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Asked by Audrey

In a star if helium fuses to make carbon, what makes the elements in between?

The fusion of elements in stars depends on the size and temperature of the star itself. Initially the star is mainly formed of hydrogen, which fuses to make helium due to the high temperatures and pressures present in the star. But fusion doesn’t stop there and heavier elements can be formed from different combinations of hydrogen and helium. Helium will not only fuse to make carbon but it can also fuse with hydrogen to make Lithium, Beryllium and all the elements in between. In reality all elements up to Iron can be formed, as iron has the highest binding energy per nucleon and is therefore more stable than all the previous elements and will not fuse any further. You can look at a “Binding Energy per Nucleon vs. Mass Number” graph for reference.

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Fotios Tsitsos
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