Heavy Elements in Stars Today

Heavy elements oxygen, neon, magnesium, silicon and sulfur from the
remains of a supernova (G292.0+1.8). Photo courtesy of NASA. Public

Scientists are still learning more about the elements that make up stars. But they do know that stars have heavy elements, just like our Sun does. Scientists know that from two pieces of evidence.

First, scientists are beginning to detect "neutrinos" from other stars. Neutrinos are formed when hydrogen and helium fuse, just like the Sun. Second, remember redshift/blueshift from earlier weeks? Every time scientists measure light from a star they get a distinct pattern of dark absorption bands. This pattern shows what kind of heavy elements make up a star.

With these pieces of evidence scientists are confident that heavy elements exist in stars today, just like our Sun.

The following video shows how scientists study light emissions from exploding stars, called supernovas. Their observations and analysis can tell us the origin of the elements found on Earth and throughout the universe. 

Sources http://schools.utah.gov/curr/science/core/earth/sciber9/Stand_1/html/2d.htm (fair use) and Teachers' Domain, The Origin of the Elements, published January 22, 2004, retrieved on July 14, 2010, http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.matter.origin/
Last modified: Monday, 19 September 2011, 1:40 PM