Star Operations, Supernova Explosions, & Neutron Star Collisions: How Elements are Created

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 14 June 2019



Original Article

Star, Supernova, & Neutron Star Collision Element Production

Supernova 1987a
Boom Goes the Massive Star
 NASA/CXC/SAO/Penn State/D. Burrows et al.; Optical: NASA/STSci; Millimeter: NRAO/AUI/NSF.
Supernova: Engines of Heavy Metals and Mothers of Neutron Stars. Chandra X-Ray Obs Composite image of Supernova 1987a.


118 known elements
How they Came to Be


Periodic table
Elements #2 through 25 forged in stars. Their fuel, Element #1, was created in the Big Bang.


Create Series of Elements in their Nuclear Furnaces
Starting with #1, Stellar Element Production is Limited to Iron, #26

Light Weight Stars
First, the Gravity-Driven Nuclear, "Stellar," furnaces in all stars transform their Hydrogen through a series of the lighter elements which make up the top, the lighter side of the Periodic table. These transformations typically ending either, in lighter stars, when its gravity can no longer squeeze any more energy or new elements out of Hydrogen along the series of the, "lighter," elements it has already transmuted from Hydrogen, reaching the physical, gravitational limit of the nuclear alchemy that the weaker gravity of these lighter stars is capable of inducing. Their own limited mass turns off their own Nuke Furnaces...

In heavier stars, fusion stops when enough hydrogen has been, "evolved," from hydrogen past the silicon and oxygen limits of the lighter stars, into iron, which is deposited into its core. As Iron does not, "burn," under the gravitational forces of any stellar nuclear fires, this final transformation of hydrogen into iron starves any sized star's nuclear furnaces of fuel.
In the case of either light or heavy stars, however you do it, turning off their nuclear engines causes a star of any size to gravitationally implode, without its nuclear energy output keeping the gravity of its mass in check: Ka-Boom!

Low Mass Star Gentle Destruction
Lighter stars shed their layers fairly gently during this implosion process, leaving behind the beautiful and haunting, "Planetary Nebula," (pics). These stellar remnants, as seen below, are left distributing the series of  lighter elements these stars forged from Hydrogen out into local space for the next generation of stars and their planets to pick up, finally leaving behind a smoldering, slowly cooling White Dwarf.

Stages of a Low Mass Star's Life
Pre-White Dwarf Red Giant & A Post-Red Giant Planetary Nebula.


Star Remnant
Cat's Eye Planetary Nebula

Cat's Eye Planetary Nebula, Credit  NASA, MAST, STScI, AURA and Vicent Peris (OAUV/PTeam).
This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. Credit  NASA, MAST, STScI, AURA and Vicent Peris (OAUV/PTeam) BigMore.

Life After White Star?
White Star Formation Not the End of the Line?

Two White Dwarfs Collide, may end up as Neutron Star,
Ars Technica, May 29, 2019.



Big Stars
Supernova Death
Creates Heavy Elements in Massive Supernova Explosions
"The Trans-Iron Supernova Elements"
From #27, Cobalt, limited to Lead, #82

Heavier Stars Catastrophic Destruction
The greater mass and gravity of the heavier stars is sufficient to continue nuclear reactions until their cores are full of iron, which shuts down their nuclear reactions. A massive star's mass and gravity are sufficient to compress their cores to nuclear density when their nuclear furnaces turn off, and that star's extreme mass starts collapsing.
This incompressable core causes the infalling stellar material of these massive failing stars to bounce outward off its ultra-dense neutron core, with the resulting conflict between the infalling and the, "bouncing," stellar materials triggering a massive supernova explosion. A Supernova explosion's massive energy output reaches levels sufficient to create the next weight-class of heavier elements than those a, "simple," star can produce in their lower-intensity nuclear reactions.

The Supernova explosion creates and distributes these new elements about while leaving behind the key to the next step of elemental production, a super dense Neutron Star forged from, and now stripped naked, by the catastrophic supernova collapse of the massive star that created it.



Massive Remnants of Supernova
Neutron Star Collision
Heaviest Elements Created in Neutron Star Collisions
Creates everything heavier than Lead
#82 to #118 on the Table of Elements

NASA VIDEO: Neutron Star Merger

First Merger Observed by Humans: LIGO

But, that birth of Neutron Stars out of bursting Supernova is not the end of this chain of elemental creation through nuclear reactions. Now we move to the catagory of nuclear-stellar, "catastrophic," creation of the final pieces of our Periodic Table.

The final, heaviest metals are finally forged by the terrific gravitational force created by two super-massive neutron stars colliding, which produces vast amounts of the heavy metals making up the the final pieces of our perodic table of elements, from #82 out to #118, along with vast amounts of energy, a gravity wave and a black hole.

Oh, and the first one we observed (LIGO, 2017) produced 200 Earth Masses of Gold!

That's how Hydrogen and Gravity created everything we see around us.




Single neutron star merger supplied half the Solar System’s plutonium,
Ars Technica, May 17, 2019.

Main Points

This Ars article considers our planet and solar system's distribution of the, "trans iron," elements, those elements created by Supernova, against the distribution of heaviest elements, which are only created by neutron star collisions.

"...the researchers are also able to estimate the number of neutron star mergers that could contribute material to the formation of the Solar System."

"...the number of mergers that could have contributed to our early Solar System (a number based on how often these things seem to occur) produces an actinide (heavier than lead) abundance that brackets the one estimated from asteroids."

Possibility of Solar Systems with no Elements Greater than Lead
"It seems that nearly half the plutonium in the Solar System came from a single neutron star merger. That is fascinating: with such low numbers of neutron star mergers contributing to actinide abundance, the variation from solar system to solar system must be huge. Imagine, we could have ended up in a solar system with almost no uranium or plutonium."

An Exception?

"But there is a special class of supernova called collapsars that are a different story. Collapsars may also be able to supply actinides, but we still don't know a lot about the physics there. And the researchers behind this paper suggest that they are too infrequent to have supplied the observed amount of actinides. This leaves neutron star mergers as the most likely option."

Collapsars, or supermassive supernovas, AKA, "super-luminous supernova (SLSN)."


Artist’s impression of a collapsar (NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre).
Artist’s impression of a collapsar (NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre), More!

The Latest on Collapasars
Earth's heavy metals result of supernova explosion, University of Guelph research reveals,
University of Guelph, June 13, 2019.


"Some 80 per cent of the heavy elements in the universe likely formed in collapsars, a rare but heavy element-rich form of supernova explosion from the gravitational collapse of old, massive stars typically 30 times as weighty as our sun"





Mechanics of Star Formation & Hydrogen Distribution

Galaxies as 'cosmic cauldrons,'
University of Heidelberg, May 21, 2019.

"Young stars heat molecular clouds and drive hot interstellar gas bubbles throughout galaxies"



First Observation of a Neutron Star Collision


LIGO Neutron Star Merger Detection, Four LIGO Articles: Gravity Waves Shine Visible Light on Gold, Gamma Rays, and a Gravity Hole


Two Neutron Stars Orbiting: The Origin of Binary Neutron Stars



Supernova Research

DEEP SPACE: Furthest, Brightest, Oldest Supernova News



More Fun

ASTROPHYSICS NEWS: Fireworks as Black Hole Eats a Star

What is Matter?




Astro-Physics News

May 2018 News of Man & Nature








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hydrogen, neutron stars, element, heavier, metals, periodic table, nuclear reactions, elements, stellar, creation, stars, supernova, neutron star collisions, elements, Collapasar, LIGO


Originally Published
2019-05-18 23:16:06

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