The Incredible Journey of Hydrogen Atoms

a most profound story about the universe

hydrogen atom story of the star water life

As I sat, fixed in some corner of the room, attending a not-so-important lecture, my eyes couldn't help but notice a little drop of water lying carefree on the desk. The size of the thing was so small that one possibly could not see it directly. So I got closer to it, the minute sphere, which lay surprisingly still, despite its size.

But then I realized, all of a sudden, that the drop of water indeed had a very big story to unfold, within itself, the story of our universe, in fact, of the origin of life and water itself. Any primary school kid would know that water is made up of atoms of hydrogen and oxygen bonded together. If you could zoom in, you should be able to see two little hydrogen atoms atop oxygen.

Believe it or not but those hydrogen atoms are nearly 13 billion years old thereby making the longest journey in time. I believe that if our universe was made into a movie, hydrogen would play the lead, don't you think so?


Approximately 380,000 years after the big bang, the first atoms were made. Before this, the universe was supposedly fluctuated mainly with ions and subatomic particles. Additionally, the temperature was very high for the atoms to form and the protons couldn't get the hold on electrons. But as the universe continually expanded, it became less dense and more cold.

The temperature eventually became sufficient for the protons and electrons to interact and consequently primordial atoms, mostly hydrogen and helium, were formed, thereby spitting light in the process. That is when our universe became really observable.

Slowly, the large clouds of hydrogen were clumped together under the force of gravity. Just like a cotton candy is spun from sugar solution, a star is spun from the atoms of hydrogen. The temperature inside the stars is sufficient to fuse the hydrogen into helium and thus they slowly turned themselves into self sustaining energy sources. This marked the beginning of the era of stars and eventually galaxies.

The star is like a factory which uses its own materials to compose new ones which, by the way, requires a lot of heating up. The early stars converted their hydrogen into helium, then that into other heavier elements such as carbon and nitrogen. They then withered away due to lack of heat. More new stars kept coming into existence elsewhere and these conversions happened throughout space and time.


Them early stars even could make, something as heavy as iron, in the depths of their cores. But since iron is kind of the most stable element in the periodic table due to its nuclear properties, it is impossible to fuse iron and produce still heavier elements like lead or uranium inside the star itself. To make those would require even greater blistering temperatures.

To conclude, the star is a factory whose raw material is hydrogen and which it uses to make other elements in the periodic table up to iron. Ultimately all the stars must die since iron in the cores cannot be used. They will then shred their outer mass in the form of a hydrogen gas cloud, nebula, will form. These nebulae, which grow as big as thousands of light years, will become the pillars of further creation.

Thus, the tiny drop of water is made up of the same hydrogen atoms which were formed during the early stages of the universe. They were once part of the surface of the stars and then made this long journey, outward, to combine with oxygen, somewhere, and then sit, on one of these desks, in one of these lecture halls, in one of these cities, in some part of the big big world.

Every time you drink a glass of water, remember, that there is hydrogen in it, the oldest atom in existence, and in fact, the human body which is made mostly with water, hydrogen being a part of it, simply points out the fact, that we are not recent, as we might like to think, we are old, ancient. Because we ARE the universe or more correctly we are a way for the universe to know itself.

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