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Carbon. You wouldn’t be here without it.
Carbon is not only the building block of life as we know it, but also the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass.
Nearly all the carbon in the universe was created in the bellies of stars, giants, and supergiants, where the temperatures reached over 99 million degrees Celsius. Fusion of three helium-4 nuclei (alpha particles), caused by the high temperature and pressure found in the center of massive suns larger than ours in what is know as the triple-alpha process, transforms them into carbon atoms and, subsequently, everything we hold dear.
Carbon is an extremely useful element, mainly due to its ability to bond with a variety of other elements or itself. And it has the uncanny ability to form into both the hardest known naturally occurring substance (diamond) and a material so soft it crumbles against the slightest touch (graphite).