Elemental origins glimpsed in 12 beellion year old supernova
Astronomers zero in on primal matter factories
Scientists have found the remnants of two supernovae that appear to have occurred in the universe’s infancy, shedding new light (pardon the pun) on reality’s formative years and the origins of matter.
The two stellar explosions are only visible because the stars involved were giants. One, the romantically-named SN 2213-1745, may have been 250 times the size of Earth’s sun. The other, SN 1000+0216, was about 100 times the size of Sol and seems to have met its end about 12 billion years ago, just 1.6 billion years or so after the Big Bang.
The discoveries, reported in Nature, are significant because, as the paper revealing them states, they offer “a way of investigating the deaths of the first generation of stars to form after the Big Bang.”
While the new supernovae discoveries are not of that generation, they’re made of the stuff created by the first stars’ demise. First-generation stars are thought to be responsible for the creation of many elements that did not come into being at the time of the Big Bang, so understanding their origins offers insights into the young universe’s evolution.
Jeff Cooke of Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, one of the discoverers of the supernovae and a co-author the paper, told Australian newspaper The Age it was possible to detect the supernovae thanks to the stars’ immense size, which meant that when the nova neared, "the whole star collapses in on itself. It's one giant thermonuclear bomb, and it's incredibly bright."
Buoyed by this find, astronomers now hope to spot more and older supernovae, as it is now felt colossal suns and the novae that resulted were more common than previously thought in the early universe. Spotting remnants of the first stars is also now on the astronomical agenda.
The supernovae were discovered with the 3.6-meter Canada—France-–Hawaii telescope between 2003 and 2008. The 10-meter Keck I ‘scope was used for finer analysis. ®
The early universe
Was far more compact than it is today. Everything was closer together and stars were popping like popcorn and spewing a wide variety of totally awesome stuff. The stars specific makeup and the dust and planets around it formed a wide variety of materials when it popped - hence all the variation. Trillions of stars have popped since the beginning and the earth has been hit by the resultant wave or drifted through the remnants of a large number of them over time.
"more common than previously thought"
I hear that phrase from astronomers a lot: (blah) is more common than previously thought. Big old supernovas, exoplanets, even matter itself. It's a pretty safe bet that there is a LOT of stuff out there. Mindblowing.
Re: The early universe
couldn't have got very far in ~6000 years, could it?