Was Existence of Our Solar System Triggered by a Supernova? (Weekend Feature)
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June 01, 2013

Was Existence of Our Solar System Triggered by a Supernova? (Weekend Feature)

 

           CygnusLoop2

 

The image above shows the Cygnus Loop supernova shockwave, created some 15,000 years ago a star in the constellation of Cygnus exploded.  The Cygnus Loop is an example of the shock wave from a supernova explosion that may have triggered the formation of our Solar System. According to this theory, the shock wave also injected material from the exploding star into a cloud of dust and gas, and the newly polluted cloud collapsed to form the Sun and its surrounding planets. The Cygnus Loop image shows a portion of a shockwave from this supernova explosion still expanding past nearby stars. The collision of this gaseous shockwave with a stationary gas cloud has heated the gas causing it to glow in a spectacular array of colors. This picture was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope.

Traces of the pollution from the supernova that truggered the birth of our Solar System can be found in meteorites in the form of short-lived radioactive isotopes, or SLRIs. SLRIs—versions of elements with the same number of protons, but a different number of neutrons—found in primitive meteorites decay on time scales of millions of years and turn into different, so-called daughter, elements. A million years may sound like a long time, but it is actually considered short when compared to other radioactive isotopes studied by geochemists and cosmochemists, which have half-lives measured in billions of years.

The Carnegie Institute's Alan Boss and Sandra Keiser provided the first fully three-dimensional (3-D) models for how this process could have happened. When scientists find the daughter elements distributed in telltale patterns in primitive meteorites, this means that the parent SLRIs had to be created just before the meteorites themselves were formed. This presents a timing problem, as the SLRIs must be formed in a supernova, injected into the presolar cloud, and trapped inside the meteoritic precursors, all in less than a million years.

The telltale patterns prove that the relevant daughter elements were not the ones that were injected. This is because the abundances of these daughters in different mineral phases in the meteorite are correlated with the abundances of a stable isotope of the parent element. Different elements have different chemical behaviors during the formation of these first solids, and the fact that the daughter elements correlate with the parent elements means that those daughters had to be derived from the decay of unstable parent elements after those solids were crystallized.

One of these SLRIs, iron-60, is only created in significant amounts by nuclear reactions in massive stars. The iron-60 must have come from a supernova, or from a giant star called an AGB star. Boss and Keiser's previous modeling showed that it was likely that a supernova triggered our Solar System's formation, as AGB star shocks are too thick to inject the iron-60 into the cloud. Supernova shocks are hundreds of times thinner, leading to more efficient injection.

Boss and Keiser have extended those models to 3-D, so they can see the shock wave striking the gas cloud, compressing it and forming a parabolic shock front that envelopes the cloud, creating finger-like indentations in the cloud's surface. The fingers inject the SLRI pollution from the supernova. Less than 0.1 million years later, the cloud collapses and forms the core of the protostar that became the Sun and its surrounding planets. The 3-D models show that only one or two fingers are likely to have caused the SLRI pollution found in primitive meteorites.

"The evidence leads us to believe that a supernova was indeed the culprit," said Boss. However, more detective work needs to be done: Boss and Keiser still need to find the combination of cloud and shock wave parameters that will line up perfectly with observations of exploding supernovae.

The Daily Galaxy via Carnegie Institute

Image Credit: NASA, HST, WFPC2, Jeff Hester

Comments

This article and the other (about possible multi-universes), is this a GREAT time to be alive, or what!!

Are Super Novas and Mega Novas the building blocks of all planetary structures in the universe? We look at the "Big Bang" and the creation of this universe, but what created the Big Bang (BB)? Saying that our solar system was created by a Super Nova, separate from the rest of the Milky Way, would be studying a minute history of the galaxy. To me the correct question would, "Are all planetary structures created by Super Novas, our solar system being one of many in the formation of the Milky Way? How Many solar system make a galaxy, and what is the architectural structure of a galaxy?

Besides there being so many solar systems in the milky way. And certainly that a supernova may have contributed to the formation of the solar system. Where then is the remnants of the supernova. We should definitely see a dwarf star or black-hole within the radius of the closest stars. Naturally if the supernova was anything further than say 5-star proximity chain then effect of the gravity of those stars would attract more than 90% of the mass ejected and the dissipation of the matter ejected over the distance of the 5th closest star radius to the sun would be an enormous volume to create a very diluted matter shockwave to effectively create the solar system. So do we have a dead star or a black-hole within this radius.

"The iron-60 must have come from a supernova, or from a giant star called an AGB star."

Perhaps these two sources are not exclusive. Perhaps 60Fe can also form in binary stellar mergers, not only in general but specifically in our own solar system at 4,567 Ma, which could also have formed CAIs in super-high velocity polar outflows and chondrules over the next 3 million years from a super-high magnetic field of the Sun in its flare-star phase following the hypothesized binary stellar merger.

Is it possible that the sun itself is the remnant of the supernova?


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