Home Sciences An alien stone brings the remains of a supernova to Earth

An alien stone brings the remains of a supernova to Earth


A set of new analyzes indicates that the stone called Hypatia, discovered in the Egyptian desert, could be the first tangible evidence found on Earth of a type Ia supernova explosion. These strange supernovae are one of the most energetic events taking place in the Universe.

A group of researchers from the University of Johannesburg, in South Africa, has confirmed through chemical analysis of maximum complexity that the stone “Hypatia”, found in 1996 in southwestern Egypt, does not come from any cosmic phenomenon or event characteristic of the Solar System or its nearby area in the Milky Way. Instead, the elements discovered in the stone would indicate that it would be the first evidence found on Earth of a Type Ia supernova explosion.

An unusual supernova

A supernova Ia It is a variety of supernova that occurs in binary systems, that is, composed of two stars. It is worth remembering that a supernova is a stellar explosion that can manifest itself in a very remarkable way in the cosmos. In the case of variety Ia, it occurs when a white dwarf, made up of the “corpse” of a star similar to the Sun, absorbs material from its companion star. When it reaches a mass equivalent to 1.4 solar masses, it triggers an explosion whose luminosity and energy potential is among the most intense events in the Universe.

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According to a press release, the extraterrestrial origin of the “Hypatia” stone was determined in 2013 and confirmed in 2015, based on the characteristics of the argon, helium, neon, xenon and nitrogen isotopes identified in the object. . Piecing together a timeline going back to the earliest stages of the formation of Earth, our Sun, and the other planets in our Solar System, scientists traced a series of chemical clues very unusual in a small fragment of the stone.

Hypatia’s journey to Earth

According to the conclusions of the new study, recently published in the journal Icarus, the scientists verified that after the explosion of the type Ia supernova, the original body that contained the Hypatia stone became a solid rock, at some point within the early stages of formation of our Solar System. Everything indicates that this process probably occurred in a cold outer part of our cosmic neighborhoodfor example in the Oort cloud or in the Kuiper belt.

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Subsequently, Hypatia’s bedrock began to precipitate towards Earth. Heat from entering the Earth’s atmosphere, combined with pressure from the impact in the Great Sand Sea in southwestern Egypt, created micro-diamonds and pulverized the bedrock. Consequently, the alien stone picked up in the desert must be just one of countless fragments of the huge object that originally impacted.

To reach this discovery, the researchers followed an alternative path to the usual one for this kind of study. Instead of exploring all the incredible anomalies that Hypatia presents, they looked for the presence of an underlying unit. They set out to determine if there was some kind of chemical standard consisting of stone. Thus, after carefully selecting 17 targets in the small sample for analysis, they were able to pinpoint the characteristics of 15 of them: they were the characteristic “chemical ingredients” of a Type Ia supernova.


The chemistry of the extraterrestrial carbonaceous stone “Hypatia”: A perspective on dust heterogeneity in interstellar space. Jan D. Kramers et al. Icarus (2022). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2022.115043

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