Gifts from Mother-of-Ra

Mother-of-Ra was the supernova that exploded a bit less than five billion years ago.  Our solar system was just a diffuse cloud of gas and dust before Mother-of-Ra pushed it all sideways.  This push compressed the gas so that it started to collapse of its own weight.  We call the result Sol, but the Egyptians were first.

There might have been a few atoms heavier than iron in that cloud from previous supernovae, but most of the heavy stuff we have now was gathered then.  The cloud’s population of Carbon and Oxygen was higher, since these elements can be puffed out into space by smaller stars in their red giant phase.  Red giants can make traces of the heavier elements through the slow s-process.  Supernovae use the rapid r-process to create most of the heavy elements.

The r-process started when Mother-of-Ra’s nuclear fire went out.  When the supernova collapsed, the outer layers rushed inward, picking up a lot of kinetic energy.  Some atoms may have approached 1/3 the speed of light in their fall!

If nature finds too much energy in one place it can relieve the stress by converting it to matter.  This is E = mc2, but the opposite of an A-bomb.  The gravitational energy converted to a flood of new neutrons that piled up on the atoms inside Mother-of-Ra.

  • Too many neutrons make a nucleus unstable.  It can relieve the stress by converting one of the neutrons to a proton.  The atom becomes the next element up on the periodic table.  This is the secret behind transmutation of the elements!

The flood of neutrons kept piling on.  Some nuclei obtained so many excess neutrons they transmuted several times per second.  This created the Tin, Gold, and Lead we use today.  The entire element-building process was over in about fifteen seconds!  Mother-of-Ra was generous in her gifts for those few seconds.

Thorium and Uranium are the heaviest elements that have survived since the supernova.  They can be considered nature’s energy storage device.  The energy they store is gravity!  What could be cleaner?