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Carbon's Ultimate Road Trip
Transcript of Carbon's Ultimate Road Trip
What is the Carbon Atom?
The carbon atom is one of the 23 natural elements that is created in a star explosion.
It has 6 protons (positively charged particles), neutrons(neutrally charged particles), and electrons (negatively charged particles). Both the protons and neutrons are located within the nucleus of the atom, whereas the electrons float around the atom in two separate energy levels.
Carbon typically forms covalent bonds, meaning that it shares its electrons with other atoms.
Due to carbon having an equal number of protons, neutrons, and electrons, the nuclear force causes the protons and electrons to repel themselves against one another, while the electromagnetic force is the force that keeps the atom bonded together.
Most carbon comes to Earth as a result of the creation of new solar systems. As a supernova explosion occurs within a galaxy, elements, such as carbon, are created and displaced throughout the universe. These elements may pile up together to create stars. These stars will then use helium and hydrogen atoms to generate nuclear fusion and give the star a source of energy. Eventually the star will explode and again more elements will be sent throughout the universe.
How Does Carbon Get to Earth?
Although carbon is created in supernova explosions, it gets to earth by traveling in meteors, meteorites, and asteroids. Once the meteor enters the earth's atmosphere and lands, it becomes a meteorite. This form of meteor transportation would be the equivalent to a very fast jet plane. Comets are also like meteors in that they are of similar size and shape and may contain carbon. The only difference is that comets are frozen, as they contain water. An asteroid is very much like a large meteor. It is the commercial airplane of its kind, it will contain carbon just like a meteor, but it has the possibility of containing a larger amount due to its larger size.
Micrometeorites give scientists insights to the origin of all elements, and specifically the nature of carbon.
Where Does Carbon Start?
Going back 15 billion years ago, it all started with the Big Bang! After this explosion of matter, the universe was created. Once the fabrication of the universe had begun, the two main elements of Helium & Hydrogen began nuclear fusion inside stars.
As discussed in previous units, nuclear fusion is the process of two nuclei (typically hydrogen) forming together to create a larger nucleus, or elements, and therefore giving off energy.
When 3 helium atoms fuse together they create Carbon.
Example of Fusion
By: Katie Heath
The Big Bang
Covalent bond between Carbon & Hydrogen
What Does a Supernova Explosion Look Like?
*A star explosion looks very similar to a supernova explosion only smaller
Are Stars the Source of All Life?
The first 92 elements on the periodic table are created in supernova explosions. Without these elements life on Earth, or anywhere for that matter, would not exist.
Carbon will often form with hydrogen atoms to create a hydrocarbon. Any organic molecule is made up of hydrocarbons and depending on its carbon chain its characteristics will vary. Meaning without these two elements, life is impossible. Since these elements are created in both star and supernova explosions, life would not exist without the stars.
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