A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, in collaboration with a colleague from the Université Paris-Saclay, have discovered evidence that supernovae and their progenitors may have contributed more dust to the solar nebula than previously thought. The group describes their survey and analysis of work done by others in the field regarding the nature of presolar grains in their paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, and how it led them to reassess the contribution of supernovae grains to stardust.
Presolar grains are materials that originated in stars; when such materials are flung into space after a star dies, they are exposed to temperatures and pressures that result in the formation of grains; these materials become stardust, the majority of which is silicates, which are the building blocks of rocks. Presolar grains are those that are older than our solar system and avoided the fate of other material that coalesced into our sun and planets. They can still be found in trace amounts in the dust between the planets, comets, and meteorites.
Presolar grains were discovered about 30 years ago, and since then, such grains generated by supernovae have been thought to make up only a small percentage of those that can be observed today—many in the field have suggested it is likely only 10%. The researchers discovered evidence that suggests the percentage should be much higher, possibly as high as 30%, in this new effort.
When material is created in a star, it takes on the characteristics of that specific individual star—it has an isotopic composition similar to a diary, according to the researchers. Thus, presolar grains have characteristics that allow researchers to determine whether they were propelled into space by a supernova.
The work entailed searching for and analysing presolar grain research from the previous decades. They discovered evidence that such grains from supernovae were far more common than previously thought. They also mention that future research with more sophisticated technology may provide more accurate estimates of supernovae presolar percentages in the solar nebula.