For one particular kind of element, what is the distribution in the whole universe?

Are most of the metals located in ISM, IGM, or stars? Maybe different metals have different distributions?
For example, could most of the Mg be found in white dwarfs?
Have all the natural elements have been found in stars?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just for clarity, what do you mean by "metals"? Do you mean the chemical definition or the astronomical use, which is that everything other that hydrogen and helium are metals? $\endgroup$
    – FJC
    Sep 30, 2016 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @FJC every kind of element except H $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2016 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


From the big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN) page is a handy chart of the sources of elements:

enter image description here

Since basically all metals come from some stellar process, the question of elemental distribution can vary greatly between different environments depending on when you're observing that particular galaxy, star/galaxy cluster, etc. Galaxy mergers, supernova, and stellar winds can be particularly good at moving metals around a galaxy or galaxy cluster.

Interestingly Wolfram has element data with Universe abundances but I'm not sure where they derive those.

  • $\begingroup$ I revised my post in order to make it clear. My question for one kind of metal element, what is its distribution? Different metals should have different positions. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2014 at 1:39

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