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The Cosmic Mystery Tour$
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Nicholas Mee

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198831860

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198831860.001.0001

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Alchemical Furnaces of the Cosmos

Alchemical Furnaces of the Cosmos

(p.93) Alchemical Furnaces of the Cosmos
The Cosmic Mystery Tour

Nicholas Mee

Oxford University Press

The Sun and other stars generate energy by nuclear fusion processes that convert hydrogen into helium. Eddington was first to suggest the conversion of hydrogen into helium might fuel the stars. At the time stars were thought to have a composition similar to that of the Earth, which cast doubt on Eddington’s idea. Cecilia Payne corrected this misconception and showed the Sun and stars are actually formed of hydrogen and helium with only traces of other elements. Bethe and Crichfield devised mechanisms for how hydrogen nuclear fusion takes place in stars. In more massive stars, such as Betelgeuse, helium is converted into carbon and oxygen. We now know that all the elements beyond helium are created in the stars.

Keywords:   Betelgeuse, Cecilia Payne, Eddington, nuclear fusion, red giant, Bethe and Crichfield

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