CHEERS Science

Where do chemical elements come from?

Very soon after the 'Big Bang', when the Universe came into existence, the hot plasma of elementary particles in the young universe cooled down and hydrogen, helium, and traces of lithium and beryllium were created. Only about 500 million years later, the first stars formed. In the cores of these stars, hydrogen and helium were for the first time fused into much heavier elements like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and iron. When these stars exploded at the end of their lifetime, they enriched their pristine surroundings with heavy metals and changed the Universe forever.

The heavy elements made it easier for the gas in the Universe to cool and form stars, which lead to a strong star burst when the Universe was about 2-3 billion years old. At the end of their lives, many of these stars exploded as supernovae. Since these explosions are driven by nuclear fusion, supernovae create and eject heavy elements in their surroundings. The star burst that occured 10-11 billion years ago is thought to have produced most of the chemical elements in the Universe.

A review about the science behind the CHEERS project can be found here (PDF).

About the PI

Jelle de Plaa studied Astrophysics at Utrecht University from 1998-2002 and did his PhD at SRON from 2002-2007 (see Thesis). In the years between 2007 and 2009 he worked as a post-doc at Delft Technical University. Since 2009, he is back at SRON and currently employed as Senior Software Design Engineer in the Astrophysics programme.


  • September 10-11, 2013, Utrecht
  • March 24-25, 2014, Bonn
  • July 15-16, 2014, Utrecht
  • March 11-12, 2015, Bonn


SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research
Jelle de Plaa
Sorbonnelaan 2
3584 CA Utrecht