The red giant star Betelgeuse: red giants are stars that have exhausted
their Hydrogen fuel and are burning Helium and heavier elements.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NASA, Hubble Space Telescope Institute
Creating Elements up to Iron
When the temperature in the core of a star reaches 100 million degrees
of Helium into Carbon occurs (three Helium nuclei combine to form a
nucleus of Carbon). In the same range of temperature Oxygen is also formed
from fusion of Carbon and Helium together.
At 500 million degrees Kelvin two Carbon (2 12C) nuclei
can fuse to form heavier elements such as Neon (20Ne+4He),
Sodium (23Na+1H), and Magnesium (24Mg).
Oxygen can start burning effectively at temperatures on the order of
1 billion degrees Kelvin. The fusion of two nuclei of Oxygen can produce Sulfur
(32S), and Silicon (28Si+4He).
The heaviest elements obtainable through a fusion process that releases
energy are obtained at a temperature range of 2 billions degrees Kelvin,
when two Silicon nuclei can fuse to form Nickel
(56Ni). Nickel-56 can then decay into Cobalt and Iron.
Movies courtesy of University of Oregon
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