Editor of the Technological Innovation site – 05/18/2022
Original sample, found by geologist Aly Barakat during an expedition of Egyptian and Italian researchers.
[Imagem: Aly A. Barakat]
A famous and controversial rock of possibly extraterrestrial origin has made headlines.
However, the assertion according to which the rock of Hippocia, discovered in Egypt in 1996, would be the result of the explosion of a type Ia supernova.
Since its discovery, several teams have analyzed the curious rock, but the conclusions have varied widely, ranging from claims that it could have originated right here on Earth, to suggestions that it was either a type of meteorite or even from a rock beyond the Solar System.
Jan Kramers and his colleagues at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, have now carried out a new analysis and come to what is perhaps the most “radical” conclusion found so far.
“In a sense, we could say that we ‘caught’ an Ia supernova explosion ‘in the act’, as the gas atoms from the explosion became trapped in the surrounding dust cloud, which eventually formed the Hippocia’s parent body,” Kramers said. mentioned.
The team claims to have carried out “forensic chemistry” on several samples, eliminating all “cosmic suspects” for the origin of the rock, which has a curious composition, full of microdiamonds and with an almost total absence of silicates. .
“Instead of exploring all the incredible anomalies that Hippocia exhibits, we wanted to explore if there was an underlying unity. We wanted to see if there was some sort of coherent chemical pattern within the stone,” said the searcher.
For this, 17 targets were selected from the sample away from Earth minerals that formed in the cracks of the original rock that fell to Earth, perhaps millions of years ago.
“We found a consistent pattern of trace element abundance that is completely unlike anything in the solar system, primitive or evolved. Asteroid belt objects and meteors also don’t match. . So we’re looking outside the solar system,” he said. said Kramers.
The large amount of iron and the small amount of silicon and other elements heavier than iron ruled out the possible origin of the rock in a red giant star, which is very common in the Universe.
A type II supernova also did not fit the explanation due to the large amount of iron and the presence of minerals such as nickel phosphide.
A much rarer type Ia supernova, one of the great sources of iron in the Universe. And so the team followed.
Rock samples studied by the team, next to a coin for size comparison.
[Imagem: Jan D. Kramers et al./University of Johannesburg]
type Ia supernova
Looking at what you would expect to find in a supernova, eight of the 15 elements analyzed fall within the expected proportion ranges to iron: silicon, sulfur, calcium, titanium, vanadium, chromium, manganese, iron, and nickel.
However, not all 15 elements analyzed in Hippia match the predictions. In six of them, the proportions were between 10 and 100 times higher than the ranges predicted by theoretical models for type 1a supernovae: aluminium, phosphorus, chlorine, potassium, copper and zinc. But that wasn’t enough for the team to give up on their hypothesis.
“Since a white dwarf star formed from a dying red giant, Hippocia could have inherited these element ratios to the six elements of a red giant star. This phenomenon has been observed in dwarf stars white spots in other searches,” says Kramers. .
If this hypothesis is correct, the rock of Hippocia would be the first hard evidence on Earth of a supernova explosion, one of the most energetic events in the Universe.
But, given the history of research on the mysterious rock, it is foreseeable that somewhat explosive new opinions will emerge with the publication of this new work, and it is prudent to wait for new analyzes and new hypotheses.
Article: The chemistry of the extraterrestrial carbonaceous stone Hypatia: a perspective on the heterogeneity of dust in interstellar space
Authors: Jan D. Kramers, Georgy A. Belyanin, Wojciech J. Przybylowicz, Hartmut Winkler, Marco AG Andreoli
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