Evidence builds for supernova's role in solar system creation

Jan 25, 2005
The Eagle Nebula

Clear evidence in a Chinese meteorite for the past presence of chlorine-36, a short-lived radioactive isotope, lends further support to the controversial concept that a nearby supernova blast was involved in the formation of our solar system, according to a report forthcoming in the February 1 issue and published online Jan. 24, of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Image: The Eagle Nebula, as photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope. This famous photo, often known as "The Pillars of Creation," shows giant nebular clouds being evaporated by the ferocious energy of massive stars, exposing emerging solar systems, much like our own. Credit: NASA/HST/Jeff Hester and Paul Scowen

Known as the Ningqiang carbonaceous chondrite, the primitive meteorite is a space relic that formed shortly after the solar system’s creation. It contains pockets of still older materials or “inclusions” that contain that contain calcium, aluminum and sodalite, a chlorine-rich mineral.

A Chinese-American team of scientists including Yangting Lin, Ziyuan Ouyang and Daode Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Yunbin Guan and Laurie Leshin from Arizona State University found the rare isotope sulfur-36 in association with the sodalite. Though it can be formed in various ways, sulfur-36 is a natural decay product of chlorine-36. Its association with the chlorine in the sodalite is strong evidence for the past presence of chlorine-36, which has a half-life of only 300,000 years, in the early solar system.

The solar system’s chlorine-36 could have formed in two different ways – either in the explosion of a supernova or in the irradiation of a nebular cloud near the forming Sun. The irradiation explanation is unlikely in this case, however, since the mineral the chlorine-36 was discovered in must have formed a significant distance from the sun.

“There is no ancient live chlorine-36 in the solar system now,” said Leshin, who is director of ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies. “But this is direct evidence that it was here in the early solar system.

“We have now discovered the first solid evidence for two different short-lived radionuclides in the GeoSIMS Lab at ASU – iron-60 and chlorine-36 – and both of them provide evidence for where the solar system’s short-lived radionuclides came from. It’s producing a really strong argument that these radionuclides were produced in a supernova that exploded near the forming solar system and seeded the solar system with these isotopes.”

In a “Perspectives” article in the journal Science last spring, Leshin and others argued that the presence of iron-60 was evidence that the solar system formed as a result of violent star-creation processes in a dense nebula rife with short-lived, high-mass stars and supernovas – a very different creation story than the traditional view that the solar system formed from a slowly condensing molecular cloud.

Leshin points out that the current paper is part of a growing collaboration between space sciences at ASU and the Chinese science community, in this case being driven by Guan, a native of China , and manager of the ASU GeoSIMS Lab.

“Lin, the first author on this paper, was a visiting fellow in our lab for six months. We’ve published several papers on meteorites with groups in China – it’s a very fruitful relationship,” she said.

Source: Arizona State University

Explore further: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

8 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

Apr 18, 2014

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday. ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.