Supernovae and precursors may have contributed more dust to the solar nebula than previously thought


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A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, in collaboration with a colleague from the Université Paris-Saclay, has found evidence suggesting that supernovae and their precursors may have contributed more dust to the solar nebula than previously thought. In their article published in the magazine Natural Astronomythe group describes their research and analysis of work done by others in the field regarding the nature of presolar grains and how this led them to reassess the contribution of supernova grains to stardust.

Presolar granules are materials that originate in stars-when such materials are flung into space after a star dies, they are exposed to temperatures and pressures that result in the formation of grains – these materials stardust, usually in the form of silicates, become the building blocks of rocks. Those older than our solar system are known as presolar grains – they avoided the fate of other material that coalesced into our sun and the planets. They are today found in minute amounts in the dust between planets, in comets and in meteorites. Presolar grains were discovered about 30 years ago, and since that time it was believed that such grains generated by supernovae made up only a small percentage of the grains that can be observed today — many in the field have suggested it was probably only 10%. In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence that suggests the percentage should be much higher, perhaps as much as 30%.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

When material is made in a star, it takes on certain characteristics of that unique individual star — it has what the researchers describe as a isotopic composition similar to a diary. Presolar grains thus have properties that allow researchers to determine whether they were pushed into space by a supernova.

The work involved searching for and analyzing research on pre-solar grains over the decades. They found evidence that such grains from supernovae were much more common than previously thought. They also note that future work using more advanced technology could provide more accurate estimates of: supernovas pre-solar percentages in the solar nebula.

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More information:
Peter Hoppe et al, Dust from supernovae and their solar nebula precursors, Natural Astronomy (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01737-5

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