All of the stuff that isn't hydrogen and helium (which came from the Big Bang), that coalesced to form our solar system (the iron, the sulfur, the water, and so forth) all came from previous generations of stars that went supernova, merging neutron stars, etc. All that material collected together and formed our solar system...

From roughly how many stars did that material come from? Is there any way to know?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ See Rob's answer in particular, where he discusses the difficulties in determining how many stars contributed, but ultimately posits it's on the order of billions. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2019 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ As far I know, there were 3 supernovas were found by isotope ratio analysis of the interplanetar samples. They were the main contributors of the initial gas cloud formed the solar system. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Sep 17, 2019 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Peterh So you are saying that the metallicity of the gas cloud the Sun was born from was zero prior to those three supernovae? Which paper is this in? AFAIK a supernova or supernovae seeded the protosolar system at about the time the Sun formed, but the metallicity of the ISM was largely fixed prior to that. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Sep 18, 2019 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ @RobJeffries A post-doc teacher said it in $\approx$ in 2005 on a lecture. But it was an informal part of it, and not astronomy was his field (afaik he is some QM guru). He talked about the supernovas, which created the initial gas cloud. No, the initial metallicity is coming from these supernovas (+ from the interstellar gas already there). $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Sep 18, 2019 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ @RobJeffries Right, Sun probably has at least a single atom from a large part of the stars ever existed in our galaxy; the interesting part of the question would be, from how many stars is coming their majority. I think I can find some trustable reference from this info also by google. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Sep 18, 2019 at 9:52


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