Silver Core

12 years ago

Silver Core
Silver Core

What produced the iron in the Earth’s core and the heavier elements like gold and silver in the Earth’s crust?

Heavy elements are made inside stars – but they do NOT have to be massive stars that supernova

Neutron capture is the key to bulding elements heavier than iron.
Neutrons are neutral and so there is no electrostatic repulsion when trying to add neutrons.
In a star that goes supernova many neutrons are freed and can be injected into nuclei. This process happens so fast that nuclei become full of neutrons and unstable, so they decay radioactively. The path by which they decay depends on what the element started as and how many neutrons were added – but this process, known and the r-process (rapid process) leads to a certain distribution of isotopes.
However, it is a myth that lower mass stars, like the sun, cannot build elements heavier than carbon. Inside an aging low mass star neutrons get produced and neutron capture can occur. In this case, the neutron density is much lower, to the process is much slower (s-process). This leads to a different set of isotopes than the r-process!
These low mass stars lose their newly made elements much more slowly than massive stars and the ejected material is what eventually forms planetary nebulae.


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