Opinion: Stardust

Iron is commonly thought of only in the context of construction, metallurgy, and industrial manufacturing. However, iron is one of the critical ingredients of life. Humans, animals, and plants all require iron to sustain life. Hemoglobin in the blood of every living human requires iron to function. About 70 percent of our body’s iron exists in blood cells, and this is true regardless of the color of a person’s skin. We are all bound together by stardust.

The story of iron begins in intergalactic space, deep within a type of star known as a red giant. Inside the star, its helium converts to carbon and oxygen atoms. As the process continues, these atoms slowly change into the heaviest type of atom a star can produce; iron. When these atomic conversions finish running their course, the red giant is mostly iron. This marks the end of its life because, at that point, the star becomes a supernova and undergoes one of the most violent processes know in the universe. The red giant explodes, spewing iron, carbon, and oxygen across the vast reaches of space. 

This intergalactic stardust finds its way into gravity wells where it eventually coalesces into planets. Our earth went through this process some 4.5 billion years ago. The molten liquid core of planet earth, where temperatures exceed 6000 degrees C, is mostly composed of iron. The crust of the planet, directly beneath our feet, contains about 5 percent iron. 

What does this mean?

Gaia theory points out that organic and inorganic components of our planet bind together into a single, self-regulating system. This system is an interconnected web of life encircling the outer shell of the earth. Human beings are only part of that web, not the web itself. The iron from space dust that originated in the heart of a red giant is also part of that web. 

Human beings share a common universal origin, and we are all part of the local web of life on planet earth. Discussions of equity and social justice ultimately rest on the recognition of this common heritage. When we look at another person, we should remember that we share bonds that go far beyond our planet and solar system. 

“We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, and we got to get ourselves back to the garden.” (Woodstock lyrics by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

Author: William House (


What Is the Origin of Iron? (By Marc Chase – Sciencing) – Also:

Hemoglobin and Functions of Iron (UCSF Health) –

Feature Image: Cygnus Loop supernova remnant (NASA) (Modified) – This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA.

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