Stars. They are such stuff as dreams are made on. They shine in the night sky, reminders of our insignificance and the vastness of the universe. They may sit millions of light years away, but they are closer than you think.
Simply put, stars are massive balls of plasma held together by their own gravity. Once a critical mass of interstellar dust and debris and accumulates, its gravity pulls it together, heating its core enough to fuse hydrogen into helium. The heat from these reactions balances the gravitational force of the outer shells, preventing the star from collapsing under its own mass. Stars spend most of their lives on what is called the main sequence, fusing hydrogen into helium as they orbit galactic centers at incredible speed.
So where do we fit into this? Current theories suggest that following the Big Bang, the universe was composed mostly of hydrogen. This raises an important question: where did all the other stuff come from? Our planet contains elements spanning the periodic table, and without many of them life on Earth could not exist. The answer lies in the end of the stellar life cycle.
When a sufficiently massive star runs low on hydrogen, its gravity compresses the core, heating it enough to fuse helium into carbon. As the star ages this process repeats itself, each time creating enough heat to create a new element. This continues along the periodic table until it reaches iron. At this point the star can no longer support itself and collapses in a spectacular supernova, creating even heavier elements and giving off as much energy as entire galaxies. These massive stars leave behind either neutron stars or black holes.
A supernova blasts the star’s outer layers into space, zooming through the cosmos at nearly the speed of light. The dust and debris create stellar nurseries, where materials come together to form stars and solar systems. As new stars take shape, the heavier elements coalesce into asteroids, comets, and new planets. At least one of these planets has fostered life.
So all the carbon, oxygen, iron, nitrogen, and most other elements in your body formed in the core of a star. These atoms have travelled millions of light years, drifting across the galaxy until they ended up in our solar system. Next time you gaze up at the night sky, remember that you are made of those glamorous stars.
For me, this is one of the most fascinating and beautiful secrets of outer space. Just looking at the stars amazes me, let alone thinking of how the elements of my body were born in a supernova. What do you think? Is this as incredible as I make it out to be? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. That small click really helps me out! Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday! IT’S FREE!
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