If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

WATCH: Elements - A Brief Big History (H2)

Inside stars, gravity and heat crush and restructure atoms – creating all the elements on the periodic table. ​​Like what you see? This video is part of a comprehensive social studies curriculum from OER Project, a family of free, online social studies courses. OER Project aims to empower teachers by offering free and fully supported social studies courses for middle- and high-school students. Your account is the key to accessing our standards-aligned courses that are designed with built-in supports like leveled readings, audio recordings of texts, video transcripts, and more. Register today at oerproject.com!

Website: https://www.oerproject.com/Big-History
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OERProject/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/oerproject.
Created by Big History Project.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

NARRATOR: This star, several times more massive than our sun, is an element factory. Inside the star, gravity and heat crush and restructure atoms, forming elements including metals like aluminum and iron that will spread out into the cosmos when the star collapses and explodes as a supernova. The supernova's energy transforms more atoms. CRAIG BENJAMIN: In this process, all of these other elements are cooked up, if you like, including silver. NARRATOR: But supernovas don't make gold. These do: the ruins of two supernovas, each half a million times more dense than the Earth. They're called neutron stars, and when they collide, they release more energy than our sun releases in its lifetime, creating elements heavier than silver, including gold. But these collisions are rare. There are far more supernovas... ...which is why there's more silver than gold in the Universe and on Earth.