We’re Made of Stars: All Elements Come From Stars (except for the very first two, hydrogen and helium)


“The entire universe shares a common set of elements. In the very early universe, the only elements were hydrogen and helium. But since the formation of stars, lighter elements within the stars began fusing to create heavier elements, producing all the other naturally occurring elements. Under the extremely high temperatures and pressures within the core of stars, atoms collide at high enough speeds to overcome the usual electromagnetic repulsion of nuclei, allowing nuclear fusion to occur.” “All stars live by fusing hydrogen into helium.” From Teachers’ Domain.

Diagram from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. How cool would that be: “Where do you work?” “Oh, at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, no big deal…”

For dramatic effect, read all this while listening to “Million Dollar Baby” by Lil Wayne, produced by Just Blaze (via Nah Right)

“Stars are fueled by nuclear fusion reactions, which take place in their deep interiors, or cores. Hydrogen nuclei fuse, forming helium nuclei. The energy produced by these fusion reactions prevents the star from collapsing under its own gravity. Mature stars contain enough hydrogen nuclei to last billions of years. When a star’s hydrogen fuel supply is spent, however, its core begins to contract. The contraction is so intense that it creates conditions under which helium nuclei fuse. In this way, helium becomes the star’s next fuel source. The fusion of helium nuclei produces carbon and oxygen nuclei, and in the process sufficient energy is released to temporarily sustain the star.

Once helium runs out, the nuclei of carbon, oxygen, and other elements begin to fuse. These new fuel sources are depleted at faster and faster rates. Since the heaviest element created in a star by nuclear fusion reactions is iron, a large iron core eventually forms at the center of everything. At this point, gravity becomes overwhelming, the core collapses, and an explosion occurs, during which outer layers of gas and heavy elements are ejected to space. Such explosions, called supernovas, occur about once a century in our galaxy. The energy created by supernovas produces nuclei heavier than iron. This process is known as supernova nucleosynthesis.” HELL YEAH!!!!!!!
From Teachers’ Domain

From the Greek hydro (water) and genes (forming)

What it is
Hydrogen is the simplest, most abundant, and lightest of the elements. It is colorless, odorless, nonmetallic, highly flammable (think Hindenberg), and able to react chemically with most other elements. It is present in all organic compounds and living organisms … and, oh yeah, in water.”

New Latin, from Greek Helios (“the Sun”)

What it is
Helium is the second most abundant element. It has the lowest melting point and is the only liquid that does not solidify when the temperature is lowered.

When does the next shipment arrive?
Probably never. As it happens, almost all of the Helium on Earth came about is the nuclear fusion that created the Sun so getting another shipment here would be awkward. A small portion comes from radioactive decay and a tiny bit more can be extracted from natural gas. There is, however, no practical way to manufacture large quantities. When the government realized this, it started storing billions of cubic feet of compressed helium in giant storage tanks.”


I just heard a great piece on NPR “The Music of Matter” on how all elements are from stars and on the periodic table. Part of Mendeleev’s genius: inferring that gaps in his periodic table were due to elements not yet discovered, as opposed to his table being wrong. Discusses the periodic, music-like nature of elements, their weights and properties.

Supernova picture from NASA

Elements crib sheet from Seed Magazine

Evolved star diagram from Wikipedia


23 Responses

  1. I work at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, and you are correct in your assumption that it is totally cool!

    Our lab has sent instrumentation to every planet in the solar system, and we provide mission control for five operational spacecraft, including the Kepler telescope.

    Stop by if you are in Boulder. We’ll give you a tour!

    • Hi Emilia,
      oh wow, that is really cool, sounds fantastic! I had an astronomy class my senior year in undergrad to fulfill a science requirement, and it was the most captivating class I have ever taken–too bad I didn’t happen to take any astronomy earlier, I may have changed my major! And I was just in Denver, I’ll have to come to Boulder next time to check out the lab…

  2. wow great post trickledown, now i finally understand nulcear fusion and all of that !!! THANKS!!!!

