The Universe – Supernovas

“We are the journeywork of the stars, no less than the leaves of grass.” -Walt Whitman

Join us today on Discovery Enterprise as we explore our stellar legacy. Each of us, in the immortal words of the American poet Walt Whitman, “…are the journeywork of the stars, no less than the leaves of grass.” As Carl Sagan would put it later on in the twentieth century – “We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands. The loom of time and space works the most astonishing transformations of matter”.

Each of us owes our existence to a stellar alchemy some thirteen billion years in the making where simplest elements hydrogen and helium were transformed by the process of nucleosynthesis into the heavy elements which were forged in the hearts of distant and massive suns. These stars eventually died a spectacular death in the form of a stellar explosion know as a Supernova.

This is an explosive event that can shine as bright as 100 billion Suns and radiate as much energy as the Sun would emit over 10 billion years. Jets of high-energy light and matter are propelled into space and can cause massive Gamma Ray Bursts and emit intense X-ray radiation for thousands of years.

Astronomers believe that it is this explosive event which enriches the interstellar environment with these heavy elements that are the very building blocks of planets, people and plants.
We owe our existence to the laws of physics expressed succinctly within Einstein’s mass- energy expression E=mc2. For contained in this short and concise equation is the cosmic heritage of our species.

To learn the underlying science and contemplate the meaning of how the atoms within us are the journey-work of the stars visit Connie Barlow’s wonderful web sites “A Leaf of Grass” and “We Are Made of Stardust: Toward a New Periodic Table of Elements”.

The Universe – Supernovas

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