Living beings are made of mainly water, proteins, fats and minerals. These ingredients are composed of various elements. Oxygen makes up the majority of our weight (more than half), followed by carbon. There is also a large amount of hydrogen in our organism, along with nitrogen, calcium, chlorine, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, magnesium and a long list of other elements. However, one thing is never mentioned when it comes to human chemistry, the Stardust. It is crucial because all the elements that are found in our body would not exist without stars.
The Formation of Stardust
It is tens of millions of degrees hot inside the stars along with high density and high pressure. Atomic nuclei merge here. Hydrogen fuses to helium. If the hydrogen becomes scarce at some point, it is the helium nuclei that start fusing together. Three of them create a carbon atom. If it fuses again with helium, the result is oxygen. In this way, smaller and larger atomic nuclei are formed. New elements are created with every step of elements fusing together. It is the number of protons that determines which element is formed.
Supernovae are crucial for our existence
Massive stars give birth to the elements in the periodic table down to iron but the element formation inside the star is limited till iron. All other elements are largely the products of huge supernova explosions. Supernova happens at the end of the life of a gigantic star. There are conditions like high temperature and pressure that allow even more protons and neutrons to attach themselves to the different atomic nuclei that already exist. This is how elements are formed that are heavier than iron right down to uranium which almost completes the periodic table. The material produced in this way is hurled into space during star explosions.
When a star with lesser mass dies, it moves through space with the repelled star shell, the planetary nebula. At some point the same material gets involved in giving birth to new star systems. Planets can then emerge from the already existing heavier elements. Hopefully, a few planets evolve life, however the only example is the earth.
Thus, ‘We are all made of stardust’ is more than just a poetry. Every carbon atom and every oxygen atom in our body once came from the stars and so did every other element. The chemical composition of a person can be traced back to the Big Bang. Hence, we are stardust.
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But of course it is not only the living beings alone who contain stardust. This also applies to all other living things, as well as for all objects. Everything is ultimately made of stardust, no less than the entire universe.