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Talk by Dr Mike Leggett

The origin of the chemical elements is very much within the area astronomy, although the chemical elements are the fundamental building blocks of chemistry. Beginning with an historical survey, the talk includes the concept of element from ancient times to Lavoisier, the growth in the discovery of chemical elements especially since the C18th, Dalton and atomic theory, Thomson, Rutherford and Chadwick and atomic structure, Mendeleev and the periodic table of the elements and cosmic elemental abundances. The talk covers particular cosmic events and astrophysical processes that are associated with the origin of the chemical elements. The Big Bang was the source of hydrogen, helium and traces of other light elements. Fusion processes in stars (nucleosynthesis) lead to the formation of helium and elements between carbon and iron. This section includes Lockyer and the discovery of helium, Hoyle and stellar nucleosynthesis, the life and death of a small star and nucleosynthesis in larger stars. The production of the heaviest naturally occurring elements occurs as a result of supernovae and there is a summary of types of supernovae and of explosive nucleosynthesis. Finally there is a summary of radioactivity, its discovery, types of radioactivity and radioactive decay, and the role of cosmic rays in the cosmic abundance of elements in the gap between helium and carbon.

Dr Mike Leggett FRAS FBIS
As a founder member of the South Lincolnshire Astronomical and Geophysical Society in 1976, Dr Mike Leggett began to present astronomy talks for his local society. Since that time he has presented lectures for the British Interplanetary Society, at University of Aberdeen evening classes, for the Society for the History of Astronomy and to astronomical societies and other groups throughout the UK. He is the General Secretary and a Council member of the Society for the History of Astronomy (SHA), and is currently county co-ordinator for Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Rutland in the SHA survey of astronomical history of the UK. A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Dr Mike Leggett is also a member of the British Astronomical Association, the Society for Popular Astronomy, the National Space Society and the Planetary Society. A Graduate in Chemistry and Pharmacology from the University of Nottingham, Dr Leggett also holds a PhD in Chemistry. A Chartered Chemist and a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, he is a member of the Astrophysical Chemistry Group. He also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Authorship and Communication and is Member of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators.

Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center