Extraterrestrial rock found in Egypt could be Earth’s first evidence of rare supernova
(ORDO NEWS) — New chemical “forensics” show that a rock called Hypatia from the Egyptian desert could be the first physical evidence of a Type Ia supernova explosion found on Earth.
These rare supernovae are among the most energetic events in the universe.
Since 2013, Belyanin and Kramers have discovered a number of highly unusual chemical signatures in a small fragment of the Hypatian Stone.
In the new study, they ruled out “cosmic suspects” in the stone’s origin in a painstaking process. They put together a timeline going back to the early stages of the formation of the Earth, Sun, and other planets in our solar system.
Their hypothesis about the origin of Hypatia begins with a star: a red giant star has turned into a white dwarf. The collapse must have taken place inside a giant dust cloud, also called a nebula.
The white dwarf ended up in a binary system with a second star. The white dwarf star eventually “ate” the second star. At some point, the “hungry” white dwarf exploded as a Type Ia supernova inside the dust cloud.
After cooling, the gas atoms left over from supernova Ia began to stick to particles in the dust cloud.
In a sense, we can say that we “caught” the explosion of supernova Ia “on the fly”, because the gas atoms from the explosion fell into the surrounding dust cloud, which eventually formed the parent body of Hypatia,” says Kramers.
The supernova’s huge “bubble” of this mixture of dust and gas atoms never interacted with other dust clouds.
Millions of years passed, and in the end, the “bubble” slowly turned into a solid body, a kind of “cosmic dust bunny”. Hypatia’s parent body turned into solid rock in the early stages of the formation of our solar system.
This process probably took place in the cold, calm outer solar system – in the Oort cloud or in the Kuiper belt.
At some point, the parent rock of Hypatia began to move towards the Earth.
The heat of reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, combined with impact pressure in the Great Sand Sea in southwest Egypt, resulted in the formation of microdiamonds and the destruction of the parent rock.
The Hypatia Stone, found in the desert, must be one of many fragments of the original impactor.
“If this hypothesis is correct, then the Hypatia stone would be the first material evidence on Earth of a Type Ia supernova explosion.
Perhaps just as important, it shows that a single anomalous “package” of dust from space could be included in the solar nebula from which the our solar system without being completely mixed up,” says Kramers.
“This goes against the conventional wisdom that the dust from which our solar system formed was thoroughly mixed.”
Three million volts for a tiny sample
To piece together a timeline of how Hypatia might have formed, the researchers used several methods to analyze the strange rock.
In 2013, a study of argon isotopes showed that the rock did not form on Earth. He had to be extraterrestrial. A study of inert gases in the fragment, conducted in 2015, showed that it cannot belong to any of the known types of meteorites or comets.
In 2018, the UJ team published the results of various analyzes that included the discovery of a mineral, nickel phosphide, not previously found in any object in our solar system.
At that stage, Hypatia proved difficult to further analyze. The traces of metals that Kramers and Belyanin were looking for could not be “seen in detail” with the equipment they had. They needed a more powerful device that would not destroy the tiny sample.
Kramers began to analyze the dataset that Belyanin had created a few years earlier.
In 2015, Belyanin performed a series of proton beam analyzes at iThemba Labs in Somerset West. At that time, Dr. Wojciech Przybylowicz maintained the operation of the installation with a voltage of three million volts.
Looking for a pattern
“Instead of exploring all the incredible anomalies that Hypatia presents, we wanted to find out if there was a hidden unity in them. We wanted to see if there was any consistent chemical structure in the stone,” says Kramers.
Belyanin carefully selected 17 objects from a tiny sample for analysis. All of them were chosen to be far from earth minerals that formed in the cracks of the original stone after it fell in the desert.
“We identified 15 different elements in Hypatia with much greater accuracy and accuracy using a proton microprobe.
This gave us the chemical ‘ingredients’ we needed, and Jan could begin the next process of analyzing all the data,” says Belyanin.
The proton beam also rules out the existence of the solar system.
The first big new piece of evidence from proton beam analysis came from the surprisingly low levels of silicon in the Hypatia stone targets.
Silicon content, along with chromium and manganese, was less than 1%, which would be expected for something that formed within our inner solar system.
