Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meteorite evidence favors explosive origins

I think I lost this story this week amidst the widespread coverage of a new solar system discovered with seven planets -- but astronomers at Arizona State (Go Lumberjacks!) published new research in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday about our own solar system's origins.

The ASU researchers acquired a small piece of a meteorite from a private dealer that had gotten the space rock off a local in Morocco after it was found in the Sahara desert. When the team analyzed the meteor, they found it was as much as 2 million years older than the previously accepted age of the solar system - or 4,568.2 million years old - making it the oldest object ever discovered on earth. While that is only a slight difference when compared to a 4.5 billion year old system, they also found the meteorite had some peculiar properties about it.

The meteorite contains a type of iron that can only be formed when a star goes supernova. Previous theories of the solar system's origins held that it was created isolated from other stars, but recent research has pointed to an alternate theory that our solar nebula might have condensed with help from a star exploding nearby.

This new discovery should help push the scientific consensus towards such an alternative and dramatic beginning.

From the Arizona State University news site:


"This relatively small age adjustment means that there was as much as twice the amount of iron-60, a certain short-lived isotope of iron, in the early Solar System than previously determined. This higher initial abundance of this isotope in the Solar System can only be explained by supernova injection," said (Audrey) Bouvier, a faculty research associate in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "This supernova event, and possibly others, could have triggered the formation of the Solar System. By studying meteorites and their isotopic characteristics, we bring new clues about the stellar environment of our Sun at birth."


Read the ASU researchers paper here.

A good article about it in NatGeo.

Scientific American too.

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