Every 10,000 to 50,000 years, these gaseous behemoths burn helium for a few hundred years in a runaway process known as a thermal pulse, causing the layers of the star to mix.
"Thermal elements are an essential part of late stellar evolution," Maercker told SPACE.com in an email. "They are responsible for the formation of new elements, which eventually will get incorporated into new stars and planets."
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