Traces of rare forms of iron and plutonium have recently been found on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. According to a report published by the NPR news portal, the rare forms of the material – highly radioactive – are the result of some kind of cataclysm that originated in outer space.
According to a report released by the journal Science, the debris probably reached Earth in the last 10 million years. After reaching the Pacific Ocean, the rare forms of iron and plutonium settled almost a kilometer below the sea floor. Over the years, the material was incorporated into one of the layers of a rock, which was extracted by a Japanese company that sells oil.
As revealed by the report on the NPR portal, the rock fragment was donated to researchers. “Knowing there’s plutonium there is amazing,” said Brian Fields, an astronomer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Even if we have small amounts of material, we are talking about hundreds of atoms. And we should be grateful for that, because these atoms are the result of explosions of stars”.
It is currently believed that the material could help scientists understand how the universe forged heavy elements such as iron, gold, platinum, uranium and plutonium. “The emergence of these elements is still a great mystery,” said Anton Wallner, a researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra. “We don’t know exactly where they are produced and how much is produced in different places.”
For astronomers, who already know where part of the elements on the periodic table come from – hydrogen and helium are, for example, the fruits of the Big Bang, and carbon and oxygen are formed in the nuclei of stars -, it is extremely It is important to discover the origin of these elements, after all, even today, it is assumed that the heavier elements are born from a supernova, an intrinsic transient astronomical event that generates a powerful stellar explosion and expels the debris created in the process.
“All of these elements that are made in the supernova are literally handed over to us,” emphasizes Wallner. “The supernova creates stable elements, but it also creates certain unstable, radioactive forms of elements that last for millions of years before they decay.”
“These atoms in particular that we found were able to survive all adversities until they were discovered by scientists”, reveals the researcher in an interview to the NPR portal.
Scholars have already found 60-iron, a kind of iron found in outer space, in rocks that were under the Antarctic coast. This and the current discovery support the theory that the Earth, 3 million years ago, was contaminated with radioactive iron, the result of a stellar explosion.
Researchers believe that the material found in the extracted rock is the same material that contaminated our planet. In contrast, some of the experts also believe that the material is the result of another cosmic event.
The most curious thing here is that the team detected the presence of atoms of plutonium-244, which currently does not exist on the planet. To clear all doubts and fill in all the blanks, experts will compare the material with scientific studies that predict the origin of these elements through cosmic events such as supernovae.
“We also believe that, in addition to supernovas, something else must have contributed to the origin of these elements,” says Wallner. “Some astronomers have long suspected that a clash between two stars could be another potential source.”