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Iron From Supernova Explosion Found On Earth Also Discovered On Moon

Apr 16, 2016 05:12 AM EDT
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A recent discovery by scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) found traces of iron isotopes in samples from the moon, similar to those found on our ocean floor, leading them to believe that it came from the same supernova explosion.

A supernova, according to NASA, is a star's explosion that happens at the end of its life cycle. Stars are basically made up of hydrogen and once it is all gone, they implode and create new elements. When it gets to the right, massive size, a supernova takes place, It's the biggest explosion yet in space that spews out different isotopes everywhere.

It is believed that around two million years ago, a supernova explosion occurred somewhere near our solar system. Gunther Korschinek, a physicist at TUM, believes that it occurred only around 300 light years away.

A unique iron isotope, 60Fe, was found in samples of deep-sea crusts and ocean sediments from the Pacific Ocean. Now, scientists said they detected high concentrations of 60Fe on lunar samples as well.

This research from TUM involved samples gathered during the Apollo lunar missions 12, 15 and 16 between 1969 and 1972, which brought the lunar material to Earth for further study.

These samples were studied using a high-sensitivity accelerator mass spectrometer in the Maier-Leibnitz Laboratory.

Our moon is actually a great source of historical cosmic record since it is not changed by passing through our atmosphere. This study supports that the same supernova explosion sent the same stellar particles to Earth and our moon. Luckily, these were still pretty small for us to actually get hurt from it.

Fortunately, if ever we get to be close to another similar stellar explosion, the particles from supernova explosions travel at a maximum of one-tenth the speed of light. So the isotopes won't probably hit us for at least 3,000 years, as per Engadget.

The findings of the study were published in the Physics Review Letters journal.

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