So the question are – How old are you, and how were you made?
Simple: Mummy and Daddy, birds and the bees, evolution, DNA, a one Mr. Charles Darwin, reproduction, genetics—we all know the story. We all have a birthday to remind us, and we all tend to try and forget our birthday as we proceed through our time line called life. It’s a date set to remind us of when and where we were made but again we are all wrong, depending on your train of thought of course.
So I am going to be very precise and talk about you, yes that’s right—you!—my beloved reader, where you were made, and most importantly when.
To answer this simple yet far reaching question, we have to look up into the night sky and travel back in time, billions of years, well about 6 billion years, to be precise, give or take a few years of course. Here, if you were looking into our galaxy the Milky Way you would be witness to an amazing and most beautiful event in the universe, sadly the death of a once bright star. Here the dying star had been fusing heavy elements together, right up to iron, the heaviest element that allows fusion to take place. Then quite simply in its final moment the star throws out all of the elements it had been creating for billions of years, it spews its guts out—far out—into space, an immense cloud of dust and gas called a nebular.
Let’s rewind again about another 4.5 billion years 10.5 from our present date, and we see our star that has just died, in its full brightness, shining brilliantly and doing what stars do best – nuclear fusion. Here at its core, hydrogen atoms are under so much pressure and heat that as they touch each other they fuse together, and make helium atoms and release heat energy, that’s nuclear fusion for you. Fast forward 3.5 billion years and the helium is now fusing to form other elements such carbon and oxygen and so on right up to iron. So we can say stars are where the elements are created or atoms made. They are atomic factories.
Now back to our dead ancient star and the cloud of dust and gas it has left behind. It is a cloud that contains all the elements required to build a nice solar system, which if we think about it was fortunate for us all. A 100 million years has passed and the dust has organised itself into giant spheres all spinning around one enormous giant sphere spinning in on itself. Confused let’s just look at the sphere of dust that was the third one out from the centre, gravity is slowly acting on this area pulling all the dust and gas together. The dust clumps to form grains, the grains clump to form stones, stones form rocks, rocks join to form asteroids, asteroids clash together and over an immense amount of time our earth is formed along with the planets, we nearly have a solar system.
In the centre, the gravity is so immense that hydrogen atoms are slowly rubbing together, this friction is generating heat, and then this interplay of pressure, hydrogen and heat causes one of the wonders of the universe, the star, our sun simply switches on, this shock wave causes all of the unused dust and gas from the nebular to be pushed out to the edge of the solar system, leaving behind an ordered arrangement of planets and other stuff, our solar system.
So you are made mostly of carbon atoms, there is also oxygen, nitrogen magnesium and many others all joined in chemical arrangements that allows life to proceed, and where were they made. The atoms that make up your body were made in a star that died about 6 billion years ago, so you are at least 6 billion years old, happy birthday and good luck on blowing out those candles on your cosmic cake.