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Recent Podcast
A Tour of X9 in 47 Tucanae
A Tour of X9 in 47 Tucanae
In astronomy, a binary system is one where two objects are close enough that they orbit each other because they are gravitationally bound to one another. (2017-03-13)

Seeds of Life Across the Universe

Narrator (Megan Watzke, CXC): In order for things grow, nature often requires seeds. Think of a farmer who must plant seeds into the ground in the spring or summer in order to have crops to harvest in the fall. This deliberate seeding of fertile soil has produced agriculture as we know it today, and allows us to grow certain crops to bring to market at predictable times of the year.

On a smaller scale, bees are involved with seeding as they moving from flower to flower and gather nectar to feed their hive. By transporting pollen grains from a flower's male parts to female parts of the same species, the bees pollinate and fertilize the flower and enable it to reproduce. In fact, pollination by bees and other animals is crucial to the production of most of the fruits, nuts, and berries on which people and wildlife depend. What's more, about 150 of the crops grown in the United States - including blueberries, apples, oranges, squash, tomatoes and almonds - require the help from pollinating insects and birds.

There is also seeding taking place on a much bigger stage - a cosmic one. When giant stars run out of fuel and collapse, they can explode in what astronomers call supernova explosions. These supernovas spread elements such as oxygen, iron, calcium, and many others into the environment around the exploded star. While these may not sound like "seeds" as we know them on Earth, they are in fact, key ingredients that will be swept up by future generations of stars and planets. It is through this process that the Earth acquired the elements that we require for life here on our planet. On average, a star explodes as a supernova about once every 50 years in our Milky Way galaxy. When it does, it can release more than a billion times the oxygen found in the Earth's oceans and atmosphere combined.

So it is clear how seeding can be important to plants and animals here on Earth, but keep an open mind to how this process has a role throughout the Universe. The growth of new structures - no matter where they are found - often depends on the introduction of new material into an environment. And this seeding can occur here, there, and everywhere in nature, through many different agents and on every scale imaginable.

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