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We Are Stardust. These words, or some version of them, have been uttered by artists from Joni Mitchell to Moby, as well as scientists, like Carl Sagan. As Sagan famously put it, “It makes good sense to revere the sun and the stars because we are their children.”
. . . the atoms coursing through our bodies at this very moment have an extraordinarily ancient history.
-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark
And the more we learn, the more we find that such a notion fits extremely well with scientific observation. In January 2017, researchers working on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey reported the results of a survey of 150,000 stars in our Milky Way galaxy.
By analyzing the light emitted from different stars—which essentially provides a ‘fingerprint’ of the different elements that are present—their team observed remarkable parallels between the composition of the stars and the most common elements found in the human body. Impressively, the six elements that make up 97% of our bodies—carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur—were all observed in abundance across the Milky Way.
Thus, we can assume that the atoms coursing through our bodies at this very moment have an extraordinarily ancient history, at one time residing within distant gas clouds and stars. And what a story these atoms could tell, having survived star death, being spewed into space, and ultimately finding a home within your body here on Earth.
There’s a certain comfort in knowing how intimately connected we are to it all. In the words of the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, “we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us.”
How does this knowledge influence the way you see yourself and others? Let us know in the comments below.