In order, they go: hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, neon, nitrogen, magnesium, silicon, iron, sulfur. Here’s how we made them.
Everything found on planet Earth is composed of the same ingredients: atoms.
Found throughout the Universe, atoms naturally occur in over 80 varieties.
But they’re all created in unequal amounts; here are our Universe’s top 10 (by mass).
1.) Hydrogen. Created during the hot Big Bang but depleted by stellar fusion, ~70% of the Universe remains hydrogen.
2.) Helium. About 28% is helium, with 25% formed in the Big Bang and 3% from stellar fusion.
3.) Oxygen. The most common (~1%) heavy element, oxygen arises from fusion in massive, pre-supernova stars.
4.) Carbon. The first heavy element created by stars, carbon mostly originates within red giants.
5.) Neon. Produced as an intermediate step between carbon and oxygen, neon is another pre-supernova element.
6.) Nitrogen. Nitrogen arises from Sun-like stars in a fusion cycle that includes carbon and oxygen.
7.) Magnesium. Created by fusion processes in massive stars, magnesium is Earth’s #4 element: behind iron, silicon and oxygen.
8.) Silicon. The final element to successfully fuse in pre-supernova stars, silicon is observed in supernova remnants.
9.) Iron. Although it’s vitally important for core-collapse supernovae, iron primarily originates from merging white dwarfs.
10.) Sulfur. Produced from both core-collapse supernovae and white dwarf mergers, sulfur rounds out the Universe’s top 10 elements.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.