Astronomical Alchemy: The Origin of the Elements

Dr. Philip A. Pinto, Associate Professor, Astronomy/Steward Observatory, University of Arizona.

One of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century science is an understanding of the origin of matter. While hydrogen and helium were produced in the Big Bang, the origin of the heavier elements—the silicon in rocks, the iron in our blood, and the oxygen we breathe--lies in the lifecycle of stars. Nuclear reactions, which transform light elements into heavier ones, cause stars to shine and ultimately to explode, seeding the universe with their production. These newly formed elements, the building blocks of ordinary matter, play a central role in the formation of planets and the evolution of life. Presented Feb. 22, 1011.

Cosmic Origins is the story of the universe but it's also our story. Hear about origin of space and time, mass and energy, the atoms in our bodies, the compact objects where matter can end up, and the planets and moons where life may flourish. Modern cosmology includes insights and triumphs, but mysteries remain. Join the six speakers who explore cosmology's historical and cultural backdrop to explain the discoveries that speak of our cosmic origins.