Many of you will not agree with me, but I think this is one of Ethan Siegel ‘s best articles ever.

Many of you will not agree with me, but I think this is one of Ethan Siegel ‘s best articles ever. He covers so many important concepts in one short article. The binding-energy-per-nucleon flatness is something I never realized before, it it explains so well why everything isn’t just iron. Also, the idea that the silicon-fusion phase is so short (mere hours before supernova after a million-year buildup!) is mind-blowing.

https://medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/ask-ethan-can-normal-stars-make-elements-heavier-and-less-stable-than-iron-e91da01c8554

19 replies on “Many of you will not agree with me, but I think this is one of Ethan Siegel ‘s best articles ever.”

  1. Never gave a thought to how low-mass stars could contribute to producing heavier elements because I’d always been stuck with centrality of fusion reactions inside them. Thank you.

  2. No mention of what happens to elements collected as Asteroids collide with the Star, or Planets are consumed as the Star expands towards the end of its life.

    These would likely add heavier elements and whilst they could be broken down, especially the much heavier unstable elements, it may be that these elements react with the Helium 4 and form the heavier elements.

  3. Kenny Laidlaw Perhaps true, but the additional mass from such objects is miniscule compared to the mass of the star, so it wouldn’t materially adjust the element fractions.

  4. Chris Dolan Miniscule on a short time period, but a Star would be absorbing material for billions of years. How much of our Sun is actually from mass it has absorbed compared to how much mass it has actually lost to space?

    60 Tonnes of space dust lands on Earth every day. Scale that up for the Sun, with a larger gravity well to catch more material and you would get a considerable amount.

    The Sun itself actually loses more than 5 million Tonnes a second, all of it the smallest particles. Protons and photons ejected from the fusion reactions inside the Sun.

    So, what do you actually consider to be the Star? The original material that started the fusion, or what it weighs now with all the pluses and minuses?

    At the very least, it would have collected a lot of materials immediately after the initial fusion from the surrounding gas cloud, which as it was from a previous Supernova, it would also include a lot of heavier elements. The core could even have started around a mass of heavier elements that was large enough to pull more mass together and get a fusion reaction started.

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