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Fields & Applications Mass Spectrometry

Deep Sea Supernovae

Our solar system has been traveling through the local interstellar cloud (LIC) for the last few thousand years – but where did the LIC come from?

To plumb the depths of the mystery, researchers at the Australian National University Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility used accelerator MS to analyze deep-sea sediment samples spanning the last 33,000 years (1). They found that iron-60 – a radionuclide formed by exploding stars – was present throughout the samples, but at a low concentration and with no discernible change in the pattern over time.

More research is needed, but this discovery offers an early indication that the LIC did not arise from a single, recent, nearby supernova. In fact, its iron-60 dust particles could represent “echoes” of numerous other star explosions millions of years old.

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  1. A Wallner et al., PNAS, 117, 21873 (2020). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1916769117
About the Author
Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.

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