Since the dawn of time,ie Big Bang,nothing has been ever created or destroyed.Everything is under a recycling process.The elements that make up your body may once had been a part of a mountain,a dinosaur or a leaf of tree & certainly a part of gigantic star.
The hair on your head is made up of same elements out of which the Earth or an exoplanet in a far distant galaxy is made up of.In fact,the whole universe is made up of limited set of 92 elements which are nothing but electrons,neutrons & protons arranged in different fashions.But where are these elements made up? To answer that question,lets look at the life-cycle of a Star.
1.Formation of Star:
-Hydrogen,being the simplest of atoms with one electron & proton gather together in enormous amounts in the dark cosmos.
-A point is reached when the atoms start to collapse due to gravitation force.
-During the collapse,the molecules of hydrogen collide together.As it contracts more & more frequently at greater & greater speeds,the gas heats up.
-This builds up the required temperature for nuclear fusion.Now the atoms no longer bounce off each other but merge together to form helium atoms.
-The energy released in fusion balances the gravitational pull of the star.While the huge mass of star wants to pull it inside,the energy from fusion of hydrogen atoms exert an outward pressure.
-The heat/fire released in fusion makes the Star shine.
-The star will remain stable & burn like this for many million or billion of years depending upon its size & the amount of hydrogen content it has.
-More massive the star,more will be its gravitational pull,more hydrogen will it burn & faster will it run out of fuel to continue fusion.
2.Formation of other 24 elements:
-Stars which are of size of our sun,are only able to build temperatures required to produce helium.
-But there are stars which are of huge size like Beetle-juice in which the whole solar system can fit inside, just Imagine!
-When these stars run out of hydrogen,they fuse helium atoms to form atoms like carbon & oxygen.
-And the process of fusion goes on to form heavier & heavier elements in different stages to a stage where the core of star is transformed into Iron(Fe).
3.Death of star:
-When the star runs out of all of its nuclear fuel,it nears to its death stage.
-The core of the star will collapse throwing all the elements in the cosmic sky produced during its lifetime.
-A very rare situation occurs in some massive stars which is called ‘Supernova’.
-It happens for just about a minute.When the core of the star collapses on itself,there is colossal blast which combines with outer layers of star producing the highest temperatures in universe,approximately 100 billion degrees.
-It is during this short period of time when light elements are fused to form heavier elements such as gold,silver & platinum.
Recycling Process: When a Star dies in a galaxy,it happens that another Star is born somewhere else near/far to it.If the star was of a massive size,it may happen that even a system of planets & a star may be formed just like our Solar system.
When our planet was first formed,it suffered a continuous collision from meteors travelling in the universe.It is these meteors which brought along with them different elements produced by a star.Some of them,like carbon,oxygen & nitrogen,which combined together to form what we know as LIFE.
I wonder why the life cycle of stars isn’t taught in grade 12 Physics.It is so overwhelming to have a complete picture of Universe in your brain.We,as human beings,are a witness to the infinite power of the source & it encourages me each moment to remain in a state of Gratitude.