A new analysis of the mineral composition of meteorites suggests that theories concerning the development of the early solar system may need revision. Announcing their results today in the journal Science, researchers conclude that it took the earth only 20 million years to form from material floating around the early sun. Previous estimates, in contrast, had placed that figure at around 50 million years. The findings also re-open the debate over which types of supernovae could have produced our solar system.
Measuring the amounts of an isotope of the element niobium (niobium-92) and its daughter isotope zirconium-92 in two meteorite samples provided the researchers with a kind of radioactive chronometer capable of estimating the timing of events in the early solar system. The earlier calculation of 50 million years for the formation of the earth was obtained using the same technique. But this time, the experimenters made sure to avoid contamination of their samples. By paying greater attention to maintaining the purity of the samples, says study co-author Brigitte Zanda-Hewins of Rutgers University, the team was able to produce a more accurate estimate. Additionally, the new, lower figures for the abundance of niobium-92 (which is generated by supernovae) in the early solar system, Zanda-Hewins says, loosen the constraints on the types of supernovae that could have spawned the solar system. The floor is once again open for candidates
Greg Mone | Scientific American
NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather
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A new level of magnetic saturation
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Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
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What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
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