The best way to discover how stars form the origins of life on earth is to figure out exactly what we are made of.
A great location for these discoveries is down in the shadow of the our planets tallest mountain range, the Himalayas. Within these 100 peaks, nine out of ten of the highest mountains on earth can be found, with peaks exceeding 7,200 meters high. The greater Himalaya is home to forty-five of the worlds fifty highest peaks. Amazingly stunning, it is these vastly scaled mountains that hide a fascinating and instructive step on the road to the building blocks behind the universe. Despite their great beauty and scale, a few 10s of millions of years ago these mountains were somewhat a very different picture.
How it starts
Not just the largest, but they are also the youngest mountain range on the planet. Go back seventy million years (a very short time in geological terms), and these mountains weren’t to be found. The constant movement of our tectonic plates formed these mountains in a geological heartbeat. When the Indo-Australian plate collided with Eurasian plate at just around 15 centimetres a year, the ocean floor began to crumple and rise up to form the mountain range. This means that a great deal of the towering rock we gaze up at with amazement, all begun way bellow us at the bottom of an ocean, only to be lifted up thousands of meters over the course of a few short million years.
Evidence behind this extraordinary journey is not exactly a hidden secret. If you look closely at any piece of Himalayan limestone you will see it has a chalky, granular structure. What your actually looking at is the remains of sea creatures. Left over bodies and shells of coral that died and the remains from the ocean. But, over a short time span these remnants are quickly turned into solid rock with bit of pressure. Limestone can also be formed by the direct precipitation of calcium carbonate from water, although the biological sedimentary form is more abundant. We know that the Himalayan limestone is predominantly biological because we have found fossils at the top of Mount Everest! Whats greater example of the Earths endless ability to recycle what has been going on from the start, nearly five billion years ago.
We all recycle
The same goes for us humans, we are onboard the same system, as much as that may disturb you, every atom that makes up your body was once part of something else. You may have been part of what made up an ancient tree or a dinosaur, but one thing you can put your money on is that you have defiantly been part of a rock. The reason this can happen – that the rocks of Earth can become living things and that living things will eventually die and become rocks again – is simple: everything in the Universe is composed of the same basic ingredients.