The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 1–46 | Cite as

The origin and abundances of the chemical elements revisited

  • Virginia Trimble


The basic scheme of nucleosynthesis (building of heavy elements from light ones) has held up very well since it was first proposed more than 30 years ago by E.M. Burbidge, G.R. Burbidge, A.G.W. Cameron, W.A. Fowler, and F. Hoyle. Significant advances in the intervening years include (a) observations of elemental and a few isotopic ratios in many more extrasolar-system sites, including metal-poor dwarf irregular galaxies, where very little has happened, and supernovae and their remnants, where a great deal has happened, (b) recognition of the early universe as good for making all the elements up to helium, (c) resolution of heavy element burning in stars into separate carbon, neon, oxygen, and silicon burning, with fine tuning of the resulting abundances by explosive nucleosynthesis in outgoing supernova shock waves, (d) clarification of the role of Type I supernovae, (e) concordance between elements produced in short-lived and long-lived stars with those that increased quickly and slowly over the history of the galaxy, and (f) calibration of calculations of the evolution and explosion of massive stars against the detailed observations of SN 1987A. The discussion presupposes a reader (a) with some prior knowledge of astronomy at the level of recognizing what is meant by an A star and an AGB star and (b) with at least a mild interest in how we got to where we currently are.

Key words

Nucleosynthesis Nuclear reactions Stars: abundances Interstellar Medium: abundances Cosmology Galaxies: evolution of 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia Trimble
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Astronomy ProgramUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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