As our nebula began to collapse under its own gravity and spin faster,
a dense clump of matter formed in the center. It's called a protostar.
At first, its heat was due to friction. But when the clump reached 18 million
degrees Fahrenheit, nuclear fusion kicked in. Four-and-a-half billion years
ago, our star was born. Hydrogen atoms fused together to form helium, and
in the process, released photons. It's the first light made by our sun.
And it will keep on shining for four billion years. A vast nuclear furnace-nearly
a million miles across. From a distance, this process seems almost peaceful,
with the sun's power gentry radiating out into the early solar system.
There was all sorts of activity going on-things were changing rapidly,
violence, explosions, intense radiation. We had a pretty spectacular origin.
Recent research suggests the solar system's birth was far from peaceful.
Our sun may, in fact, have been born out of one of the most violent events
in the cosmos-the explosive death of another star. And even before that,
it seems there was an explosion so huge, that it created an entire universe-the
Big Bang. No one knows what caused it, but we think that the bang created
apace, time, and all the matter in the universe. Yet for astrophysicists
such as Professor Stan Woosley, there's a puzzle. The Big Bnag produced
almost none of the 88 naturally occurring chemical elements. When we look
around, we don't just see hydrogen and helium. We see planets and people,
and we're made out of carbon and oxygen...and planets are made out of iron
and silicon, and that didn't all come from the Big Bang. It had to come
form somewhere else. Here on earth, we've learned how to create new elements
for ourselves-nuclear technology. The same thing happens inside stars.
Hydrogen and helium form the Big Bang fuse to form heavier elements, and
if the star is big enough, at the end of its life, it does something spectacular.
It explodes. The energy of a supernova explosion is essentially equal to
all of the energy that the sun will put out in its 10-billion-year lifetime.