  3. Thanks for this site.
    One question;
    How did the elements, all of which are made on stars, get on our planet?

    • when stars go super nova all the different particles are emitted out in all direction in space. so that’s how they got here 🙂

      • I figured it out already but thankyou anyway.
        We are ultimately part of the same “thing”

  4. Really bad rap song = dramatic, alright

  5. I’m not a well educated being since I’ve only graduated from high school. Knowledge is a wonderful tool, science is a wonderful tool, it is said of wisdom, it is to be ask for. Can the stars give us either knowledge or wisdom ? When you read about the stars, are you fascinated? Can you stop wanting to learn more? Can the stars protect you, shield you, or be your shield? Can you hang a star on a cross for the atoning of sin, does one bleed, have a physical life, give itself as a sacrificial lamb, die, and be ressurected the 3rd day? Yes, science is great, but my Lord and Savior is far greater. I choose to read of, to study of, and follow a more greater phenomenon. I do not call Him, Jesus Christ super star, I call Him my bright and morning star. Does one star from one galaxy know all the names of the stars in another galaxy, or even know how many other stars their is? Their is One who hung all the stars, even gives them their name, so I choose to believe He must have created them as well. This being the case, then all the elements that the star consist of, came from God.

    • You are a fucking moron.

      • John Reeves,
        Jesus loves you. If you can prevent yourself from dying, then you can call my bro a moron. You have no control over leaving this life, but you can determine how you leave here and where you spend eternity. Will it be heaven or hell? You make the choice. Only a belief and a submitted life to God can get you to to the first “H”.
        God bless you

      • i really dont think that a God would punish us.
        Only a man could punish or judge.
        Bless you too

    • Your first sentence summed up the proselytizing that followed.
      Thank god for people that can look past religion and discover the true answers.

    • God put the tree of knowledge in the garden where Adam and Eve could get to it so unless God is a moron he had to know they would eat from it. That means God created a sin situation. The only way God could figure out how to fix it is to flood people to death, and to sacrifice himself, to himself, to create a loophole in a rule that he himself made. Yes you need to go back to college so you can understand just how ridiculous your belief is.

  6. We don’t need to worry about eternity in the god fearing sense because there is no god. Go forth and be free : )

  7. Considering what we are made of.
    How we got here.
    We live in our egos and are not aware that we are gods. ( call it what you want)
    All of us.

  8. stars are what we’re from. help me polish http://www.religiousnaturalism.com

  9. so if super novas happen every century it is possible that life exist outside of earth?

    • I can only speculate, but I think so….
      Proteins and cells appear in the most unlikely and inhospitable places. The cells then join together and make multi cellular organisms.
      They succeed if they gain an awareness of their environment.

      Time is forever so there is plenty of it.

  10. I agree. I have seen the creator with thine own eyes, and it is a star. I had a vision in a hypnotical state, assisted by the use of sacred geometry. I came in contact with a star of pure white light spiritual energy. I heard trillions of voices in my head. I then spoke with a daikini who confirmed what I had saw. Our elemental bodies come from stars that have fallen to earth, but our spirits come from a star that is still in space. We are the universe

  11. This is really attention-grabbing, You are an overly professional
    blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and stay up for in the hunt for extra of your fantastic post. Also, I’ve shared your web
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  12. n00bz

  13. hey y’all. Look i love the stars, the sky, the universe and everything SCIENCE! its awesome right guys?! One day, I was sitting outside watching the world fly by, thinking to myself…. ‘what a wonderful worldddd’ *Bring in the jazzy tunes* And as i was sitting there, humming to myself I thought why wonder when you can discover…. and that is how I have been led down the path of wacky wonderfulness. Thanks for your time.

  14. What happens at the other end of a photon?
    Does the star gain any energy from the interaction?
    How else would it keep generating more raw galactic materials and keep gaining density?

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