Living shoulder-to-shoulder on a small blue planet zooming through an ever-expanding universe, it's easy to feel very, very small. But what we are is actually pretty incredible.
"We are dead stars looking back up at the sky," Dr. Michelle Thaller, astronomer and science communicator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, says in a recent video (above) posted by The Atlantic.
Every single cell in our bodies contains elements created in the burning center of a collapsing star -- from the iron in our blood to every bit of calcium in our bones and keratin in our hair. That's because in the very early days of the universe that followed the Big Bang, only the simplest elements existed, like hydrogen.
"The only thing in the universe that can make a bigger atom is a star," Thaller says. "The entire periodic table, every element you've ever heard of, was processed inside the body of a star. And that star then unraveled or exploded, and here we are." Watch the video above to learn more.
It's like what celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has said, echoing Carl Sagan: if you feel insignificant given the immensity of the cosmos, you're not looking at it in the right way. "We are not just figuratively but literally made of stardust."
And that is no small thing.