Gold is known as the King of Metals owing to its intrinsic value due to the relative scarcity and that shiny hue. But the aam aadmi of the Metal family better known as Iron, has a very interesting story from its formation to its availability for our usage. First thing I’d do to Iron would be to rechristen it, giving it the cool name of “Star Killer”, the story behind the title shall follow.
The story for the day starts with Hydrogen being the only element present in the universe and the universe still being a hot burner, what with big bang just a few million years past. About 200-500 million years after the big bang (which happened 13.7 billion years ago), the universe got its first production plants. The 1st generation of stars which came into being around that time comprising majorly of Hydrogen with only a few traces, if any, of other elements. The stars, under the force of gravity and the heat around started the first constructive process in the universe. Hydrogen atoms under the intense pressure undergo the process known as “Nuclear Fusion” to form the Helium atoms, the 2nd heaviest element in the universe. The process keeps moving forward, smashing the proton particles against the existing elements to form newer elements, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and so on. These factories were working very well and the universe was slowly being introduced to newer elements with increasing atomic numbers.
Then, the inevitable happened, a Manganese atom bombarded by another of those free-flowing Hydrogen atoms would have produced the newest kid on the block, our very own Iron. This is, where the story changes. Iron, being a heavy element went out-of-bounds for the Star system, the nuclear fusion process didn’t have enough energy to break the Iron chains. The creation of first Iron atom in a star system is the beginning of its end. Slowly the star, having consumed all its fuel in the form of Hydrogen and left only with the heavy elements died its own death. The manner of settling of the dead bodies in stars, unlike humans, is based on size. Thus the largest become Supernova, some become neutron stars, some become red giants. The red super giants was the last stage of most of the stars at that time. The red supergiants crumbled under the gravitational force and scattered off the heavier elements in violent gushes, spreading them far and wide, making up the source for the iron used by humans 13 billion years later.
Thus, almost every piece of our very common Iron, which we use in our daily life, was formed about 13 billion years ago, long before the Earth, the Sun and the Moon could even be conceived of. And not only the antiquity of Iron, but the most interesting thing about Iron is, it defines the natural boundaries of a star. No heavier element is ever produced in the course of the natural production activity of the universe and its arrival sounds the death knell of its founding star. No wonder, the star killer has had such utility in human lives.