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Hydrogen to Helium Helium to heavier elements

  1. Jan 31, 2005 #1
    Would someone mind (in simple terms if possible) explaining how at the beginning of the universe Hydrogen combined to give Helium; then then how Helium combined with deuterium to create the heavier elements?

    I would just like to be more versed on this process...
    Thanks for any help!!!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2005 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Short answer: stars "burn" via nuclear fusion. Hydrogen atoms combine to form helium. As helium concentrations get higher, helium atoms fuse to form heavier elements. If the star goes supernova, the resulting explosion is powerful enough for endothermic fusion of heavier elements into really heavy elements.
  4. Jan 31, 2005 #3
    But I thought a Helium can't combine with another Helium atom because the result would be too unstable. If a Helium(2 protons/2neutrons) combines with a Helium you have 8 particles... but atoms with 5 or 8 particles are unstable.
    That's why I wanted to know what role deuterium plays in this...
    How is deuterium created? How long does it last on it's own? What are the steps from Hydrogen to Helium to heavier elements?

    I appreciate your response russ_watters, I guess I would like some more detail with it though.
    Thanks for helping...
  5. Jan 31, 2005 #4


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    Science Advisor

    The sun produces energy primarily by the PP reaction and about 1-2% by the CNO cycle. The CNO cycle occurs in more massive stars -

    http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/energy/cno.html - for CNO discussion

    In addition to H and He, there are quantities of Li, Be and B, and they will be producing their emission spectra as well.

    See also - http://www-phys.llnl.gov/Research/RRSN/ [Broken]


    Helium Burning in Stars

    In the second link above, one will find ppchain.gif
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
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