How are elements heavier than iron formed?
My question is this: If iron fusion seems to be the last step in stellar life, then where did we get all the heavier elements on earth? My understanding is that all of the elements on earth heavier than helium were produced in stellar furnaces. - Star ash.
All of the post-iron elements are formed in supernova explosions themselves. So much energy is released during a supernova explosion that the freed energy and copious free neutrons streaming from the collapsing core drive massive fusion reactions, long past the formation of iron. Sure, this absorbs a lot of energy, but there's plenty available once the explosion has begun.
I guess statistically speaking the heavier elements are much rarer than oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, etc, but does this mean that maybe life is truly really rare (except in our neck of the Milky Way)?
That's right. Supernova nucleosynthesis isn't as efficient as the long years of synthesis in stellar cores.
Have elements heavier than Iron ever been detected outside our Solar System (Like in the emission lines of a nebula, for example - or does the physics model predect them?)
Absolutely. They're everywhere.
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
- How are light and heavy elements formed?
- Why will fusion wait until hydrogen is gone before starting to fuse heavier atoms?
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist
This page has been accessed 68688 times since May 1, 2002.
Last modified: October 8, 2002 7:57:22 PM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)