What elements make up the Sun? (Beginner)

What elements make up the Sun (eg. iron oxygen....etc)?

The predominant element in the Sun is hydrogen, and then helium: by mass, it is 70% hydrogen, 28% helium, 1.5% carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, and 0.5% all other elements (iron, nickel and a few lighter elements). We expect stars of the Sun's size to be composed mainly of hydrogen and helium since these are the elements formed shortly after the Big Bang, whereas all other elements are made during a star's life or death. More interestingly, we know that the Sun is not big enough to make the 0.5% "other" elements for itself: this means that the Sun is not a first generation star but formed in a region where more massive, violent stars once lived.

This page was last updated Jan 28, 2019.

About the Author

Kristine Spekkens

Kristine Spekkens

Kristine studies the dynamics of galaxies and what they can teach us about dark matter in the universe. She got her Ph.D from Cornell in August 2005, was a Jansky post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers University from 2005-2008, and is now a faculty member at the Royal Military College of Canada and at Queen's University.

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