Only two elements were created during the Big Bang: hydrogen and helium. All other elements found today were formed in stars and then exploded in space when they did. The next generation of stars collected materials and in turn added more and heavier items. In the intergalactic medium, for example, “metals” continued to accumulate, as all elements beyond hydrogen and helium are called in astronomy.
A team led by Julia Sinquijrana and Amanda Caracas of Monash University in Australia says this process should stop soon. “Our models of metal-rich stars show that they swell so much that they become red giants and then turn into white dwarfs, but at this point they no longer emit any heavy elements,” Sinquigrana says. “The minerals are trapped in the remains of the white dwarf.”
The two astronomers and their group have published two papers on the matter in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. [1, 2]. Their simulations showed that even small changes in the initial composition of a budding star have a significant impact on its further evolution. Newer stars sometimes have seven times the mineral content of the Sun.
However, there is no reason to fear that we will run out of building materials for planets and living organisms in emerging solar systems in the near future. Especially since there are still countless middle-aged stars like our sun that will enrich the galactic environment with new minerals for the foreseeable future. The age of the Sun is estimated at four and a half billion years before it also exhales its existence in the form of an expanding gas cloud, and it will take another six to seven billion years.
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