November 18, 2018 11:48 AM IST
The next time you are looking out the window for inspiration, keep in mind that the material you are looking at has been forged inside the heart of an old exploding star.
An international team of scientists said on Friday they detected silica – the main component of glass – in the remnants of two supernovae that are billions of light-years from Earth.
The researchers used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to analyze the light emitted by the collapsing mega-cluster and obtain the "fingerprint" of silica based on the specific wavelength of light that the material is known to emit.
A supernova occurs when a large star burns its own fuel, causing a catastrophic collapse that ends in an explosion of galactic proportions.
It is in these celestial eddies that individual atoms merge to form many common elements, including sulfur and calcium.
Silica accounts for about 60% of the earth's crust and a particular form, quartz, is one of the main ingredients of sand.
Like glass and fiberglass windows, silica is also an important part of the recipe for industrial concrete.
"We showed for the first time that the silica produced by supernovae was significant enough to contribute dust throughout the Universe, including the dust that finally came together to form our planet," said Haley Gomez of the Cardiff University School. of Physics and Astronomy.
"Every time we look out a window, walk on the sidewalk or step on a sandy beach, we are interacting with material made by the explosion of stars that burned millions of years ago."
In 2016, scientists reported finding traces of lithium – a metal used in the manufacture of many modern electronics – at the heart of the new explosive, a phenomenon that occurs when a white dwarf star absorbs hydrogen from a nearby sun.
The study was published in The Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society.