars form? How long do they live? And how do they die? Stop and think how hard it is to answer these questions.
Stars live such a long time that nothing much can be gained from staring at one for a human lifetime. To discover how stars evolve from birth to death, it was necessary to measure the characteristics of many stars (to take a celestial census, in effect) and then determine which characteristics help us understand the stars’ life stories. Astronomers tried a variety of hypotheses about stars until they came up with the right approach to understanding their development. But the key was first making a thorough census of the stars around us.