Where did the Sun get hydrogen to work with if it is in the 3rd generation of stars?

  • As I see here, the Sun belongs to the Population I group of stars, which is the 3rd generation of the stars in our universe. 1st generation stars are Population III, 2nd generation are Population II, and 3rd generation are Population I.



    When the 1st generation (Population III) of stars died, that means most of the hydrogen was burned to helium. Stars die when there is no hydrogen left. Later, the 2nd generation of stars (Population II) appeared and they fuse another portion of hydrogen into heavier elements.



    If 1st and 2nd star generations burned hydrogen to helium and more heavier elements, then shouldn't like 90% of all universe hydrogen already be converted to helium and something else? If yes, then there should not be enough hydrogen to make the Sun.



    UPDATE 1



    Thanks for all your answers. They are very useful. Now a new subquestion appeared.
    When the star dies, like our Sun, it sends out external layers and core becomes white/other dwarf. In this case, new star can be formed only from the hydrogen from the external layer. The questions what is the percentage of initial star hydrogen after burning it to helium goes from this external layer to outer space?


    You have a small typo I can't suggest a fix for: "2nd generation of the stars (Population III)" should be Population II.

    @doppelgreener Why can't you suggest an edit? You don't seem to have any edit suggestions pending so I doubt you're maxed out right now.

    @TylerH Suggested edits need to be more than one character. (I've just spotted other changes I can make, but there's already an edit pending now.)

    Editing to ask a follow-up question doesn't work well: there's no guarantee that the answerers will see the edit and come back to update their answers (and really they've fulfilled their half of the social contract already by answering the original question). It's better to ask a new question, linking back to this question for context.

    Seconding what @PeterTaylor wrote wholeheartedly. Please ask follow up questions as separate questions rather than editing the original question. You can edit the original question along the lines of "Thanks for all your answers. This has prompted me to write a followup question *here*," where "*here*" is a hyperlink to your new question.

    I'll answer your followup as a comment. You are mistaken that a *new star can be formed only from the hydrogen from the external layer*. Even today, the vast majority of the hydrogen in a newly formed star never was a part of a previously formed star.

    @DavidHammen I did not ask in UPDATE 1 if new stars can be formed from an external layer of dead stars. I just assume that it is possible theoreticaly. I asked what is % of hydrogen in this external layer when star dies?

  • Most of the galaxy's gas is not incorporated into stars and remains as gas and dust. This is not really my area of expertise, but papers such as Evans et al. 2008 and Matthews et al. 2018 seem to suggest that in the Giant Molecular Clouds where most stars in the Milky Way Galaxy form, the star formation efficiency is about 3-6%. So the vast majority of the gas (94-97%) is not made into stars. In very dense environments such as globular clusters, which were formed much earlier in the Milky Way's history, the star formation efficiency get as high as approx. 30%. The canonical quoted rate for "regular" spiral galaxies like the Milky Way is about 1 solar mass of new stars are made per year, which is very low summed across the whole galaxy.



    Stars also give off a fair amount of their outer, hydrogen rich outer layers during the later red giant phases when the stellar wind is stronger and the atmosphere expands a huge amount (radius of the Sun during the red giant phase will be about what the Earth's orbit is now). Also in the end state when the white dwarf is formed, it's only the core and inner layers that form the white dwarf. The typical white dwarf mass is about 0.6 times the mass of the Sun (S. Kepler et al. 2006) and so there will be a fair amount of unfused hydrogen-rich outer atmosphere left over after the star dies. For higher mass stars, even more of the mass goes into the (ejected at high speed) envelope than goes into the remaining neutron star. These high mass stars are much rarer though; most of the Milky Way's stars are faint, cool M dwarfs.


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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM