Cosmic abundance of elements
Davis, Andrew M. Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Last reviewed:November 2019
- CI chondrites
- Systematic patterns
- Comets and interplanetary dust
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The average chemical and isotopic composition of the solar system is appropriately referred to as cosmic, since this elemental abundance distribution is found to be nearly the same for interstellar gas and for young stars associated with gas and dust in the spiral arms of galaxies. The Sun makes up more than 99.9% of the mass of the solar system, so the bulk chemical composition of the solar system is essentially the same as that of the Sun. The cosmic abundances of the nonvolatile elements are determined from chemical analyses of a type of meteorite known as CI chondrites, whereas the relative abundances of the volatile elements are determined from quantitative measurements of the intensities of elemental emission lines from the Sun's photosphere. In most silicate-rich meteorites and the Earth, Moon, Venus, and Mars, the most abundant elements are oxygen, magnesium, silicon, iron, aluminum, and calcium. Average solar-system composition consists of 70.7 wt % hydrogen, 27.4 wt % helium, and only 1.9 wt % of all remaining elements, lithium to uranium. Cosmic abundances are now widely referred to as standard abundances in the astrophysical literature. See also: Astronomical spectroscopy; Element (chemistry)
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