In the movie Pacific Rim, colossal alien beasts come into Earth through portals in the deep Pacific Ocean, not space. Though that can hardly be classified as apt science, real-time researchers have come across Pacific Ocean sediments that incredibly tell the tale of ‘otherworldly’ supernovae. How so? Well, in accordance with the phenomena of huge explosions in deep space (like supernovae), alien particles from the effect tend to settle along the earth’s seabeds. Analyzing such sediments riddled with extraterrestrial materials, has led to the more detailed study of the chemical reactions involved in such supernovae.
For the uninitiated, supernova are stellar explosions that occur when stars reach the end of their astronomical lives. Such massive scale reactions often lead to the formation of crucial elements, like the life-supporting ones – iron, potassium and iodine. The space explosions can also produce other heavier elements, like lead, gold and even plutonium and uranium. But it is this realm of heavier elements formation that is at odd with the conventional astrophysical theories, as explained by Dr. Anton Wallner, a researcher who hails from the Australian National University –
Small amounts of debris from these distant explosions fall on the earth as it travels through the galaxy. We’ve analyzed galactic dust from the last 25 million years that has settled on the ocean and found there is much less of the heavy elements such as plutonium and uranium than we expected.
The lack of heavy element specimens rings particularly true when it comes to plutonium-244, which is a radioisotope forged by supernovae. Having an extended half-life of 81 million years, plutonium-244 is for intents-and-purposes an apt indicator of the occurrences of supernovae in ‘space history’. But quite antithetically, the scientists on analysis of the 10-cm thick Pacific Ocean sediments, have found 100-times less plutonium-244 deposits than originally estimated. Such odd results were established in spite of the occurrences of more recent supernovae (in the past 100 million years).
This had led to the hypothesis that supernovae might not be the actual origin effects that form such heaviest elements. As Dr. Wallner has later said –
It seems that these heaviest elements may not be formed in standard supernovae after all. It may require rarer and more explosive events such as the merging of two neutron stars to make them.
And what’s more, such a merging scope may have very well taken place in close proximity to the earth – given the presence of other heavy elements in our surface, like uranium and thorium. Dr. Wallner has concluded –
Radioactive elements in our planet such as uranium and thorium provide much of the heat that drives continental movement, perhaps other planets don’t have the same heat engine inside them.
Source: Australian National University
Lower Image Credit: Stuart Hay, ANU