Quirks & Quarks

Supernova shrapnel hits our solar system

Iron generated by the fury of a nearby and recent stellar explosion has been detected by a NASA mission

Tiny particles of iron generated by nearby supernovae captured by NASA satellite

A bubble of gas and dust created by a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the kind of explosion that would have created the particles recently detected. (Photo: Gemini South Telescope in Chile; composite by Travis Rector of the University of Alaska Ancho)
Particles generated in relatively recent, relatively close supernovae have been captured by a NASA satellite. An instrument on NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft, detected charged particles of radioactive iron that must have been produced by stellar explosions that occurred within a a few hundred light years of us, only about two million years ago.

According to Dr. Martin Israel, a professor of Physics from Washington University in St. Louis, at least two supernovae would have been necessary, one to create the iron, and a second to blast it out on a journey towards us.

Dr. Israel suggests it might be possible now to find the remnants of these supernova, in groups of young stars in our galactic neighbourhood.

Related Links

Paper in Science
- Washington University in St. Louis release
The Verge story
- Los Angeles Times story