Questions for We Are Stardust


Before reading:

1.      Humans and aliens may look worlds apart. But are they made of the same stuff? Explain your answer.

During reading:

1.      Name two types of situations in which stars create elements and fling them out into space.

2.      How many elements occur naturally on Earth?

3.      How are an atom and a solar system alike?

4.      Which element has the fewest protons, and so is considered the lightest? Which element is the heaviest?

5.      Name three elements and where each occurs abundantly.

6.      About how long ago did the Big Bang occur and how long did it last?

7.      What do scientists mean when they say the universe is expanding?

8.      Which two elements were around shortly after the Big Bang? How were heavier, later elements created?

9.      What pulls gas molecules in giant gas clouds toward each other?

10.  As they grow denser, will the temperature of giant gas clouds change? And if so, in what way: hotter or cooler?

11.  Can our sun make heavier elements? Explain your answer.

12.  To build elements beyond, or heavier, than iron, what must a star do?

13.  How are platinum and gold created?

14.  About how often do neutron stars collide in a galaxy?

15.  How do small to medium-size stars die? How quickly does this happen?

16.  How do bigger stars die? How quickly does this happen?

17.  What percentage of our galaxy is made up of elements heavier than helium? Has that number increased or decreased over time?

18.  About how long ago did HFLS3 form?

19.  What did scientists find surprising about HFLS3?

20.  Are starburst galaxies like HFLS3 rare? Explain your answer.

After reading:

1.      Were you surprised to learn that you’re made of stardust? Explain your answer and what it has taught you about your place in the universe.


1.      Information about what’s happening in the distant cosmos takes months to thousands of millennia to reach astronomers on Earth. What types of problems could that pose for these scientists, who study the universe?

2.      Pick an element and prepare a presentation on it that includes at least five cool facts. Also prepare a short quiz on the information (and include your answers).