Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Heavy Element

  • Daniel Rouan
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_711-2


In the astrophysical context, a heavy element is any element heavier than helium. The term “metal” is also used by astronomers. The definition stems from the fact that only helium and hydrogen (and small quantities of lithium and beryllium) were produced in the few first minutes after the big bang: all other elements were produced afterward, through stellar processing (nuclear reactions or supernovae).

See Also


Bioorganic Chemistry Nuclear Reaction Heavy Element Astrophysical Context Primordial Synthesis 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LESIAObservatoire Paris-Site de MeudonMeudonFrance