triple alpha process

Science Dictionary
triple alpha process   (trĭp'əl)  Pronunciation Key 
A nuclear fusion reaction in which three helium nuclei (alpha particles) fuse to form a carbon nucleus, thereby releasing energy. Two helium nuclei fuse to form an unstable isotope of beryllium, which under conditions of sufficient temperature and pressure fuses with a third helium nucleus to form carbon before it decays. Triple alpha processes take place in stars in which large quantities of helium have accumulated as the product of proton-proton chain and carbon cycle reactions.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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