Scientists digging into the ocean floor have come across dust that didn’t originate here. They have determined that the dust wound up there after being spewed out by ancient supernovae. Essentially, the dust is of alien origin and could explain a lot about the matter that makes up our universe.
Supernovae are super-massive explosions that are triggered when ginormous stars near their demise. These spectacular celestial events are so powerful they are said to forge multiple elements including potassium, iodine, and iron. These elements are essential for the formation and sustenance of life.
Scientists usurping the soil from the depths of the ocean made a startling discovery that could fundamentally alter our understanding of the supernovae. Some of the dust gathered from the ocean floor has been confirmed to have originated from blasts that occur in deep space. The dust contained heavy elements that have now been proven to have been formed only during these celestial events that release unfathomable energy and debris into the vast expanse of universe.
The study conducted by the Australian National University (ANU) that examined plutonium 244 obtained from the deep earth crust and ocean sediments implies that heavy elements were made only in super massive explosions like the merging of two neutron stars. Speaking about the findings, ANU researcher Anton Wallner said.
“Small amounts of debris from these distant explosions fall on the earth as it travels through the galaxy. We’ve analyzed galactic dust from the last 25 million years that has settled on the ocean and found there is much less of the heavy elements such as plutonium and uranium than we expected.”
Apparently, the scarcity of the radioisotopes is what baffles the scientists, continued Anton.
“It seems that these heaviest elements may not be formed in standard supernovae after all. It may require rarer and more explosive events such as the merging of two neutron stars to make them. Radioactive elements in our planet such as uranium and thorium provide much of the heat that drives continental movement; perhaps other planets don’t have the same heat engine inside them.”
These findings are critical because recent experiments indicate that supernovae also release heavier elements like gold and lead, apart from radioactive elements including plutonium and uranium — which strongly undermines some of the current ideology about creation of such elements and the conditions that are required for their formation.
Though not extremely rare, a supernova is one of the most brilliant of celestial events that causes the release of energy equivalent to what our sun would spew out in its entire lifetime.
[Image Credit | Wallpaper UP, EPA]