We Are Made of Stars


We are made of stars, carl sagan, universe, star system, galaxies, we are all made of star stuff, space, awe, infinity - HeadStuff.orgIt’s often the most intimidating aspects of stars that are emphasised. We hear all over about light years and a hundred solar masses and super novae. Stars have become distant, violent heavenly bodies – removed from us, dangerous.


It’s an idea I’ve harboured for a long time, too. Science was never my strong suit, and seeing the cosmos as just enigmatic and scary was often a discouraging factor for getting to know more. It seemed unknowable.


But as I’ve come come into contact with science this year, I realise that the stars are not just these faint balls of light. They are my forebears; they’ve glimmered billions of years before my species even existed.


Carl Sagan famously said that, “Our bodies are made of star-stuff. There are pieces of star within us all”. I had encountered this quote before, but I didn’t really understand it – at least not in the way Sagan intended.



I now know that in the mysterious moments after the Big Bang only the lightest elements could form – Helium, Hydrogen and Lithium. Nothing else – no iron or carbon.


When the stars formed in our nascent universe, they fulfilled the role they perform to this day – the factories of the cosmos. Heavier elements were created out of lighter ones: Hydrogen to Helium, Helium to Carbon. Eventually these stars exploded, shooting the heavy elements forged in their cores into the space – the elements that the Earth now consists of: Iron, Nickel, Helium Zinc, Carbon.


The elements we consist of.


The iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones, the carbon upon which life on Earth is based. We really are made of star stuff, elements forged in the supreme fury of dying stars. Suddenly, the stars don’t seem so distant.


They are where I and everyone I love come from. They are where the gold of my mother’s wedding ring was made. The red hue of Arteris, the crooked tail of Scorpio – my stellar ancestors.


I realise now that it’s fine to be a little scared of the cosmos. It’s so mysterious and powerful. But it is also my home and somewhere out in its darkness, the spark of life occurred.


And I am grateful and in awe.