|Part of Speech:||n|
|Definition:||any early stage in the formation of a star when an interstellar cloud of gas and dust starts to collapse but before nuclear synthesis has begun at its core|
|Example:||A protostar is a cloud of gas undergoing gravitational contraction as it is developing into a star.|
|protostar (prō'tə-stär') Pronunciation Key
A celestial object made of a contracting cloud of interstellar medium (mostly hydrogen gas) that eventually becomes a main-sequence star. Disturbances in some region of interstellar medium can cause fluctuations of density through that region, and the denser areas, having more mass, begin to attract more and more of the medium through the force of gravity (a process known as accretion). Ever increasing densities of such protostar regions lead to ever higher temperatures within the accreting body, until the point is reached when thermal energy is sufficient to promote the fusion reactions typical of main-sequence stars. Less massive protostars may take hundreds of millions of years to evolve into stars; massive ones contract more quickly and may take only a few hundred thousand years.