From supernovas to the lab: a groundbreaking cosmic discovery

A research group led by Curtin University (Australia) has found a very rare particle among the dust of a supernova, in particular trapped in an ancient extraterrestrial meteorite, originating precisely from its explosion

Scientists at Curtin University in Australia have achieved a monumental breakthrough in astronomy by discovering a rare particle trapped within an ancient extraterrestrial meteorite, believed to have formed from a supernova explosion. This finding marks a significant milestone, offering new insights into the universe’s complexities.

A time capsule from the cosmos

Meteorites are primarily composed of material from our solar system but can also contain minuscule particles from stars that predate our sun, known as presolar grains. These grains can be identified by analyzing the different types of elements within them. The team utilized a cutting-edge technique called atomic probe tomography, enabling them to reconstruct the chemistry of stardust at an atomic scale and uncover hidden information.

Nicole Nevill, who led the research, describes these particles as “celestial time capsules” that provide snapshots of their parent stars’ lives, shedding light on the mysteries of the cosmos.

Unveiling a new world

rare particle found in ancient meteorite unlocks cosmic secrets

©The Astrophysical Journal


Astronomers explain that materials formed within our solar system exhibit predictable isotope ratios (variants of chemical elements with different numbers of neutrons). However, the particle analyzed in this study revealed a magnesium isotope ratio unlike anything observed in our solar system.

“The results were literally off the charts. The most extreme magnesium isotope ratio from previous studies on presolar grains was around 1,200. The grain in our study has a value of 3,025, which is the highest ever discovered,” Nevill explains. This unprecedented ratio suggests the particle originated from a newly discovered type of star, a supernova that burns hydrogen.

This discovery is expanding the horizons of how we understand the universe, pushing the boundaries of both analytical techniques and astrophysical models. It confirms that studying rare particles in meteorites can provide crucial information about cosmic events beyond our solar system.

“It’s simply amazing to be able to link atomic-scale measurements in the lab to a newly discovered type of star,” Nevill marvels.

The findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal, paving the way for future explorations into the vastness of the universe.

Sources: Curtin University / The Astrophysical Journal


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