Supernova explosions donate warmth to planetary embryos

In the constellation of the Serpent Bearer, astronomers can currently observe the birth of new stars. As in the formation of our solar system, radioactive elements there provide abundant heat for the growing "planet embryos. They probably originate from the explosion of at least one supernova that existed a star generation earlier, a team of researchers with Austrian participation reports in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Das VISTA Teleskop bei Nacht
Das VISTA Teleskop bei Nacht (ESO)

Scientists led by John Forbes of the Flatiron Institute in New York, USA, observed different wavelengths of light from a region in the Serpent Bearer, or Ophiuchus, constellation, where a few stars are in the process of forming. "This is happening about 450 light-years from Earth," João Alves of the University of Vienna's Department of Astrophysics told APA.

The infrared range was covered by the "Visions Survey" project led by Viennese researchers using the "VISTA" telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The scientists also used the Herschel and Planck space telescopes of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory of the U.S. space agency (NASA).

They said this has allowed them to study radioactive material produced close to the gas clouds from which stars form. "Our results show that supernovas of the previous generation of stars are the most likely source of the short-lived radionuclides in the star-forming clouds," the researchers said in a release from the Universities of Vienna and Harvard (USA). The supernova events would have "contaminated," so to speak, the gas clouds from which the suns and their planets are formed.

This probably did not go differently with our solar system. "There is nothing at all special about Ophiuchus as a birthplace of stars," Alves said. There would be a typical arrangement of gases and young, massive stars there. "Our results should therefore be representative of the enrichment of short-lived radioactive elements in the formation of stars and planets across the Milky Way," he said.