Archives » Astronomy

Where Elements Come From

I just love this.

Then again, as a chemist you would expect me to.

I got to this Periodic Table via Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for 9/8/20. It shows the origins of the chemical elements as percentages of how the total number of each elements’ atoms were formed.

Periodic Table of Elements' Origins

Those parts in blue were formed in the Big Bang or by nuclear fusion in stars, green came from dying low mass stars, pink from cosmic ray fission, yellow from the explosions of massive stars, purple from neutron stars merging, light grey in exploding white dwarf stars.

There are areas of darker gray. The elements these refer to are mostly not found naturally – Technetium (Atomic Number 43,) Promethium (Atomic Number 61) and all the transuranics (Atomic Numbers greater than 92) can be made artificially in particle colliders or nuclear bombs and reactors, though I note that Neptunium (93) and Plutonium (94) seem to be produced by merging neutron stars. All elements with Atomic Numbers greater than 82 are radioactive and so decay away over time which is why the transuranics are not found on Earth and only some atoms of elements 82-92 are.

Quite why the version of this table that appears on APOD also has elements numbered 84-89 plus 91 in dark gray puzzles me a bit.

Butterfly Nebula, NGC 6302

This beautifully detailed photo appeared on Astronomy Picture of the Day for 21/7/20.

It was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and shows the Butterfly Nebula, NGC 6302, with emissions by iron atoms in red.

Butterfly Nebula, NGC 6302


A naked eye comet can be seen in the sky since the beginning of the month. First observed by the NEOWISE space telescope (and hence named after it) on 27/3/2020, it blossomed in brightness on nearing the Sun and became visible to unaided human eyes in July.

I’ve not observed it myself. It’s been too cloudy when I remembered to look but the photographs have been great – especially the ones with Stonehenge in the foreground.

(Pictures from BBC news website.)


NEOWISE over Stonehenge:-

NEOWISE over Stonehenge

This is a time-lapse video from You Tube of NEOWISE rising over the Adriatic Sea.

Cosmic Monster

Part of the Carina Nebula as seen in Astronomy Picture of the Day for 25/5/20.

It looks like something from the cover of a Fantasy novel:-

Part of Carina Nebula

A Barred Spiral Galaxy

Form Astronomy Picture of the Day for 11/6/20, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300.

Isn’t it lovely?

NGC 1300

The View from Saturn’s Rings

This appears to be an update – or at least a re-angled view – of a picture I posted before.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for 27/5/20, does however show Earth’s Moon better than the previous one:-

Earth and Moon from Saturn

The Largest Canyon in the Solar System

… that we know of, is Valles Marineris on Mars.

It shows up stretching across the centre of Mars in this mosaic image as seen on Astronomy Picture of the Day for 24/5/20.

Valles Marineris is over 3,000 kilometres long, 600km wide and in parts 8km deep. (Compare the Grand Canyon, only 800 kilometers long, 30km across, and 1.8km deep.)

The three round features on the left are the Martian Shield Volcanoes, one of which, Olympus Mons, is the highest mountain in the Solar System.

Valles Marineris on Mars

Earth-Sized Planet Orbiting Proxima Centauri b.

From The Daily Galaxy today, 28/5/20.

Proxima Centauri b is of course the nearest star to our own sun. The planet – discovered via an update to the HARPS method of plabnet detection known as ESPRESSO – is 1.17 times the size of Earth and orbits its star in 11.2 Earth Days and would be in the habitable zone if the star didn’t deluge it in X-rays. If the planet has an atmosphere though, those might be absorbed.

Birth of a Planet

From The Daily Galaxy for 20/5/20.

The kink in bright yellow may be where a planet is forming. That we as a species can observe such things is mind-boggling.

Birth of a Planet

Celestial Jewel

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 6/4/20.

Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672.

NGC 1672

free hit counter script