Star Death and the Creation of Elements – Wonders of the Universe: Stardust, preview – BBC Two


Imagine This Old Prison in Rio is a Dying star like Beetlejuice There There is the bright Surface Shining off Into Space as I descend Deeper and Deeper Into the Prison the Conditions Would Become Hotter and Hotter Denser and denser until Down There The Heart of the Star is the Core and It’s in There That all the ingredients of [life] are Made Deep in its Core the Star is Fighting a futile Battle against its Own Gravity As it Desperately Tries to stop Itself Collapsing under its Own weight New Elements Are Made in A sequence of separate Stages Stage One, Is while There is still a supply of Hydrogen to Burn Whilst the Stars Burn in Hydrogen to helium in the Core vast Amounts of Energy are Released and That Energy Escapes Literally [Creating] an Outward Pressure Which Balances [The] Force of Gravity and While it holds the Star Off and Keeps it Stable But Eventually the Hydrogen in The core will run out and at that point the Fusion Reactions will stop no more Energy will be Released and [That] Outward Pressure will Disappear Now at that Point the core will start to Collapse Very Rapidly Leaving a Shell of Hydrogen and Helium Behind Beneath This Shell as the core Collapses the Temperature Rises again until at a hundred Million degrees Stage Two Stars and Helium Nuclear Inter [Fuse] Together Helium Fusion Does Two [Things] Firstly More Energy is Released and so the Collapse is halted But Secondly Two more Elements Are Produced in That Process Carbon Oxygen, Two Elements Vital for life So this is where all the Carbon in The Universe Comes from your every Atom of Carbon in my Hand Every Atom of Carbon in Every Living Thing on the Planet Was Produced in The [Heart] of A dying Star? There Compared to the Lifetime of the Star The Creation Process of Carbon and Oxygen Is over in The blink of an eye Because in Only About a million Years the supply of Helium in the core Is used Up and For Stars as Massive as the sun that’s where Fusion stops because There isn’t enough Gravitational Energy To Compress the Core Any Further and Restart Fusion but For massive Stars Like Betelgeuse The Fusion Process Can Continue When the helium runs out Gravity Takes over again and the Collapse Continues? The Temperature Rises Once More Launching Stage 3 in Which Carbon Fuses Into Magnesium Neon Sodium and Aluminium And so it Goes on [Core-Collapse] Followed By the next Stage of Fusion to create more Elements each Stage Hotter and Shorter Than the last and [Eventually] in A final Stage that lasts only A couple of Days the heart of the Star Is Transformed Into Almost pure iron Whose chemical Symbol is Fe. This is where the Fusion Process stops. In its Millions of Years of life the star has Made all the Common Elements The Stuff That Makes Up 99% of the Earth The Core is Now A solid Ball [of] Those Elements Stacked on Top of each other in Layers On the Outside There’s a Shell of Hydrogen? Beneath it A layer of Helium Then Carbon and Oxygen and All the other Elements all the way Down to the very Heart of the Star and Once That has Fused Into Solid iron The Star Has Only Seconds Left to live When a star runs out of fuel then it can, no longer release Energy Through Fusion Reactions and then There’s only one Thing that can happen {explosion} In About the Same amount of Time it Takes This Prison Block to crumble the entire Star Falls in on Itself

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