31 Jan Stardust
No, not the film (which I’ve never seen – is it any good? I’ve just looked it up and the cast looks good. Although it’s got Ricky Gervais in, which is usually sufficient to sink any potential Hollywood blockbuster).
Following on from my blog post, “Equation” (read it here), I thought I’d write about what happens when a star runs out of fuel. It’s a concept that has been blogged about and spoken about many times before, but I like it so here’s my version. This is my blog and I’ll do what I want.
Again, this is as I understand it so I’m more than happy to be corrected.
So a star burns hydrogen as fuel, smashing the atoms together to form helium, and releasing energy in the process.
After millions or probably billions of years, the star starts to run out of hydrogen. At this point, there is so much helium that these atoms start smashing together, forming bigger (heavier) atoms (let’s call them “elements”) such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and then even heavier elements such as iron, magnesium, calcium…in fact almost any element you’ve ever heard of.
Do any of these elements sound familiar? Maybe something you’ve read in the nutritional information on the back of a food packet in the supermarket? Remember that for later….
As these elements are heavier, the star gets more and more dense. At some point, it gets so dense that it collapses under it’s own weight and implodes spectacularly in a supernova. What’s left can vary and gets a bit weird – things I don’t quite understand like black holes, brown dwarfs and neutron stars. Weird stuff. Look it up.
Did you look it up? Told you it was weird.
Anyway, as the star implodes, it spews out huge amounts of the elements into space. These elements eventually coalesce to form unimaginably massive clouds and eventually, provided there is enough, planets.
Read that again – like Earth.
Now just let that sink in…
So, your body is made up of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and other elements such as iron (in your blood), calcium (in your bones) and all those funny names you read on the back of food packets in the supermarket. Potassium. Sodium. Phosphorus. Magnesium. Zinc.
These elements came from the Earth.
And those elements in the Earth were originally created in stars, billions of years ago, flung out into space when the star died. That’s how the elements are formed. That’s where they come from.
As I understand it, when the Universe first formed, it was just full of hydrogen. All other elements you can think of are created in stars. They are “element factories”.
We are literally all made of stardust.
Remember that next time you’re having a bad day.
*Disclaimer: this blog post is for entertainment purposes only and any opinions contained therein do not necessarily represent those of the author.