You are here, and that’s amazing. Part One: The Cosmic Journey of Your Atoms – for kids.

Once before time existed, a miraculous journey began. This journey would lead to the creation of everything we know today, including the atoms that make up you, me, and the world around us.

In the beginning, there was nothing but darkness and silence. Then, around 13.8 billion years ago, a massive explosion, known as the Big Bang, gave birth to the universe. The Big Bang created a hot, dense soup of particles and energy, setting the stage for the formation of the first atoms.

As the universe expanded and cooled, this primordial soup began to transform. Protons and neutrons came together, forming the atomic nuclei of hydrogen and helium, the simplest elements. Electrons were eventually captured by these nuclei, giving rise to the first complete atoms. This event marked the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of a new era in the cosmos.

With the birth of atoms, the universe was no longer a dark, empty void. Instead, it was filled with a glowing sea of hydrogen and helium gas. Gravity, the great cosmic sculptor, went to work, pulling these gases together and forming massive clouds. Over millions of years, these clouds grew denser and hotter, until one fateful day, a spark ignited deep within them. That spark was the birth of the very first stars.

These early stars were the pioneers of the cosmos, illuminating the darkness and setting the stage for what would come next. They burned bright and hot, forging heavier elements within their fiery cores through a process called nuclear fusion. Elements like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen – the building blocks of life – were born in the hearts of these ancient stars.

As these stars reached the end of their lives, some of them exploded in brilliant supernovae, scattering their precious cargo of heavy elements throughout the cosmos. These explosions seeded the universe with the raw materials needed to create new stars, planets, and eventually, life itself.

Our own solar system was born from the ashes of these ancient stars. Around 4.6 billion years ago, a swirling cloud of gas and dust began to collapse under the force of gravity. At the heart of this cloud, our Sun ignited, providing warmth and light to the planets that were taking shape around it.

One of these planets, Earth, was in the perfect position to support life. It had just the right distance from the Sun and the right mix of elements. Over time, these elements combined in complex ways, eventually giving rise to the first living organisms. As life evolved and diversified, the atoms that once belonged to ancient stars found new homes in the bodies of countless plants, animals, and eventually, humans.

So, whenever you feel small or insignificant, remember this: The atoms that make up your body are as old as the universe itself. They were forged in the hearts of ancient stars, scattered across the cosmos by powerful explosions, and brought together by the forces of nature. You are made of billions of stars.