Origin of the Elements Presentation

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The fusion of deuterium and tritium isotopes fuels the Sun. This reaction also explains the existence of helium in the Sun and other stars. But what about the other elements? How did heavier elements, like oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur, first form? Are they still forming today? If so, where and how? To investigate these questions, you will journey into a star and carry out the two-part exploration outlined below. Click each tab to review the assignment.

Part 1: The Elements: Forged in Stars

Visit The Elements: Forged in Stars and use the background essay and 3-minute video to find the answers to the following questions:

  • How does a star glow?
  • What types of elements are found in stars?
  • What is a supernova?
  • Why does it take so much heat and pressure to create helium and other elements?

Part 2: Show What You Know

  • Perform a Web search using terms, such as “stellar nucleosynthesis,” “helium burning,” “carbon burning” and “neon burning,” to locate balanced equations that show the fusion of lighter elements into heavier elements.
  • Write balanced nuclear equations for the formation of five elements whose atomic number is between helium (2) and iron (26).

Present your findings for your research for Part I and II in one of the following formats:

  • a web page that will be accessed by middle school students learning about stars
  • a slideshow presentation OR short video that will run at your local science museum in conjunction with an exhibition on the origins of the universe

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