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“(The Force) is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” So said Ben Kenobi to Luke Skywalker in ‘Star Wars, Episode IV.’ However, George Lucas might have been unaware of how accurate that statement is, especially in the light of recent findings by numerous scientists worldwide. Our bodies comprise countless molecules and atoms. Where did these ingredients come from and how were they made?
Perhaps the biggest and most in-depth exploration was conducted by a group of astronomers at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in New Mexico. This involved analyzing the composition of 150,000 stars across the Milky Way. The aim was to determine the amount of ‘CHNOPS elements’ – carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur – in each of the stars. It is now widely accepted in the scientific world that these are the ‘building blocks of life’ across the galaxy.
Researchers found the center of the Milky Way to be the most abundant in CHNOPS elements. These essential elements – found scattered across many stars – also make up 97% of the mass of our bodies.
The abundance of all of the major elements found in the human body exist in hundreds of thousands of stars in our Milky Way.
After ‘the big bang’ occurred about 14 billion years ago, it cooled to a state where subatomic particles assembled into atoms. Hydrogen atoms formed first since they are the simplest type of atom. A mere 300 million years later, hydrogen atoms clumped together under the force of gravity. As these clumps grew, the pressure at the center also grew. When the temperature reached 15 million degrees Fahrenheit, pressure caused the hydrogen to fuse their nuclei together. We call this process ‘nuclear fusion.’
Large amounts of hydrogen flow throughout the universe. When fused together, they create helium which releases massive amounts of light – or what we commonly call a star.
When a star has exhausted its supply of hydrogen, it can die in a violent explosion, called a nova. The explosion of a huge star, called a supernova, can be billions of times as bright as the Sun. This explosion throws a massive cloud of dust and gas into space, and the amount and composition of material expelled vary, depending on the type of supernova. The material from a supernova eventually disperses throughout interstellar space. This will clump together eventually with other stardust and give birth to a new star.
Most of the material humans consist of came from dying stars or those that died in explosions. Those stellar explosions also continue. Our bodies comprise material as old as the universe as well as material that landed on Earth maybe only a hundred years ago.
Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver, a senior fellow at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, believes approximately 40,000 tons of cosmic material falls on Earth each year. It all mixes in our bodies in one way or another.
So it can be said all life on Earth – including the atoms in our bodies – was created from now-long-dead stars. That’s something to bear in mind the next time you wish upon one!