Stardust We Are

orion

I was highly influenced at a young age by seeing episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series on TV, and reading his book by the same name. Sagan’s passion and clarity stirred in me a love for science and an appreciation for the universe that helped me find my career as a science teacher.

In Cosmos Episode 9: The Lives of Stars, Sagan discusses the origin of matter, and how the 92 naturally occurring chemical elements were and are made. This story is not well known, and hearing it helps one understand the interconnectedness of things in the universe.

Carl-Sagan

In short, all the matter we know and are familiar with was once part of one or more stars, and those stars died, leaving matter to be recycled into our Solar System. Even more amazing, is that many of the elements would not exist without the violent explosions of super massive stars; supernovae.

All matter- the elements of the periodic table, including all the matter that make up us, all life, our planet, and our solar system, and the rest of the universe has its origins in the life cycle of stars. In the Big Bang, the formation of the universe, about 15 billion years ago, almost all matter was Hydrogen, one proton and one electron, and a little Helium, with nuclei of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Gravity pulled the Hydrogen an Helium together to make galaxies full of hundreds of billions of stars. Stars fuse hydrogen into helium, and all the elements up to Iron, as the star gets older. When very massive stars burn up their fuel, they collapse and explode in a supernova. In the force of the supernova, all the elements heavier than Iron, up to Uranium are made. This explains the existence of all the naturally occurring elements.

How did they get in us, on our Earth, etc? Everything in our solar system is recycled. It’s already been in stars at least twice before, and some of that matter came from Supernovae. We are stardust. Or as the Flower Kings say, Stardust We Are.

You can see Cosmos at Hulu:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/63320/cosmos-the-lives-of-the-stars

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2 Responses

  1. i made a post like this on shimini.com, it’s hard to put in to words the amazement one has for the universe, but you definitely did a better job than i did. actually i was looking for a nice pic of sagan so i could make it my fb profile page.

  2. I love reminding myself that “we are stardust.” It definitely gives one a sense of the awesomeness of the universe; not to make us feel small and insignificant as some would say, but to give us a place within it. We get recycled too, and I think that’s pretty cool.

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