Science News

Earth’s heavy metals created by supernova explosions according to new models

Using models made with supercomputers, a physicist from the University of Guelph came to the conclusion that most of the heavy elements on our planet were formed by explosions, naturally occurring in the distant past, of the so-called collapsar, a rare form of supernova caused by Wolf-Rayet stars with at least 30 solar masses that run on their axis very quickly.

These explosions caused by gravitational collapses would have released, according to the models of Daniel Siegel, all those heavy elements that we see today on our planet, from gold to platinum to end up with uranium and plutonium. This theory contrasts the more widespread theory that heavy elements originated from collisions between neutron stars or between a neutron star and a black hole.

Siegel’s models, however, show quantity and distribution of heavy elements “surprisingly similar” to those we can observe in the solar system. The collapsars can be considered fairly rare explosions, even rarer than the neutron star fusions themselves, but they expel a much higher quantity of material.

Now all that remains is to find a practical proof of this theory and for this reason, the researchers led by Siegel are waiting for the launch of the James Webb, the space telescope that will have to be launched in NASA in the coming years. In fact, this telescope will allow detecting particular radiations through which it will be possible to identify heavy elements expelled by the gravitational collapse of a star also in other galaxies.

The confirmation of the theory could also help to understand how our galaxy was formed and in general how the elements present on the periodic table were formed.