Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First biological evidence of a supernova

08.05.2013
Researchers find hints of supernova iron in bacteria microfossils

In fossil remnants of iron-loving bacteria, researchers of the Cluster of Excellence Origin and Structure of the Universe at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), found a radioactive iron isotope that they trace back to a supernova in our cosmic neighborhood.


Cassiopeia A: Remnants of a supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia, about 11,000 light-years away. The stellar explosion took place about 330 years ago.

This is the first proven biological signature of a starburst on our earth. The age determination of the deep-drill core from the Pacific Ocean showed that the supernova must have occurred about 2.2 million years ago, roughly around the time when the modern human developed.

Most of the chemical elements have their origin in core collapse supernovae. When a star ends its life in a gigantic starburst, it throws most of its mass into space. The radioactive iron isotope Fe-60 is produced almost exclusively in such supernovae. Because its half-life of 2.62 million years is short compared to the age of our solar system, no supernova iron should be present on Earth. Therefore, any discovery of Fe-60 on Earth would indicate a supernova in our cosmic neighborhood. In the year 2004, Fe-60 was discovered on Earth for the first time in a ferromanganese crust obtained from the floor of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Its geological dating puts the event around 2.2 million years ago.

So-called magnetotactic bacteria live within the sediments of the Earth’s oceans, close to the water-sediment interface. They make within their cells hundreds of tiny crystals of magnetite (Fe3O4), each approximately 80 nanometers in diameter. The magnetotactic bacteria obtain the iron from atmospheric dust that enters the ocean. Nuclear astrophysicist Shawn Bishop from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen conjectured, therefore, that Fe-60 should also reside within those magnetite crystals produced by magnetotactic bacteria extant at the time of the supernova interaction with our planet. These bacterially produced crystals, when found in sediments long after their host bacteria have died, are called “magnetofossils.”

Shawn Bishop and his colleagues analyzed parts of a Pacific Ocean sediment core obtained from the Ocean Drilling Program, dating between about 1.7 million and 3.3 million years ago. They took sediment samples corresponding to intervals of about 100,000 years and treated them chemically to selectively dissolve the magnetofossils – thereby extracting any Fe-60 they might contain.

Finally, using the ultra sensitive accelerator mass spectrometry system at the Maier Leibnitz Laboratory in Garching, Munich, they found a tantalizing hint of Iron-60 atoms occurring around 2.2 million years ago, which matches the expected time from the ferromanganese study. “It seems reasonable to suppose that the apparent signal of Fe-60 could be remains of magnetite chains formed by bacteria on the sea floor as a starburst showered on them from the atmosphere”, Shawn Bishop says. He and his team are now preparing to analyze a second sediment drill core, containing upwards of 10 times the amount of material as the first drill core, to see if it also holds the Fe-60 signal and, if it does, to map out the shape of the signal as a function of time.

Publication:
APS April Meeting 2013, Volume 58, Number 4
http://meetings.aps.org/link/BAPS.2013.APR.X8.2
Nature News, 15. April 2013, DOI: 10.1038/nature.2013.12797
Contact:
Prof. Dr. Shawn Bishop
Physik Department E12
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
James-Franck-Straße 1
85748 Garching Germany
Tel.: +49 89 289 12437

Dr. Andreas Battenberg | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tum.de
http://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/short/article/30832/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers
18.01.2017 | Penn State

nachricht Studying fundamental particles in materials
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>