Supernova explosions like the ''Standard candle'' are among the most effective events in the Universe, especially when a dense white dwarf star subsumes another star. Now, scientists believe they''ve discovered the first evidence on Earth of such a supernova.
The claim comes following a thorough investigation of the extraterrestrial Hypatia stone that was discovered in Egypt in 1996. Tell-tale signs, including the chemical composition and patterning of the rock, suggest that the shards contain bits of dust and gas cloud surrounding an Ia supernova.
Scientists claim that over billions of years, this mix of dust and electricity would have transformed into a solid, eventually forming the parent body that Hypatia was dating back to the start of our Solar System.
A 3-gram sample of the Hypatia stone. (Romano Serra)
"In a sense, we might say, we have caught a supernova Ia explosion in the act," says a geochemist from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.
On a tiny sample of Hypatia, the team investigated 17 different targets with precise, non-destructive chemical analysis techniques. From there, it was a question of gathering clues about where the stone had been formed.
The researchers identified a peculiarly low level of silicon, chromium, and manganese, suggesting that the rock had not been formed in the inner Solar System. Moreover, they found high levels of iron, sulfur, phosphorus, copper, and vanadium, again distinguishing the object from anything we see in our special space.
According to a recent analysis, rocks from inside the Solar System and in our area of the Milky Way had formed from a red giant star.
Hypatia was not only matched to the standard set by a type II supernova, but also used too much iron to be silicon and calcium, thus giving it the advantage that this is the first type Ia supernova to be discovered on this planet.
"If this assumption is correct, the Hypatia stone would be the first tangible evidence on Earth of a supernova type Ia explosion," says Kramers.
"Perhaps equally important, it demonstrates that an individual anomalous parcel of dust from outside might actually be incorporated in the solar nebula that our Solar System was formed from, without being completely mixed in."
Supernovas, according to what we know of type Ia, should produce unusual element concentration patterns in rocks such as Hypatia. Using a thorough search of star data and modeling, the team was unable to find a better match for the rock.
Several of the 15 elements reviewed in the stone were comparable to what would be predicted if the object had come from a dense white dwarf star explosion.
The case isn''t a closed case yet. A further six components do not match type 1a supernova models: aluminum, phosphorus, chlorine, potassium, copper, and zinc. However, researchers believe something more back in the supernova''s previous might explain this.
"In light of the fact that a white dwarf star is formed from a dying red giant, Hypatia might have assumed these six elements from a red giant star, according to Kramers. "This phenomenon has been observed in white dwarf stars in other studies."
More research will be required to complete the science, but at this point, it certainly shows that this mysterious rock has crossed a lot of distances.
Icarus has published the research.