In addition, the high content of iron, sulfur, phosphorus, copper and vanadium was noticeable and anomalous, adds Kramers.
We found a consistent pattern of trace element abundance that is completely different from anything in the solar system, primitive or evolutionary.”
Objects in the asteroid belt and meteors don’t match that either. So we turned our attention to objects outside the solar system,” says Kramers.
Not from our area
Kramers then compared the pattern of element concentrations in Hypatia to what one would expect to see in the dust between the stars in our solar arm of the Milky Way galaxy.
“We looked to see if the pattern we get from the average interstellar dust in our solar arm of the Milky Way galaxy matches what we see in Hypatia. Again, there was no resemblance,” adds Kramers.
So far, the proton beam data has also ruled out four “suspects” as to where Hypatia could have formed.
Hypatia did not form on Earth, was not part of any known type of comet or meteorite, did not form from ordinary dust in the inner solar system, or from ordinary interstellar dust.
Not a red giant
The next simplest explanation for the concentration of elements in Hypatia could be a red giant star. Red giant stars are often found in the universe.
But the proton beam data also rules out mass outflow from the giant star: Hypatia has too much iron, too little silicon, and too low a concentration of heavy elements heavier than iron.
Non-supernova type II
The next “suspect” was a type II supernova. Type II supernovae produce a lot of iron. They are also a relatively common type of supernovae.
Again, Hypatia’s proton beam data ruled out a promising suspect by “chemical forensics”.
A Type II supernova was highly unlikely to be the source of strange minerals such as nickel phosphide in a pebble. In addition, Hypatia had too much iron compared to silicon and calcium.
It’s time to take a closer look at the predicted chemical composition of one of the most dramatic explosions in the universe.
Heavy metal factory
A rarer type of supernova also produces a lot of iron. Type Ia supernovae occur only once or twice per galaxy per century.
But they produce most of the iron (Fe) in the universe. Most of the steel on Earth was once the iron element created by Ia supernovae.
In addition, science claims that some Ia supernovae leave behind very characteristic “forensic chemistry” traces. This is due to the way some Ia supernovae are arranged.
First, a red giant star collapses into a very dense white dwarf star at the end of its life.
White dwarf stars are usually incredibly stable for very long periods of time and are most unlikely to explode. However, there are exceptions.
A white dwarf star can begin to “pull” matter from another star in a binary system.
It can be said that a dwarf star “eats” its companion star. Eventually, the white dwarf becomes so heavy, hot, and unstable that it explodes in supernova Ia.
Nuclear fusion during a supernova Ia explosion should create highly unusual elemental concentration patterns, as predicted by accepted scientific theoretical models.
In addition, a white dwarf star that explodes in supernova Ia does not just shatter into pieces, but literally shatters into atoms. The matter of supernova Ia enters space in the form of gas atoms.
In an extensive literature search of stellar data and model results, the team was unable to find a single similar or better chemical match for the Hypatia rock than a specific set of supernova Ia models.
Forensic evidence elements
“All data and theoretical models of supernova Ia show much higher proportions of iron compared to silicon and calcium than supernova II models,” says Kramers.
“In this respect, the data from the Hypatia Proton Beam Laboratory are consistent with data and models of Ia supernovae.”
Overall, eight of the 15 elements analyzed fell within the predicted proportion ranges relative to iron. These are silicon, sulfur, calcium, titanium, vanadium, chromium, manganese, iron and nickel.
However, not all 15 analyzed elements in Hypatia match the predictions. In six of the 15 elements, the proportions were from 10 to 100 times higher than in theoretical models of type 1A supernovae.
These elements are aluminum, phosphorus, chlorine, potassium, copper and zinc.
Since a white dwarf star is formed from a dying red giant, Hypatia could have inherited these proportions of six elements from the red giant star. This phenomenon has been observed in white dwarf stars in other studies,” adds Kramers.
If this hypothesis is correct, then Hypatia’s stone would be the first physical evidence on Earth of a Type Ia supernova explosion, one of the most energetic events in the universe.
The Hypatian rock will hold the key to a cosmic story that began during the early formation of our solar system and was found many years later in a remote desert littered with other rocks.
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