Heavy elements may be no more than rare cosmic pollutants, but they are exceedingly important to us. Without them, solid, rocky planets would be impossible, and the prospects for Earth-like life would be correspondingly dim.
The iron Chandra X Ray Space Telescope has recently imaged in Cas A might one day flow as hemoglobin in the blood of some future alien species. Fast moving knots of silicon from the Cas A supernova could provide the raw material for sand on otherworldly shores, where crashing waves of H2O send thunderous sound waves through a nitrogen-rich atmosphere.
A team of astronomers led by Dr. John Hughes of Rutgers University used observations from NASA's orbital Chandra X-ray Observatory to make an important new discovery that sheds light on how silicon, iron, and other elements were produced in supernova explosions. An X-ray image of Cassiopeia A (Cas A), the remnant of an exploded star, reveals gaseous clumps of silicon, sulfur, and iron expelled from deep in the interior of the star.