Carl Sagan famously stated “We are made of star stuff.”
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.” Every atom that is a part of our body or of anything that we consume was once located deep in the crucibles of one of the stars that died over 4 billion years ago.
When the universe was born (with a bang!), about 13.7 billion years ago, it expanded from an infinitesimally small size to a size larger than our galaxy within a tiny fraction of a microsecond [So says the Big Bang theory]. Ever since it has kept on expanding and is still expanding [So said a guy called Hubble].
This primordial universe was suffused only with energy and was, therefore, extremely hot. As it expanded and cooled down, subatomic particles were formed which then fused together to form the first atoms of the simplest elements — hydrogen and helium. As more and more of these atoms were formed, gravity came into picture and formed galaxies from nebulae of these gases.
In the densest parts of these galaxies, the atoms clustered together under the effect of gravity until the pressure and temperature became so high
that they started to fuse together to form heavier elements. Two hydrogen atoms fuse to form helium and then in a cascade, helium atoms form heavier elements. This process of nuclear fusion is the powerhouse of all stars.
The bigger stars keep on fusing the atoms and releasing enormous amounts of energy until they become unstable, explode into a supernova and scatter the elements they created throughout their lifetimes across the universe. The heavier of these elements coalesce to form planets around new stars (which are formed from the lighter elements of the old stars).
So each and every atom on earth, and hence, each atom that makes us was once deep inside a star and somehow found its way inside the cells that make up our bodies.
The pictures and numbers in our science books always gave us the feeling of being isolated on our beautiful blue planet separated from the rest of the universe by inconceivable distances when each one of us is connected with the universe in such an intimate way.
More astonishing are the myriad permutations and combinations of the nature that have led to the creation of different kinds of life forms and the different individual personalities within each life form. We differ from one another in our minds and semblance. Sometimes we meet people who share our interests and habits, but even these similarities have varying degrees.
These differences are not just in the way universe has created us but also in the way we were nurtured by it. No two people have travelled the same path in life. No two people faced the exact same difficulties. . We even express the same thought in very different ways. It’s good to be unique — each one of us a star, radiating different kinds and intensities of skills, energy, thoughts, creativity, knowledge and maturity.
We are all unique, but exactly the same in the most rudimentary way. It is difficult for me to comprehend how we are same and yet so different — another duality theory at work here!
So the next time you look at a star twinkling in our highly polluted night sky (the elements for this pollution were also formed inside of a star), remember that we have a part of the universe within us, and each one of us is a star in our own way.