Analyzing half a ton of fresh snow taken from Antarctica, a group of scientists discovered traces of a particular form of iron that is not naturally produced in nature and that most likely comes from space.
Dominik Koll, a physicist at the Australian National University of Canberra and lead author of the study, discovered the rare iron-60 isotope in the ice and snow of the Antarctic. This isotope boasts four more neutrons than the common form and is thought to have settled on the earth’s surface millions of years ago.
However, what has been found in the snow in Antarctica seems to have accumulated over the last two decades. According to the researchers, these particles come from outside the solar system since all the objects that are in the solar system are made more or less from the same materials since they were formed from the same huge cloud of gas and matter.
It could have been the impact of an interstellar meteor, a space body coming from outside the solar system, an event that is very rare. The researchers also ruled out that it could have come from nuclear reactors, tests or accidents. They also excluded that it could prevent from cosmic rays that generate iron-60 when they interact with space dust and meteorites.
The most probable hypothesis, according to Koll himself, is that these particles come from a supernova, “not so close to kill us but not too far away to be diluted in space.” The Earth must have captured these particles as it traveled through the so-called Local Interstellar Cloud, a thirty-year-old light region that the solar system is currently passing through and is expected to continue to traverse for the next 10,000-20,000 years.
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