Periodic Table: Nuclear Origin Of The Elements – And Life

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
April 29, 2022
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Periodic Table: Nuclear Origin Of The Elements – And Life
Periodic Table: Origin Of The Elements – And Life –Credit: NASA/CXC/K. Divona; Reference: SDSS blog, J. Johnson

This periodic table is color coded to indicate humanity’s best guess as to the nuclear origin of all known elements. The simplest elements, hydrogen and helium, are far and away the most abundant.

The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen.

Much of the iron in your body was forged during supernova explosions that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in jewelry likely came from neutron stars collided and may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts or gravitational wave events.

Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in only small amounts but are essential to the functioning of all known life.

Oxygen is the most abundant element in the human body (about 65% by mass), calcium helps form and maintain healthy bones and teeth, and iron is a vital part of red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body. All of the oxygen in the Solar System comes from exploding massive stars. About half of the calcium and about 40% of the iron also come from these explosions, with the balance of these elements being supplied by explosions of smaller mass, white dwarf stars. Infographic credit: NASA/CXC/K. Divona

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Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

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