Everyday Items We Use From Outer Space
Everything in the world, natural or man-made, is composed of elements formed in space. Even those naturally occurring on Earth were first created in space, before settling here as stardust and transforming into all the building blocks of life on Earth. Now, whilst this means everything we use is technically made of stardust, there are certain items that contain elements from outer space in a purer form.
During the Big Bang certain elements, principally hydrogen and helium, were formed, and they have not been formed since. These elements have simply stuck around and undergone various reactions and transformations to become the building blocks of the universe. On top of these Big Bang elements, there have been various other elements formed as a result of different chemical reactions, brought about by the death of stars and the volatile nature of the space. It is these elements – these grains of stardust – that we use in everyday life, though we don’t often appreciate the journey that have undergone to get to us.
So let’s take a look at some of the ingredients found in the everyday items we take for granted; specifically, ingredients that were made in outer space.
Calcium is an element formed in the stars millions of years ago. Effectively the remains of a dead star, this impressive ancient element is an essential nutrient for our bodies, and a common ingredient in everyday items. As well as being responsible for keeping our skeletons healthy, strong and rigid, calcium is used in unassuming items like blackboard chalks, cleaning products and construction work, as well as in the production of milk and cheese. As such a multipurpose substance, it is no wonder calcium has stuck around for so long; it is perhaps one of the most diverse and robust elements the cosmos ever threw out. So next time you’re having a ham and cheese toastie or doodling on a chalkboard, take a moment to appreciate the bit of cosmic chemical history you’re using.
Though not often found in its purest form on Earth, we know that iron was formed not too long after the universe was born, coming about as a result of all sorts of cosmic chemical reactions. We also know that this direct descendent of stardust is a fundamental feature of everyday life. Iron in its solid metal form is used for all and sundry; cookware, furniture, decoration, construction and transport. You name it; iron is there. Combined with other elements though, iron’s potential is even greater. For example, iron’s natural magnetism means it can be used, in the form of iron chloride, as a chemical component in all sorts of dyes, paints and pigments. So even the clothes you wear may be using this ancient metallic element, formed millions of years ago in the far reaches of space.
Fluorine is one of the many chemical elements integral to our everyday life, but it rarely has much time in the spotlight. However, fluorine is actually quite the element. Formed billions of years ago by long-dead stars, it is quite literally made of stardust. That’s right, fluorine – used in everyday things like toothpaste – is formed at the end of a star’s life, during the red giant stage, which means we literally clean our teeth with the remnants of ancient stars that lived and died long before our sun was born. Impressive huh?
Now, these three elements are just a small example of the different types of stardust we use in our daily lives. So whether we are brushing our teeth with the remains of a red giant or tie dying bed sheets with cosmic metal, it is worth sparing a second to think just how cool it is to live a life made of stardust!