The Evolving Universe

Smithsonian Institution

Our Galaxy

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Stars are made up mostly of lighter-than-air hydrogen and helium gas. Extreme pressure and temperature at a star's core sets off nuclear fusion and changes the gas atoms into different elements such as carbon and iron. All of the raw materials that make up everything in the universe - including Earth and our bodies - are formed within stars and released into space when stars die.

Interstellar Diamond Dust

In the exhibit, we present tiny diamond crystals, forged in the explosion of a dying star and much later mixed into the cloud that gave birth to our Solar System over 4.6 billion years ago. The crystals were found in the Allende meteorite, which fell to Earth in 1969.

The interstellar dust samples are a gift of R. S. Lewis, University of Chicago.