People they come together
People they fall apart
No one can stop us now
‘Cause we are all made of stars

Moby

As we talked about last post, the universe started with a Big Bang.  From this, hydrogen, deuterium, and helium were created.  But we see many more elements than those around us, and in fact, we are made of more.  So how did those get there?

Stars.

While it appears that stars are just points of light around us, stars are as unique as you and me.  Stars have lives – they are born, they go through middle age, they get old, and they die.  There are generations of stars.  There are star nurseries, as shown in the picture at the beginning of this post, where new stars are created.  There are red stars and blue stars and white stars and black stars and brown stars.  And there are innumerable stars.  The picture here is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image formed by focusing the telescope on an “empty” area of space for 11 days.  It shows galaxies from 13 billion years ago, and has an estimated 10,000 galaxies in this image alone.  NOTE: Every “dot” in this image is a galaxy, with an estimated average of 100 BILLION stars per galaxy, or 1000 trillion stars in this image alone.

Star formation has been well studied and is fairly complex.  There are some “simplified” descriptions around.  Basically, large clouds of hydrogen with a bit of deuterium and helium form areas that are slightly more dense than others.  Gravity causes these areas to collapse and become more dense.  Things become more and more dense, which increases the pressure and temperature of the gas.  Eventually, it gets hot and dense enough to ignite hydrogen fusion as we talked about in post #3, creating helium and causing the star to “shine”.  If there are the right conditions present, helium atoms can undergo fusion as well to form heavier atoms with higher atomic numbers.  This continues making carbon, neon, silicon, oxygen and iron.  Up to this point, combining two atoms releases energy making the process go forward – the atoms can still “burn”.  But after this, things stop. Depending on several different characteristics, stars can collapse or explode, and they can ultimately end up as white dwarfs, neutron stars or black holes.

In our world, and in our bodies, there are elements with atomic numbers higher than iron.  So how did those get there.  Supernovas.  It takes a great deal of energy to combine elements to create ones above iron, and this energy comes from exploding stars.  Elements are created and spread throughout the universe.  These atoms eventually find themselves into other clouds of gas which condense and form stars and systems like our solar system.  These atoms literally make life possible on earth.  We could not exist without exploding stars and colliding galaxies.  So Moby, and many others, were right.

What does religion tell us about stars?  To be honest, it is fairly limited.  In the Creation stories, which were written thousands of years ago, the stars were fixed points of light in the firmament.  The sun was a ball of fire dragged through the sky by a chariot.  It was a glowing orb which could stop in its place.  The universe was a fixed place – a static place.

Stars are mentioned in a few places.  In Job 9 we read: Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.  Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. In Hebrews 11, the stars are counted as “innumerable”.  And in Moses 7 we are told: “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning of the number of thy creations”.

More information was given by Joseph Smith in the Book of Abraham.  We will have a discussion about time in a later post, but he did talk about stars.  He states that Kolob is the creation (star/planet?) which is closest to God.  Next to Kolob is Oliblish, which is a “grand governing creation” which has the “key of power also, pertaining to other planets”.  “Raukeeyang” is the firmament of the heavens.  I will quote Facsimile #2, Figure 5 in its entirety:

Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions.  This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob

I’m not really sure what to make of this.  I’m not sure how light, or power, flows throughout the universe from Kolob to other governing planets/stars to our solar system.  I’m not sure how our Sun borrows its light from Kolob through a medium.

So, with regard to stars, what science tells us makes sense to me.  If I were God, and I wanted to create Man, I would need atoms to make him.  Looking at what percentage of our bodies are made up of various elements, I would need oxygen (65%), carbon (18%), hydrogen (10%), nitrogen (3%), calcium (1.5%), phosphorus (1.0%), potassium (0.35%), sulfur (0.25%), sodium (0.15%), magnesium (0.05%), copper, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, fluorine, chlorine, iodine, manganese, cobalt, iron, lithium, strontium, aluminum, silicon, lead, vanadium, arsenic and bromine (trace amounts).  Without these, I couldn’t make Man.

To get these, if I were God, I would create stars.  I would create large, fast burning stars that burnt through their hydrogen quickly and exploded, spreading different types of atoms throughout the universe.  I would want galaxies to crash into each other and trigger more star formation.  I would want it to be a violent place.  I would want the stars to be a LONG way from each other.  (A supernova releases so much energy that one exploding within 100 light-years of the earth would likely be catastrophic.  This is 587,849,981,000,000 miles.)  And eventually, after stars have been born, have lived, and have died, I would want a cloud of gas with the right mixture of elements to start to condense.  I would want a star to start shining.  I would want a rocky planet to form.  And I would want to make a home for my children.

In case you’re just getting here, this is post #8 in a series on Science & Religion.  The posts build up on each other to an extent.  If you’re interested in reading any of the other posts in the series, click on Mike S in the Author Section to the right.  The next few posts are going to talk about Where God lives, Time and Relativity, and Strings/Spirits/Multiple dimensions.  So stay tuned…

Questions:

  • Looking up at a starry night in a clear Lake Powell sky, the universe does appear as fixed as the ancients pictured it.  Isn’t it amazing how much is really going on out there?
  • What are your thoughts on the fact that we literally are made of stars that have died and exploded?  Does this fit with your view of how God created Man?
  • Ancients pictured stars as innumerable.  Joseph Smith brought this to another level in Moses.  Science has confirmed these magnitudes.  Can your mind even conceive the numbers we’re talking about here?
  • To be honest, I am completely baffled by what Joseph Smith said in the Book of Abraham.  I’ve read everything I can find about it, but nothing has really made sense to me.  Can anyone explain what he meant?  Or do we just need to ask him someday?