It is not difficult to appreciate that there could be no life on Earth without the sun. But it is a good deal less obvious, though no less true, that there could be no life on Earth or anywhere else without regular deaths among the stars — that is, without supernovas. This arises from the necessity of heavy elements for life. Take water as an example: this, a chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen, is an important part of the foundations on which terrestrial life is built up. Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant element in the cosmos; its components — one proton and one electron — were formed in the very moment of the Big Bang. In the main, however, the nuclear fusion processes of the Big Bang stopped after the next lightest element, helium. Even oxygen atoms, necessary for chemical compounds such as water, had to be produced later, in the stars. And the same goes for all other elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.
KeywordsNeutron Star Heavy Element Planetary System Supernova Remnant Yellow Dwarf
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Arnett, W.D. “The Physics of Gravitational Collapse”, Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, p. 366 (1979).Google Scholar
- Fonkal, P. “Does the Sun’s Luminosity Vary?” Sky & Telescope 2, p. 111 (1980).Google Scholar
- Herbst, W., Assousa, G.E. “Supernovas and Star Formation”, Scientific American, August, p. 122 (1979).Google Scholar
- Kippenhahn, R. One Hundred Billion Suns: The Birth, Life, and Death of the Stars, Basic Books, New York 1983.Google Scholar
- Morrison, N.D., “Supernova-induced Formation of Stars and Planetary Morrison, D. Systems”, Mercury, March/April, p. 40 (1978).Google Scholar
- Murphy, CT., Dicke, R.H. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 108, p. 224 (1964).Google Scholar
- Schramm, D.N. “Neutrino Astronomy”, Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics”, Annals of the N.Y. Academy of Sciences, p. 380 (1979).Google Scholar