How Many Elements Are Found in Nature?

List of the Naturally Occurring Elements

Depending who you ask, there are 94 or 98 natural elements. Technetium and promethium were made by man before they were detected on Earth.
Depending who you ask, there are 94 or 98 natural elements. Technetium and promethium were made by man before they were detected on Earth. Image Source / Getty Images

Some elements have been made by man, but do not exist naturally. Have you ever wondered how many elements are found in nature?

Of the 118 elements that have been discovered, there are 90 elements that occur in nature in appreciable amounts. Depending who you ask, there are another 4 or 8 elements that occur in nature as a result of radioactive decay of heavier elements. So, the grand total of natural elements is 94 or 98.

As new decay schemes are discovered, it's likely the number of natural elements will grow. However, these elements will likely be present in trace amounts.

There are 80 elements that have at least one stable isotope. The other 38 elements exist only as radioactive isotopes. Several of the radioisotopes instantly decay into a different element.

It used to be believed that of the first 92 elements on the periodic table (1 is hydrogen and 92 is uranium) that 90 elements occur naturally. Technetium (atomic number 43) and promethium (atomic number 61) were synthesized by man before they were identified in nature.

List of the Natural Elements

Assuming 98 elements can be found, however briefly, in nature, there are 10 found in extremely minute amounts:  technetium, atomic number 43; promethium, number 61; astatine, number 85; francium, number 87; neptunium, number 93; plutonium, number 94; americium, number 95; curium, number 96; berkelium, number 97; and californium, number 98.

Here is an alphabetical list of the natural elements:

Element NameSymbol
ActiniumAc
AluminumAl
AntimonySb
ArgonAr
ArsenicAs
AstatineAt
BariumBa
BerylliumBe
BismuthBi
BoronB
BromineBr
CadmiumCd
CalciumCa
CarbonC
CeriumCe
CesiumCs
ChlorineCl
ChromiumCr
CobaltCo
CopperCu
DysprosiumDy
ErbiumEr
EuropiumEu
FluorineF
FranciumFr
GadoliniumGd
GalliumGa
GermaniumGe
GoldAu
HafniumHf
HeliumHe
HydrogenH
IndiumIn
IodineI
IridiumIr
IronFe
KryptonKr
LanthanumLa
LeadPb
LithiumLi
LutetiumLu
MagnesiumMg
ManganeseMn
MercuryHg
MolybdenumMo
NeodymiumNd
NeonNe
NickelNi
NiobiumNb
NitrogenN
OsmiumOs
OxygenO
PalladiumPd
PhosphorusP
PlatinumPt
PoloniumPo
PotassiumK
PromethiumPm
ProtactiniumPa
RadiumRa
RadonRn
RheniumRe
RhodiumRh
RubidiumRb
RutheniumRu
SamariumSm
ScandiumSc
SeleniumSe
SiliconSi
SilverAg
SodiumNa
StrontiumSr
SulfurS
TantalumTa
TelluriumTe
TerbiumTb
ThoriumTh
ThalliumTl
TinSn
TitaniumTi
TungstenW
UraniumU
VanadiumV
XenonXe
YtterbiumYb
YttriumY
ZincZn
ZirconiumZr

The elements are detected in stars, nebulas, and supernovae from their spectra. While pretty much the same elements are found on Earth compared to the rest of the universe, the ratios of the elements and their isotopes is different.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How Many Elements Are Found in Nature?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-many-elements-found-in-nature-606635. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, September 6). How Many Elements Are Found in Nature? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-many-elements-found-in-nature-606635 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How Many Elements Are Found in Nature?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-many-elements-found-in-nature-606635 (accessed November 20, 2017).