Nucleosynthesis elements heavier than iron

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Elements and the ‘Big Bang’ theory

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The s process

New half-life measurements could improve understanding of heavy elements Jul 08, Jun 29, May 19, Primordial black holes may have helped to forge heavy elements Aug 04, Jun 27, May 12, Recommended for you. Bio-circuitry mimics synapses and neurons in a step toward sensory computing Oct 17, Now for the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of arsenic and selenium, neighboring elements near the middle of the periodic table, in an ancient star in the faint stellar halo that surrounds the Milky Way.

Arsenic and selenium are elements at the transition from light to heavy element production, and have not been found in old stars until now. Other more massive stars can synthesize heavier elements, those with more protons in their nuclei, up to iron by nuclear fusion—the process in which atomic nuclei fuse and release lots of energy.

Most of the elements heavier than iron are made by a process called neutron-capture nucleosynthesis. One of the ways that this method can work is by exposure to a burst of neutrons during the violent supernova death of a star. We call this process the rapid process r-process.

How Do We Get Elements Heavier Than Iron?

It can produce elements at the middle and bottom of the periodic table—from zinc to uranium—in the blink of an eye. Roederer, with co-author James Lawler, looked at an ultraviolet spectrum from the Hubble Space Telescope public archives to find arsenic and selenium in a 12 billion year-old halo star dubbed HD Nucleons are protons and neutrons. This process is called nuclear fusion. Each element is defined by the number of protons in its nucleus. Nuclei with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes.

Only some combinations of protons and neutrons are stable. Nucleosynthesis is the process by which heavier elements are created.

Heavy Metal Stars | ESO

There are several different mechanisms for this. Some lighter elements were created soon after the Big Bang. One of the fundamental mechanisms is called the proton-proton chain See Picture below. It occurs when temperatures and pressures are high enough for two protons to overcome their electrostatic repulsion for the string nuclear force to bind them into Helium 2 also called a di-proton.


Most di-protons decay as they are very unstable. This process happens in small stars such as our sun.

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Lithium, Beryllium and Boron are reaction by-products in larger stars.