Astrophysics Reveals The Origin Of The Human Body
“Owing to NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope, we can observe how much of each heavy element comes from recent supernova explosions.
When it comes to the human body, the majority of what makes us up comes from supernovae, not any other source.
The biggest find? Every element required to make DNA is found in the aftermath of exploding stars.”
From hydrogen through uranium and beyond, the Universe finds a way to create more than 90 unique elements via natural processes. Dozens of those elements have been found in the human body, many of which are essential to life processes. Yet every element has its own unique cosmic origin story, from the Big Bang to small stars to supernovae to neutron star mergers and more. Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope, we’ve measured which elements are produced in supernova explosions, and in what concentrations. Not only have we determined that the overwhelming majority of the human body’s components (73%) are produced in supernovae, but that almost all of our oxygen, by far our most abundant element, is made there. Other processes play a role, but the majority of each of us comes from an exploding, massive star.