Meteorites remember the conditions of stellar explosions

IMAGE: Artist’s illustration of the formation of the solar system, capturing the moment when radioactive nuclei got incorporated into solids that would become meteorites. See more

Credit: Bill Saxton / NSF / AUI / NRAO

A team of international researchers has looked back on the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago to gain new knowledge about the cosmic origin of the heaviest elements on the periodic table.

Led by scientists who collaborate within the framework of the International Network for Research in Nuclear Astrophysics (IReNA) (irenaweb.org) and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics – Center for the Evolution of the Elements (JINA-CEE) (jinaweb.org) , the study is published in the latest issue of the journal Science (science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6532/945).

The heavy elements that we encounter in our daily lives, such as iron and silver, did not exist at the beginning of the universe, 13.7 billion years ago. They were created over time by nuclear reactions called nucleosynthesis that combined atoms with each other. In particular, iodine, gold, platinum, uranium, plutonium and curium, some of the heaviest elements, were created by a …

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