Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Universe contains more calcium than expected

07.02.2007
The universe contains one and a half times more calcium than previously assumed. This conclusion was drawn by astronomers of the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, after observations with ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.

This research offers scientists new insights in the formation history of the elemental building blocks of the cosmos in which supernovae play a crucial role.

The iron in our blood, the oxygen we breathe, the calcium in our bones, the silicon in the sand box, all the atoms we are made of are released during the violent final moments of massive stars in the act of dying. These so-called supernova explosions eject newly made chemical elements into space where they become the building blocks for new stars, planets, or even life. However, many questions concerning the very formation of elements and the way they get distributed across the universe still remain open.

According to Jelle de Plaa, space researcher at SRON, many answers can be found in distant clusters of galaxies. "Clusters are in many ways the big cities of the universe", he says.

"They consist of hundreds of galaxies, each containing thousands of millions of stars. The galaxies are embedded in a gigantic cloud of hot gas that fills this cluster like a smog. Due to their enormous size and numbers, clusters contain a large fraction of the total amount of matter in the universe. During the past thousand-millions of years supernova explosions have enriched the surrounding hot gas with heavier elements, like oxygen, silicon and iron."

Using XMM-Newton, De Plaa determined the abundances of oxygen, neon, silicon, sulphur, argon, calcium, iron and nickel in 22 clusters of galaxies. In total he saw the 'pollution' produced by about 100 thousand million supernovae. When he compared the measured amounts of elements in the clusters with theoretical models of supernovae, the calcium abundance measured thanks to XMM-Newton appeared to be one and a half times higher than theoreticians previously assumed.

Dance of death

De Plaa and his colleagues also found that many supernovae in clusters are the result of a dance of death between two stars that revolve around each other. A very compact white dwarf withdraws matter from its unfortunate companion star. The matter forms a layer on the surface of the white dwarf. When the dwarf reaches a certain mass, its core cannot any longer support the weight of the matter and explodes as a supernova.

"Roughly half of the number of supernovae that ever exploded in clusters appear to have exploded this way", says De Plaa. "This is much more than the fraction of this kind of supernovae in our own galaxy, which we estimate to be 15 percent."

The results will be valuable for the scientists who make supernova models. "Until now, supernova experts had to make educated guesses about how a supernova exactly explodes," continues De Plaa. "Because we measure the remains of 100 thousand million supernovae at once, we find more accurate averages than before. This will help the supernova community to learn how white dwarfs die."

Norbert Schartel | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMMMC4ENXE_index_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy
21.04.2017 | Stockholm University

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: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>