Hengstberger SymposiumConference: Where the Elements of our Periodic System Arise

Press Release No. 97/2023
29 August 2023

Hengstberger Symposium explores the influence of massive stars on the origin of the elements

The origin of the chemical elements is the topic of a Hengstberger Symposium taking place from 4 to 8 September 2023 at the International Academic Forum of Heidelberg University (IWH). Experts from different areas of astrophysics, earth sciences and nuclear physics will focus especially on the influence massive stars have on the generation and dissemination of these elements. The conference “Exploring the massive-star origin of our elements” is organised by Dr Andreas Sander, a scientist at the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH).

The chemical elements carbon, nitrogen, silicon and phosphorus

“The chemical elements were once produced in many generations of stars. Without the existence of stars, our periodic system today would only consist of hydrogen and helium,” explains Dr Sander. The stars that have many times the mass of our Sun play a particularly significant role in generating all the other elements. It is fundamentally important to study the influence of these massive stars, the scientist says, since the origin of the elements shapes the picture of astrophysics on all scales – from the origin of water in our solar system to the formation and development of whole galaxies in our Universe.

The interdisciplinary conference will focus on the interplay of different processes contributing to the generation and dissemination of chemical elements, including stellar winds of hot and cool stars, or supernovae explosions. In this connection, the participants will also investigate how these phenomena can be meaningfully and realistically mapped on a large scale, for instance to model the chemical development of whole galaxies. “Another aim of the symposium is to contribute to looking beyond traditional research fields and thereby lay the foundation for new forms of collaboration and come to an overarching understanding of the origin of our elements,” Dr Sander underlines. Around 25 researchers from Europe, Asia, and the United States are expected to attend the Hengstberger Symposium. A special emphasis of the symposium is to involve a large number of early-career researchers.

Andreas Sander heads an Emmy Noether junior research group on the topic of stellar atmospheres and mass loss of hot stars at the Institute for Astronomical Computing, which is part of the ZAH. He is one of the 2022 Hengstberger prize-winners. The Klaus-Georg and Sigrid Hengstberger Award is bestowed annually on three young scientists or research teams at Heidelberg University. The prize money, amounting to 12,500 euros each, enables young researchers to conduct an interdisciplinary symposium at the IWH, either alone or as a team.