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Chemistry International

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Volume 41, Issue 4


Elements of Stars

Maria Lugaro / Ewine van Dishoeck
Published Online: 2019-10-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0405


What are stars made of? Less than 200 years ago this basic, simple question was deemed impossible to answer. As Auguste Comte put it in 1835: “On the subject of stars…While we can conceive of the possibility of determining their shapes, their sizes, and their motions, we shall never be able by any means to study their chemical composition or their mineralogical structure.” Today, we have a broad, clear answer to the question: “What are stars made of?” We also understand its far-reaching implications in relation to the evolution of the cosmos. Satellites and many ground-based spectroscopic surveys routinely provide new discoveries on the chemical composition of astronomical objects. In parallel, the nuclear processes that produce the elements inside stars are investigated in increasingly sophisticated nuclear physics experimental facilities across the world. At the same time, supercomputers allow us to calculate detailed models of the evolution of stars and galaxies: how much of which element is produced where? Finally, the presence of tiny amounts of extra-solar material can be found within meteorites, whose analysis is reaching unparalleled precisions with uncertainties down to parts per million. How have we managed to travel from an impossible question to such broad knowledge filled with discoveries?


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About the article

Maria Lugaro

Maria Lugaro works at Konkoly Observatory, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, H-1121 Budapest, Hungary, and the Monash Centre for Astrophysics, Monash University, 3800 Victoria, Australia.

Ewine van Dishoeck

Ewine van Dishoeck works at the Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9513, NL-2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands and the Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstrasse 1, D-85748 Garching, Germany.

Published Online: 2019-10-31

Published in Print: 2019-10-01

Citation Information: Chemistry International, Volume 41, Issue 4, Pages 8–11, ISSN (Online) 1365-2192, ISSN (Print) 0193-6484, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0405.

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©2019 IUPAC & De Gruyter. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For more information, please visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.Get Permission

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